Arrested Development 01, Jessica Walter 03, Jeffrey Tambor 04
Arrested Development 01, Jessica Walter 03, Jeffrey Tambor 04

Male ‘Arrested Development’ Stars Defended Jeffrey Tambor’s Abuse of Jessica Walter, Then Apologized

The dysfunctional family comedy Arrested Development returns to Netflix on May 29, which led the show’s stars to sit down for a revealing group interview with The New York Times. During the interview, Jessica Walter, the actress who plays the show’s self-absorbed matriarch, Lucille Bluth, tearfully remarked that Jeffrey Tambor, the actor who plays her husband on the series, once verbally harassed her on the set, adding, “In … almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set.”

This revelation — and the Arrested Development male co-stars who immediately jumped in to defend Tambor  are all the more troubling considering that Tambor had been accused of yelling at people on set and sexually harassing two transgender co-stars while acting in Amazon’s groundbreaking family drama Transparent.

When Walter discussed Tambor verbally harassing her on-set, Tony Hale and Jason Bateman, the two male actors who play Lucille’s sons in Arrested Development, minimized her experience.

Bateman responded that all the actors had yelled at Jessica Walter before. (“You’ve never yelled at me like that,” she replied). Bateman repeatedly said, “Not to belittle it, but…” and then characterized Tambor’s blow up at Walter as “a family argument” adding that Tambor’s behavior was “typical of certain performers.”

“But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable,” replied female co-star Alia Shawkat, the only other female cast member in the room. “And the point is that things are changing,” she added, “and people need to respect each other differently.”

Defending Tambor’s verbal abuse of Jessica Walter, Hale added, “Not to build a thing — we’ve all had moments.”

During this part of the interview Tambor said, “I profusely have apologized. Ms. Walter is indeed a walking acting lesson. And on Transparent, you know, I had a temper and I yelled at people and I hurt people’s feelings. And that’s unconscionable, and I’m working on it and I’m going to put that behind me, and I love acting.”

Arrested Development 02, Jessica Walter 01, Jeffrey Tambor 08

Jessica Walter said, “I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go.”

There are several possible reasons to explain why Arrested Development’s male co-stars excused Jeffrey Tambor’s abuse of Jessica Walter: possibly to alleviate tension or avoid further discomfort during the roundtable interview, perhaps to maintain an air of familial harmony amongst the cast or to avoid the emotional rawness of actually discussing what happened.

But in rushing to excuse Tambor’s abusiveness, Bateman and Hale both illustrate why women in the entertainment industry have found it so hard to speak up about being abused by male co-workers. Their experiences are minimized, laughed off or excused as no big deal. These (occasionally well-intentioned) men try to keep the peace while in actuality permitting harassment of women to continue unchecked because they’re unwilling to let other men be held accountable for offenses.

After The New York Times published the interview, social media users began criticizing both Bateman and Hale for “mansplaining” Walter’s abuse to her and for defending Tambor’s actions as common rather than abuse. Both men subsequently issued apologies for their actions during the interview via Twitter. Hale added that he had also apologized to Jessica Walter directly.

During the interview Bateman also said, “There’s no reason [Tambor] shouldn’t” be a part of a sixth season of Arrested Development should Netflix decide to make one. “I won’t do it without you. I can tell you that,” Bateman added.

Tambor’s return to acting in Arrested Development makes him the the first male media figure in the #MeToo era to return to the front of the camera after sexual misconduct accusations were made against him.

Last November, Tambor was accused by former assistant Van Barnes and female co-star Trace Lysette of sexual harassment while starring in Amazon’s dramatic series Transparent.

Arrested Development 06, Jessica Walter 04, Jeffrey Tambor 09, Transparent, Trace Lysette, Van Barnes
Trace Lysette (left) and Van Barnes

In response to the accusations, Tambor quit and then un-quit before being reportedly written out of the show’s final season and was subsequently fired. Tambor initially released a statement decrying Amazon’s “flawed and biased” investigation into the allegations. In a controversial Hollywood Reporter interview Jeffrey Tambor said he was fired for being a cisgender man playing a transgender role.

Tambor’s co-star on Transparent, trans woman Alexandra Billings, says Tambor is being allowed to return to the world of acting because he harassed trans women rather than cis women.

“I don’t know of any other man who has been accused of these charges and yet who is simply moving on to the next job. Not one other man. But, you see, this man harassed transwomen, and that makes a difference,” Billings says. “If Trace and Van were cisgender women, and Jeffrey Tambor had been accused of sexually harassing them, what would be different?”

What do you think of the Arrested Development male cast members’ responses to Jessica Walter? Sound off in the comments.

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