With the second season of Showtime’s SMILF set to premiere in just over a month, series creator/star Frankie Shaw has been investigated for allegations of abusive on-set behavior, including placing one actress in an uncomfortable sexual situation and separating writers based on race, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
According to the explosive report, Samara Weaving — who plays Nelson Rose, the girlfriend of Bridgette’s (Shaw) baby daddy — was told that a Season 2 sex scene would be shot on a closed set with the video monitors turned off, only for Shaw to then have the monitors turned on. Weaving reportedly complained to Disney and SAG-AFTRA about the issue, while co-star Rosie O’Donnell also approached a Showtime executive and a SMILF producer on Weaving’s behalf. O’Donnell’s complaints reportedly painted the picture of a “chaotic and troubled set.”
Though O’Donnell’s rep refused to comment at first, explaining that SMILF is in a “legal situation,” the following statement was later issued on the actress’ behalf: “I have worked with Frankie Shaw for two and a half years. She is an immensely gifted young talent. I love acting on SMILF, a show that I am extremely proud of.” According to the report, O’Donnell is expected to return to the Showtime comedy, should it be renewed for a third season.
Several SMILF staffers have also reportedly complained to the Writers Guild of America, albeit informally, about black writers and white writers being placed in different rooms. (According to Shaw’s attorney Andrew Brettler, “There was never an intention or desire to group the writers based on gender, race or sexual orientation, nor was that ever consciously done by anyone. Smaller ‘breakout’ groups are formed solely based on ability and the strengths of the individual writers.”) Additional complaints, also informal, were made about the show’s assistants, who were “improperly given writing assignments and accordingly did not receive credit or standard pay.”
In a statement to THR, Shaw said, “I work daily to create an environment in which everyone should feel safe, and in which I can continue to grow as a leader and manager. I am now and always have been open to hearing and addressing all concerns and issues that fall within my control. It pains me to learn that anyone felt uncomfortable on my set. I sincerely hope we can work together to resolve any and all issues, as I am committed to creating a workplace in which all people feel safe and heard.”
ABC Studios also gave a statement, insisting that it is “committed to a safe work environment, and when we are made aware of issues we address them appropriately. Complaints were brought to our attention after season two production wrapped, and we are investigating. We will take appropriate steps going forward if season three is ordered.”
Speaking anonymously with THR, one source said, “A lot of shows are generally unpleasant. Production is stressful. There are a lot of shows where people are angry at each other and then it’s over and then you celebrate the work. This was not like that. People were really traumatized. It was pretty upsetting.”