Angela Bassett and Others Support Actor Afton Williamson's Claims of Sexual Assault
|thenorthstar||Aug 12, 2019|
In a recent Instagram post, actor Afton Williamson announced she would not be returning to the second season of “The Rookie.”
“I owe it to you my amazing fans to share the truth. Throughout the filming of the pilot, I experienced racial discrimination/racially charged inappropriate comments from the hair department and bullying from executive producers,” Williamson wrote.
The actor said that throughout the show’s first season, she was sexually harassed by recurring guest star Demetrius Grosse and was subjected to racist commentary and bullying from hair department head Sallie Nicole Ciganovich. Williamson also claimed that Ciganovich sexually assaulted her at the wrap party.
Williamson said she reported the sexual harassment to the showrunner, but it was never documented or reported to human resources (HR) or the show’s producers.
Ciganovich was fired after the sexual assault, but she had kept her position after a year of “outward racism/racially charged language and bullying in and out of the hair and makeup trailer,” Williamson said.
She said that HR protocol was never followed and no investigation into her claims was established. The show launched an investigation, according to Williamson, only after she called a meeting in June that included the showrunner, two producers, her agent, and a SAG-AFTRA Union representative.
“It was clear to all present in the meeting that the Showrunner had not shared my reports with any of the producers,” she wrote. “After my initial report of sexual harassment, I was assured that Grosse would be fired. I was also asked to film with him the very next day as a courtesy to the script, even though we had not begun filming the episode yet. Grosse reappeared on our call sheet at the end of the season, I was even written in scenes with him,” she wrote. Williamson said the showrunner admitted that he had not fired Grosse or shared her experiences with HR.
Williamson ultimately decided to leave the show. “Now is the best time in the world to be a woman and I have a platform so it’s time to use my voice,” she wrote. “Strength comes from within. It comes from above.” Several actors showed their support for Williamson in the Instagram post’s comment section.
“I’m SO proud of you and stand COMPLETELY in support of you. Speak your truth and speak it LOUD,” Angela Bassett said. Bassett and Williamson co-starred in the Netflix film Otherhood. The film was released on August 2 and also stars Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman. Otherhood follows Bassett, Arquette, and Huffman as they navigate their life as empty-nesters.
Snowfall’s Angela Lewis and Single Parents actor Kimrie Lewis also left messages of support. “Wow Afton. I’m so sorry you experienced this. But I’m so glad and proud of you for speaking up. You are amazing, and valued,” Angela Lewis wrote. “Please keep me on your list of those you update and call to action. This should never be. Sending Love, light, inner peace, and joy to you for this part of your journey.”
ABC entertainment president Karey Burke addressed the allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and racial discrimination during the network’s Television Critics Association summer press tour, Variety reported. Burke said that eOne, which co-produces the series, had launched an investigation.
“I wish I had more. We are waiting for answers… As soon as we learn more, we will make a determination based on what’s found,” Burke told reporters.
ABC did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. But in a statement to Variety, ABC said, “The allegations involve a production from Entertainment One. In late June, eOne made us aware and informed us that they launched an investigation that is ongoing.” The network said that the safety of working environments was its “top priority.”
Grosse and Ciganovich have not responded to the allegations.
Williamson, who was a series regular, played LAPD training officer Talia Bishop opposite Nathan Fillion, who stars and executive produces the show. “The Rookie” was picked up for a second season in May, ABC announced. Williamson’s character will be replaced by a new character in the upcoming season’s fourth episode, according to USA Today.
In a followup post on Instagram, Williamson thanked her friends, fans, and supporters. “The rippling effect it has had in just a few hours shows how much this world is aching with victims of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse all of it,” she wrote of her first post. Williamson said that other victims and survivors of assault and harassment need to use their voice to call it out. “Let’s BE the CHANGE we WANT to SEE,” she added.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.