EXCLUSIVE: “What we are seeing and hearing coming out now is a fraction of the ugly reality in this town,” a prominent producer says of the sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations that have emerged out of Hollywood in recent months. “And it’s going to ultimately stay small, trust me,” she adds.
Three months to the day after the New York Times first published its detailed exposé alleging decades of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, a female producer, agent, actress and a showrunner all told Deadline they fear a backlash against women who initiate allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault against A-list men — especially at the studios, networks and uber-agencies.
Indicative of that fear and despite the rising #MeToo movement, each women in the quartet would only speak anonymously about the matter.
“Hollywood’s a boys’ town and they will do what they have to do to keep their power, even if that means paying lip service for a while to stamping out misogyny,” the award-winning showrunner tells Deadline. “There are a lot of women staying quiet, worried that the boys are keeping a list for those who go public,” she added. “It’ll happen later, under the radar, a lot of it will be unspoken even, but careers will be sidetracked, promotions blocked, I just know it. That’s always been the way this town has worked.”
Whether that is the case, all four of the women asserted that while the recently formed Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund may provide access to attorneys, some protection, and even reciprocity, the fallout of speaking out about the wide-spread sexism will still be acrid. Announced at the beginning of the year, the Time’s Up initiative is backed by Anita Hill, lawyer Nina Shaw, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Scandal’s Kerry Washington, CAA’s Maha Dakhil, Ashley Judd, Universal boss Donna Langley and around 291 more women.
“Despite the fact that every single woman I know in the industry has had to put up with some sort of harassment, why do you think so many women who aren’t big-name actresses or producers have said nothing?” the highly placed agent asked rhetorically, as Golden Globe attendees plan on wearing all black this week to protest sexual misconduct in the industry. “Why have we heard almost no claims from female studio or network executives, agents or showrunners? Plain and simple, they’re afraid, that’s why.”
That endemic fear remains even as lawsuits and police investigations against the likes of Weinstein and Kevin Spacey progress, and the Hill-chaired Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace was created by a predominantly male contingent of heavyweight players back in mid-December.
“Standing up to harassment has replaced diversity right now as the topic of concern,” the actress said. “It’s the latest fad and trend, but that’ll be substituted for another issue once this award season is over, like maybe layoffs from the Disney and Fox deal or violence on sets or something else,” she predicted.
The producer also expressed suspicions that rivals have attempted to take advantage of the current situation already by encouraging people to speak out about alleged harassment on one of her shows in an effort to boaster their own series in contrast. “Everybody works with everybody at one point but everybody wants to be No. 1,” she said, claiming she is far from the only one to see such opportunistic behavior. “If you can knock someone else off their game to get ahead is still and will always be the prevailing attitude in this town.”
Or, as Dave Chappelle bluntly remarks of the current state of post-Weinstein Hollywood in one of his controversial new Netflix specials: “You’re right ladies, congratulations, enjoy it and they’re coming for you, b******.”