Appearing at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Monday, ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke was asked to answer for the handling of The Rookie star Afton Williamson’s allegations of sexual harassment and racial bullying, and the original cast member’s resulting decision to quit the procedural ahead of Season 2.
Burke, though, admitted she has no answers. Yet.
“I don’t have a lot of answers. I wish I had more,” the network boss told TVLine upon being asked when she personally first learned of Williamson’s claims, and whether ABC attempted to intervene at the point that Williamson decided to quit. “I learned alongside my colleagues at the end of June that there were allegations and that an investigation had been launched by eOne.”
Pressed later about how ABC might attempt to make things right, if The Rookie‘s producers indeed mishandled the situation, Burke said she was unable to comment further, at least until the investigation is concluded. “Right now too much is unknown; It would be irresponsible of me to conjecture.”
Burke said that given that the investigation, started in June, is being conducted by a third party, she is “hopeful that those results will be independent and trustworthy. Those answers and those conclusions will help guide us on how to handle such situations in the future.”
As first reported by TVLine in June, Williamson is not returning for Season 2 of the procedural, where she played training officer Talia Bishop opposite Nathan Fillion’s title character. In a message posted to Instagram on Aug. 4, the actress alleged that starting with the pilot shoot in spring 2018 and throughout all of Season 1, she “experienced racial discrimination/racially charged inappropriate comments from the hair department,” as well as sexual harassment from an unnamed recurring guest star. Williamson also alleged that bullying by the hair department head escalated into sexual assault at the Season 1 wrap party.
Though the hair department had was at that point fired, Williamson claims that upon calling a meeting with showrunner Alexi Hawley, two other producers, her agent and a SAG-AFTRA representative, she realized “the showrunner had not shared my reports with the any of the producers…. HR protocol was never adhered to following the above reports given by me to my showrunner/EP, and an investigation was never issued for any of my claims,”
Despite being told that “everything was handled” following that June meeting, “The investigation hadn’t even begun and Season 2 had already started filming.” As a result, Williamson said, “I walked” rather than return to the role.
A statement issued by production studio eOne on Sunday evening said, “We take claims of this nature very seriously. We have initiated an independent investigation which is ongoing and as such, it would not be appropriate to comment at this time.”