EXCLUSIVE: Eight years after leaving the long running soap opera, Victoria Rowell is taking the network and the producers to court today for not letting her back – and she directly blames Les Moonves. In a just filed lawsuit in federal court in NYC, the actress who played Drucilla Winters on The Young And The Restless from 1990 to 2007 claims CBS, Sony Pictures Television, Bell Dramatic Serial Company and Bell-Phillip Television Production Inc. are distinctly not allowing her back on Y&R or The Bold And The Beautiful. Why? Because of her public advocacy of greater diversity on the soaps, she says. That’s a violation of federal law and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, today’s jury seeking complaint claims (read it here). It alleges that Rowell was being “impoverished and blackballed because she had chosen to speak out against the discrimination and injustice that she had endured and witnessed happen to other African Americans.”
“We were disappointed to learn that, after leaving the cast of The Young and the Restless on her own initiative, Ms. Rowell has attempted to rewrite that history through lawyers’ letters and a lawsuit that has no merit,” said CBS in a statement today. “We harbor no ill will toward Ms. Rowell, but we will vigorously defend this case.”
Trying unsuccessfully to get back on the soap as the popular character since 2010, the actress says that “the Defendants have disregarded their own self-interest in their efforts to retaliate against Ms. Rowell.” In her claims of retaliation complaint, Rowell now wants a variety of unspecified damages, including back pay, front pay and benefits. She also wants “an order directing Defendants to re-employ Ms. Rowell on Y&R, or at least to consider her seriously for re-employment on Y&R without regard to her prior efforts to address the discrimination that she perceived at Defendants.”
In fact, deep within the filing’s details of Rowell’s efforts to increase diversity on the soap, her desire to get back on it and meetings with the likes of SPT’s Steven Mosko and bigger boss Michael Lynton, is this odd gem involving CBS chief Moonves. “Sensing from both Bradley Bell’s and Steven Kent’s comments that the decisions were being made at a higher level, meaning at CBS, in March 2011, Ms. Rowell exchanged emails with Leslie Moonves, CBS’s President and Chief Executive Officer, about her desire to return to Y&R or start a new role on B&B,” the 32-page document claims. “Mr. Moonves responded that he no longer was involved in programming or casting for those shows, and suggested that she seek help elsewhere. The suggestion that CBS was not involved in decision-making was not true.”
“After many months of advocacy with CBS and Sony officials on behalf of Ms. Rowell, National Urban League President Morial told Ms. Rowell that in his opinion Mr. Moonves opposed Ms. Rowell’s return to any CBS show, likely because of her advocacy for increased African American employment in front of and behind the camera,” the suit later alleges. There’s also an exchange where Congresswoman Maxine Waters supposedly tries to “advocate” with Moonves to put Rowell back on the show. “Mr. Moonves responded that if Ms. Waters contacted him again on behalf of Ms. Rowell, he would report her to the House Ethics Committee,” says today’s filing. “It is unclear what Mr. Moonves thought was unethical about Ms. Waters advocating for a constituent, but his response certainly showed Mr. Moonves’ hostility.”
Rowell’s views on the diversity in the soaps world is nothing new – at least not on social media. On the 41st anniversary of Y&R in 2014, she posted a series of tweets chastising the show.”Young & Restless on air for 40 years, loyally watched by their absolute competitive-edge audience (blacks) & not ONE black Exec PRODUCER?,” the also former Diagnosis: Murder actress wrote. Just last week on Twitter, the 2-time Daytime Emmy nominee reiterated that long held stance:
Mehri & Skalet, PLLC out of D.C. plus NYC-based Valli Kane and Vagnini LLP and Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP are representing the actress in this action.