Amidst allegations of misconduct on the set of Showtime’s SMILF and potential WGA complaints, the premium cabler has no intention of pulling the plug on the Frankie Shaw-created series’ Season 2 premiere next month.
“We’re 100% completely behind her,” an insider at the David Nevins run outlet told Deadline after reports of showrunner and star Shaw being investigated on the apparent mishandling of video of nude scenes on the show emerged Monday. “There’s nothing changing, “ the source said of the January 20 return of the Golden Globe-nominated show that is also facing non-formalized complaints made to the Writers Guild about credit on the series and the designation of minority scribes.
Sources at the WGA say that the Guild is working with producers ABC Studios to learn more about the informal complaints and whether further action will be taken. The Guild is limited in its reach if writers do not submit their accusations in a formal manner.
Neither Frankie Shaw, who was at the Showtime Christmas party last week and is now overseas, nor Showtime itself would respond to request for comment on the matter nor the investigation that ABC Studios conducted earlier this Fall. That move on the nearly gender equal series came after actor Samara Weaving mentioned to co-star Rosie O’Donnell two incidents from SMILF that made her extremely uncomfortable.
“We are not attempting to make excuses or minimize the fact that Samara felt uncomfortable and that we fell short of our intentions to protect her privacy, “ SMILF EP Michael London told Deadline Monday. “All we can do is apologize to her and make the necessary changes to make sure it never happens again,” he declared.
“This isn’t a small matter to Frankie,” London insisted in the series creator’s absence. “She’s an outspoken voice for female empowerment and affording women more opportunities to tell their stories. She herself experienced pressure from male directors to participate in uncomfortable sex scenes earlier in her career.”
Upon hearing Weaving’s concern, the rarely reticent O’Donnell spoke to Showtime’s SVP Original Programming Amy Israel who promptly passed the matter on to the cabler’s compliance department who contacted ABC Studios. Weaving will be leaving the show in what some have characterized as a move in response to her contract being breached due to the nudity situation.
“ABC Studios is committed to a safe work environment and when we are made aware of issues we address them appropriately,” the Disney owned unit said in a statement Monday of the Boston set and made show. “Complaints were brought to our attention after season two production wrapped, and we are investigating,” they added. “We will take appropriate steps going forward if season three is ordered.”
What those steps are is unknown at this time, but we hear that there is no plan of removing Shaw’s showrunner duties from her responsibilities as star, director and writer as well.
The first occurrence was Shaw taking Weaving aside in the first season after the actor, who plays the love interest of Shaw’s character’s ex on the sometimes explicit series, objected to a nude scene. Not realizing Weaving had a yet unsigned waiver on such matters, Shaw purportedly told the cast member that she understood how such scenes can be stressful and spoke of demands made of her in the past. The bra-wearing showrunner then supposedly pulled up her own t-shirt and remarked how her body had altered after giving birth and she still did nude scenes when required.
The second matter involved a Season 2 scene with a t-shirt and underwear-wearing Weaving and Miguel Gomez, who plays that previously mentioned ex. To ensure maximum comfort, the scene in a house was kept closed with just the actors, the director and a few crewmembers in the room. While Shaw was not on set, she ordered that a monitor be turned on outside the room so writer Emily Goldwyn could see the scene she penned, as is the norm in the industry.
Unfortunately, in what looks to be a SMILF SNAFU, that footage was also seen by several other crewmembers when the monitor was turned on for Goldwyn. Very quickly the monitor was cut and Goldwyn went into the room to watch the scene in person.
In terms of the allegations of racially dividing writing duties on the show, EP London was equally emphatic as he had been about Shaw’s personal commitment to making actors comfortable on set.
“Frankie has fought hard to bring talented African American and Latino writers onto the staff,” he said. She’s been relentless about this often pushing the producers, the studio and the network harder than they were accustomed to in the quest for diversity, the EP stated.
“It is common practice for writers rooms to split into smaller groups to accelerate the work flow and SMILF is no exception,” London explained of how the division belief may have occurred, in his opinion. “Occasionally the room was split up based on seniority and in some cases this left more African American than white writers in a group room. There was unequivocally no intent to divide the room along racial lines. Upon hearing that somebody may have felt left out and interpreted the division as racially motivated, Frankie was mortified. This issue spoke to one of her core values and it was a deeply painful learning experience for her. I know that moving forward Frankie will be even more vigilant about making sure that diverse voices in the room feel empowered and appreciated.“
Showtime is of course owned by CBS, who has seen CEO Les Moonves exit under allegations of decades of sexual misconduct. Again looking to enter into merger talks with Viacom sooner or later, the now Shari Redstone-dominated company has also had on-air talent like Charlie Rose depart due to sexual harassment allegations and long-time 60 Minutes boss Jeff Fager for similar behavior as well as sending threatening texts to CBS reporters looking into such claims.
Most recently, amidst a search for a new permanent CEO and other corporate musical chairs, it was revealed that the network paid out $9.5 million last year under the direct guidance of Moonves to then Bull actor Eliza Dushku after she complained of retaliation after reporting a series of inappropriate comments by series star Michael Weatherly.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the claims against Shaw.