A behind-the-scenes uprising at All Rise has prompted a mass exodus in the CBS drama’s writers’ room.
According to The New York Times, five of All Rise‘s original seven writers — including the show’s three highest-ranking writers of color — will not be returning for Season 2 after clashing with showrunner Greg Spottiswood (who is white) over the series’ depiction of race and gender.
One of those five scribes, Sleepy Hollow vet Shernold Edwards, exited the show in November after realizing “we had to do so much behind the scenes to keep these scripts from being racist and offensive.”
Among the examples Edwards cites is a Season 1 episode — written by Greg Nelson, who is white — which featured a gang of Latin American teenagers in Los Angeles preying on citizens with machetes. A Latin American scribe on staff objected to the storyline on the grounds that it rang false, and co-star Lindsay Mendez refused to appear in the episode. In the end, Spottiswood agreed to excise the machete subplot after he learned of Mendez’s concerns.
Former Revenge showrunner, Sunil Nayar, similarly tendered his resignation as co-showrunner after his efforts to have All Rise accurately reflect the experiences of Black people and other people of color fell on deaf ears, per the Times.
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“It became clear to me, when I left the show, that I was only there because I’m the brown guy,” Nayar told the paper. “Greg hired me to be his brown guy.” (David Makes Man EP Dee Harris-Lawrence replaced Nayar as co-showrunner last December.)
Warner Bros. the studio behind All Rise, conducted a workplace review last year and ultimately decided to keep Spottiswood in place as showrunner, although they paired him with a corporate coach, a Black woman.
“As soon as we became aware of concerns in the All Rise writers’ room, we took steps to conduct a review of the work environment,” a Warner Bros. rep said in a statement to TVLine. “The findings did not reveal conduct that would warrant removing series creator, Greg Spottiswood, from the Executive Producer role. We identified areas for improvement, and implemented procedures and protocols in response to the findings, which are resulting in the steps necessary to move forward with the series’ leadership in place.
“As with all of our series, we have open communication with our cast, staff and crew to ensure a safe and respectful work environment for our entire workforce,” the statement continued. “In late 2019, despite significant efforts made by the Studio to retain Mr. Nayar, he asked to be released from his duties as executive producer/co-showrunner, a decision we ultimately supported. With respect to the writing staff departures, we greatly valued everyone on the team, including Ms. Edwards, and our ultimate goal was to retain them. We are extremely proud of the show and the contributions of the entire writers’ room.”
In his own statement, Spottiswood said, “I acknowledge that I can have a rhetorical, professorial tone in the room, and that can be perceived by some as condescending, and that I can be defensive in creative conversations and debates. I remain strongly committed to improving my communication style and skills, and to being a more inclusive leader — ensuring that writers and artists are not just heard, but feel listened to, respected, safe and valued.”