May 24, 2018 at 7:06 AM
Amid movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up, Hollywood is experiencing an era of change. While a number of men in the industry have stepped up to support their fellow female actors, a recent New York Times interview featuring the predominantly male cast of “Arrested Development” left some feeling frustrated and disheartened.
And it left cast member Jason Bateman tweeting a lengthy apology Thursday morning, after some of the comments he made sparked backlash.
In the sometimes emotional Times interview ahead of the sitcom’s fifth season debut, one of the show’s stars, Jessica Walter, opened up about fellow cast member Jeffrey Tambor verbally harassing her on set.
Tambor, who was fired from “Transparent” after allegations of sexual misconduct, admitted in an interview with Hollywood Reporter earlier this month that he is prone to outbursts on set. He specifically referenced one “blowup” with Walter, noting that he “profusely apologized” afterward. At the time, Walter declined to comment.
But, when Walter addressed the issue alongside Tambor, Bateman, David Cross, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale and Will Arnett, many felt her male castmates were too eager to come to Tambor’s defense.
The exchange began when Times reporter Sopan Deb said to Tambor, “You even said at one point you lashed out at —” and Walter cut Deb off, identifying herself as the person Tambor yelled out.
This prompted Bateman to quickly say everyone on the show had yelled at each other.
“Oh! You’ve never yelled at me,” Walter said, to which Bateman, her on-screen son, responded that he wasn’t trying “to belittle what happened.”
“But this is a family and families, you know, have love, laughter arguments — again, not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years,” Bateman said. “I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done — and we’ve all done a lot, with each other, for each other, against each other — I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints.”
Cross, who plays Tobias Fünke, chimed in, saying Tambor “learned from the experience.”
“He’s listening and learning and growing,” Cross said. “That’s important to remember.”
When asked whether he would hire someone who “routinely” yells at other people on set, Tambor said he would if that person had “reckoned” with their behavior, adding that he is continuing to deal with his own actions.
“I profusely have apologized,” he said. “Ms. Walter is indeed a walking acting lesson.”
On the set of his other show, Tambor acknowledged yelling at people and hurting their feelings, calling his behavior “unconscionable.”
Bateman again spoke up in defense of Tambor.
“Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, ‘difficult,’ ” he said. “Because it’s a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.”
Shawkat, the only other woman present, interrupted Bateman.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable,” she said. “And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.”
At that point, Walter, who had started crying, spoke again. The audio from this part of the interview was published.
“Let me just say one thing that I just realized in this conversation,” Walter said, her voice thick. “I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any … sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go.”
Turning to address Tambor, she said, “And I have to give you a chance … for us to be friends again.”
Walter added, “But it’s hard because honestly, [Bateman] says this happens all the time. In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now.”
Walter’s co-stars did not let the discussion end there.
Bateman, Cross and Hale, who plays Walter’s other on-screen son, all jumped in to defend Tambor.
Hale said everyone on the show “had moments” and there were “other points of anger coming out” during the cast’s 15 years together.
Cross added that Tambor’s behavior “didn’t just come out of the blue,” saying, “There is a cumulative effect sometimes.”
Bateman took things a step further.
“Not to say that you know, you [Walter] had it coming,” he said. “But this is not in a vacuum — families come together and certain dynamics collide and clash every once in a while. And there’s all kinds of things that go into the stew so it’s a little narrow to single that one particular thing that is getting attention from our show.”
Walter responded, saying Tambor was the one who publicized the incident by talking about it to the Hollywood Reporter. She said she “never would have brought it up.”
On Twitter, people didn’t appreciate how Walter was treated by her male cast members and many voiced their support for her.
HuffPost reporter Jennifer Bendery called Walter a “tough, mature, graceful person” and criticized her co-stars for being “shockingly dismissive” about Tambor’s actions.
Others, such as Daily Beast reporter Kevin Fallon, were surprised by how many times Walter was interrupted by people downplaying her experience, forcing her to “clarify and reiterate that no one has ever spoken to her as inexcusably as Jeffrey Tambor has.”
While the other men present were criticized for their behavior toward Walter, Bateman appeared to draw the most disapproval for his comments.
Filmmaker April Wolfe tweeted that Bateman was “talking a little too much” and Shawkat “not enough.”
One user also criticized Bateman for thinking he should explain “how show business works” to Walter, a veteran actor.
Many said they felt that throughout the interview, Bateman was constantly interrupting Walter.
“I had to stop reading after the ninth time Jason Bateman interrupted a crying 77-year-old woman to say that she was overreacting to what an entire room of people agreed was abuse,” writer Kaitlin Menza tweeted.
In a series of tweets early Thursday morning, Bateman apologized, saying he was wrong.
“I’m incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry to have done that to Jessica,” he wrote. “This is a big learning moment for me. I shouldn’t have tried so hard to mansplain, or fix a fight, or make everything okay.”
The fifth season of “Arrested Development” premieres May 29 on Netflix.