Simon Cowell is beefing up his legal team amid NBC’s investigation into Gabrielle Union’s complaints of a “toxic” workplace culture at America’s Got Talent.
Cowell — who created the series and serves as an executive producer — retained Los Angeles-based litigator Larry Stein late last week, a source close to the matter confirmed to Deadline Saturday.
This latest development comes after Union said Wednesday on Twitter that she had a “productive” five-hour meeting with NBC brass over her firing from the series.
“I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change,” she announced in a statement on Twitter.
Following the meeting, Deadline exclusively reported that NBC was launching a “further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts.” According to a show insider, a significant portion of Union’s meeting with the network revolved around what was described as Cowell’s acerbic behavior.
“The ball is in NBC’s court to see if they can get Cowell to agree to make some changes to the way things are done on the show,” the insider said.
SAG-AFTRA has also launched an investigation into the environment at AGT.
Union’s contract was terminated last month after she served as a judge on the series for one season. The Being Mary Jane actress had spoken out about “problematic” and racially insensitive segments on the show before she was let go. Fellow judge Julianne Hough was dropped after one season as well, although the actress and dancer said in a statement that she had “a wonderful time” on the show and will continue her “working relationship with NBC.”
As the drama surrounding AGT continued to make headlines this week, former judges Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern chimed in.
Stern posed a question on his SiriusXM radio show Monday about Union’s firing, asking: “How is it that that freak Simon Cowell has orchestrated this?” He then charged the show and Cowell with sexist double-standards.
“He has set it up that the men stay,” Stern added, “no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how ugly they are, no matter how talentless they are. But what he manages to do on all his shows is he constantly replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks. Which is so obvious.”
Meanwhile, Osbourne – who spent six years as a judge on the series — said AGT is run like a “boys club.”
“It is a boys club, okay, it is,” Osbourne said Tuesday on The Talk. “And the boys take care of each other, and the women are not paid as much as the men.”
Variety first reported details on Cowell’s new legal team.
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