Following Variety’s report alleging there was a “toxic culture” on the set of America’s Got Talent (AGT), a new report has been published revealing more details about Gabrielle Union‘s exit.
According to the new report, published by Vulture, Union was “perceived as ‘difficult’ by Simon Cowell and his team of producers” after voicing concerns about “perceived racist incidents, Cowell’s habit of smoking indoors, and attempts to keep the show from misgendering contestants.”
Cowell, who is a judge and an executive producer of AGT, and Union clashed due to her concerns about his smoking inside the theatre where the show filmed, according to Vulture’s sources. It’s against the law in California for an employer to allow smoking in a workplace.
“The theatre didn’t have walls between dressing rooms, so they were separated by pipes and draped fabric, and cigarette smoke seeped into Union’s dressing area,” the report states. “Union, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, was repeatedly rebuffed when she asked other staff members to request that Cowell stop smoking inside.”
Union was reportedly told by an NBC executive and production staff on AGT that “no one could stop Cowell from smoking and that previous attempts by a fire marshal and NBC executives had been unsuccessful.”
According to the report, Cowell has “smoked indoors for years, much to the frustration of staff, crew, and talent. NBC has given Cowell near-total control over America’s Got Talent. Virtually no decisions are made by the network on the show without his approval, according to three well-placed sources.”
Variety’s report claimed that Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time on the show, including a joke made by guest judge Jay Leno in April of this year that was later edited out of the show.
According to Variety, Leno made a joke about a painting on the wall that featured judge Cowell surrounded by his dogs.
Sources told the outlet that Leno allegedly made a joke that the dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”
Multiple people on set were upset by the joke, Variety reports, and Union reportedly urged producers to report the joke to the human resources department.
The article also claimed that Union expressed concerns over an incident during auditions in which she believed a white male performer crossed a line in portraying people of colour.
“In one such quick change, the contestant emerged in the guise of Beyoncé Knowles. His hands appeared as black, meant to be a character accent, three witnesses to the audition said,” the report reads.
Vulture’s report says that Union “also earned the reputation of being difficult because she asked contestants dressed in drag what their preferred pronouns were, a move that seemed to annoy producers.”
Tensions reportedly built up between Cowell and Union during a production meeting where the Bring It On actress supported a 10-year-old Black rapper named Dylan Gilmer.
Union was reportedly told to support an act “that America can get behind” instead. A source close to production of AGT denied producers told Union that, and said that producers would never use that type of language.
The report states that Union left the room and went outside and when she returned within five minutes she found Cowell “furious that she had left.”
On Nov. 27, Union’s husband Dwyane Wade took to Twitter to applaud his wife for her work on the show.
“‘Men lie, Women lie, numbers don’t’ Over this past year I’ve been approached by many people saying that my wife @itsgabrielleu is the main reason they’ve started watching #AGT or that they love her insight and sincerity on the show,” he wrote.
“So when i got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question. But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture.
“As proud as i were of her being selected as a judge on #AGT— I am even more proud of her standing up for what she stands for and that’s US.
Union tweeted a message of gratitude on Wednesday night to thank the people who have supported her.
“So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever,” Union wrote.
In a joint statement, NBC and production company Fremantle said that AGT has a “history of inclusivity.”
“America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” NBC and Fremantle said. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
Global News has reached out to NBC for comment on Vulture’s report.