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Ellen DeGeneres Responds to Allegations of Toxic Work Environment

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Earlier this week, WarnerMedia announced an internal investigation into The Ellen Degeneres Show after numerous accounts of workplace discrimination and mistreatment. On Thursday, DeGeneres addressed the claims directly.

What We Know:

  • Claims of the workplace culture at The Ellen DeGeneres Show being rife with “racism, fear, and intimidation,” has been widely publicized in recent days. DeGeneres has been under fire herself for allowing the toxicity to continue, although direct blame went to top producers of the show. On Thursday, DeGeneres sent a letter to her entire crew addressing the alleged workplace misconduct.
  • In the letter, DeGeneres takes full responsibility for the allegations, as the show bears her name. She apologizes to any and all employees who have been “treated unfairly, not equal, or worse, disregarded”. As for the toxic behavior from top producers, she blames it on her absence as a boss, writing that “people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop”.
  • DeGeneres insists that steps will be taken to “correct the issues” going forward, saying she is committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen again. She adds that she plans on being more involved within show production as she had previously “relied on others to do their jobs” with the assumption that they knew what she wanted to be done, adding “clearly some didn’t”.
  • Neither DeGeneres nor WarnerMedia has commented on the status of specific employees named in the claims. However, two sources told The Hollywood Reporter that top producer Ed Glavin, one of the show’s three producers, and the one at the center of many of the nastier claims, has been let go along with a few others in an attempt the overhaul the alleged toxic culture.
  • In her letter, DeGeneres shared her own past struggles with feeling “othered” and discriminated against after she was run out of the industry and subject to multiple death threats after she came out as gay in the late 1990s. She said she “truly understands and has deep compassion” for those being looked at or treated differently.
  • A spokesperson for WarnerMedia said that together, Warner Bros. and DeGeneres have taken the allegations very seriously and the investigation was conducted to determine the full validity and extent of the claims. “We are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues.”

Below is DeGeneres’ full letter to her staff:

Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.

I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.

It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.

I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.

Stay safe and healthy.

Love, 

Ellen

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is currently on summer hiatus. It is unclear what WarnerMedia plans to do with the show due to the coronavirus pandemic so there is not yet a return date.

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Viola Davis Buys House Where She Was Born in for 55th Birthday

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY DARIO CALMESE; STYLED BY ELIZABETH STEWART (Courtesy of Vanity Fair)

Viola Davis is going back to her home for her birthday.

What We Know:

  • On Tuesday, the Academy Award-winning actress celebrated her 55th birthday by revealing that she purchased the South Carolina house where she was born, based on a former slave plantation.
  • She shared a picture of the home and stated, “The above is the house where I was born August 11, 1965. It is the birthplace of my story. Today on my 55th year of life…I own it….all of it.” She’s previously described the property saying it’s about 160 acres all in all.

  • Davis also shared a Cherokee birth blessing in her post, “May you live long enough to know why you were born”. In light of all the triumph she’s found, it seems she did that too.
  • Davis talked about the history of the property and her poor surroundings in a 2016 interview with People and Entertainment Weekly. The house was established on the location of the Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina, where her grandfather was a sharecropper.
  • The history of sharecropping in America has a deep connection to slavery. Although sharecropping gave African Americans independence in their everyday work/social lives and emancipated them from the gang-labor system that had control during the slavery era, it often ended with sharecroppers owing more to the landowner.
  • Her grandparent’s generation lived on what they could, with Davis saying her grandmother’s house was a one-room shack and how she has a picture of it on her phone because she thinks it’s a beautiful picture. Although everything was not spectacular for her family, they had no bathroom or running water. Davis stated, “it’s just an outhouse”.
  • She also mentioned that her mom said that the day she was born, all of her aunts and uncles were in the house, drinking and laughing, having fun. She said her mom ate a sardine, mustard, onion, tomato sandwich after her birth.

“I love that story,” Davis went on. “It’s a great story to me. It’s a great story of celebration in the midst of what you would feel is a decimated environment, but you could see the joy and the life that can come out of that because it’s not always about things, you know.”

With the purchase of the plantation, Davis can create new memories and honor the slaves who once worked the land, including her ancestors.

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Media Mogul Sumner Redstone Dies at 97

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Sumner M. Redstone, the billionaire media pioneer who built what is now ViacomCBS died Tuesday at age 97, CBS News reports.

What We Know:

  • ViacomCBS confirmed in a statement released Wednesday that its Chairman Emeritus had passed. Though the cause of death is not yet known, Redstone’s health had been failing for years.
  • Many ViacomCBS executives have issued their own statements on his death. CEO Bob Bakish said Wednesday that “Sumner was a true industry titan, a brilliant and driven pioneer whose influence on the media and entertainment landscape cannot be overstated.” His daughter, Shari Redstone, who currently serves as Chair of ViacomCBS said that her father “led an extraordinary life that not only shaped entertainment as we know it today, but created an incredible family legacy.”

  • In 1954, Sumner joined his family’s small drive-in movie theater business which he later transformed into National Amusements, one of the country’s largest movie theater chains. He continued building the business, purchasing Viacom in 1987 and later Paramount in 1994. Today, ViacomCBS has its hand in almost every aspect of the media industry, including cable, film, and publishing.
  • “Sumner astutely anticipated the ways in which the media industry would evolve, shaped by technological innovation and changing consumer tastes, and recognized the enormous potential of both Viacom and CBS,” Bakish added.
  • Sumner said himself that when he purchased Viacom it was a struggling cable television company and stressed the importance of following “your own instincts”.

Today, ViacomCBS is one of the world’s premiere media corporations. At the time of his death, Redstone’s net worth was $3 billion.

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‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Drama Reboot in the Works

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The popular 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air currently has a dramatic reboot in the works based on a viral trailer.

What We Know:

  • The reboot will be based on the viral trailer created by Morgan Cooper, a Fresh Prince superfan,  that reimagined the hit comedy series as a drama titled “Bel-Air.” The trailer tells the story of a working-class Philadelphia teen adapting to life with his richer family in Los Angeles. The video racked up over 5 million views on YouTube and caught the attention of the show’s original star Will Smith, who is now developing the series with Cooper. What the full trailer below.

 

  • “Morgan did a ridiculous trailer for Bel-Air,” Smith originally commented. “Brilliant idea – the dramatic version of The Fresh Prince for the next generation.” The show is expected to dive deep into the “inherent conflicts, emotions, and biases” of what it means to be a Black man in America today, while still delivering the “swagger and fun nods” to the original show.
  • The project has reportedly been in development for the past year with Smith and the producers of the original show, Benny Medina and Quincy Jones, onboard. Cooper will co-write and direct the project as well as also serve as a co-executive producer. Chris Collins, whose credits include The Wire and Sons of Anarchy, will act as Cooper’s co-writer as well as showrunner. Westbrook Studios, the studio founded by Smith, and Universal Television, the studio behind the original show, will produce.
  • The show is just one of the many 90’s reboots in the works. NBC’s new streaming platform, Peacock, just premiered a teaser for its new take on Saved by the Bell as well as updated versions of popular shows like Daria, Who’s the Boss, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Beavis and Butt-Head.

The project is currently being pitched to multiple outlets, including HBO Max, which is the streaming home of the original series. There is currently no anticipated premiere date for the series.

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