Multiple writers from the CBS courtroom drama “All Rise” have walked off the show over mistreatment by the series showrunner, Greg Spottiswood.
According to a New York Times report that was published on Thursday, five of the seven original writers on the Warner Bros. Television produced series, including three of its highest-ranking writers of colors, quit. Spottiswood, who is white, reportedly ignored their attempts to have the show accurately reflect the experiences of people of color.
Even co-showrunner Sunil Nayar, an Indian American man, made his exit from the show following clashing with Spottiswood over the script, including one incident where Spottiswood attempted to remove a scene where the main character discussed racist policing with a Black bailiff after he had been wrongly stopped by police while jogging. The scene, which was written by Nayar, was ultimately kept in the show.
“We had to do so much behind the scenes to keep these scripts from being racist and offensive,” writer-producer Shernold Edwards, a Black woman, revealed to the Times. Edwards also said that there were multiple instances where the main character, Judge Lola Carmichael, who is portrayed by Simone Missock, storylines seemed to be stereotypical. When Edwards spoke out against the racially triggering dialogue, her colleagues would question why race mattered, which the writer points out, is the real issue.
“The fact that I’m still being asked that question tells me that there are people on the show who are incapable of writing for people of color and should not be writing for people of color,” Edwards wrote in an email to the show’s producers, according to the Times.
Warner Bros. issued a statement on the toxic work environment saying that they could not find enough evidence to get rid of Spottiswood just yet. However, they did assign a corporate coach to advise him following the investigation.
“As soon as we became aware of concerns in the All Rise writers’ room, we took steps to conduct a review of the work environment. The findings did not reveal conduct that would warrant removing [Spottiswood] from the Executive Producer role.”
Another scene that was scraped from the series was one that called for a nude man to join two women in an elevator, “and they continue their conversation as if nothing odd is going on,” Both Nayar and Edwards say that “the majority of the show’s writers” felt that the scene was inappropriate.
Spottiswood responded to the claims in a statement to EW.
“When it appeared, the writers’ room was struggling to function as effectively as it should, I recognized that I needed to change how I was working. I voluntarily sought management training and leadership coaching. I acknowledge that I can have a rhetorical, professorial tone in the room, and that can be perceived by some as condescending and that I can be defensive in creative conversations and debates. The showrunner went on to add, “I remain strongly committed to improving my communication style and skills; and to being a more inclusive leader — ensuring that writers and artists are not just heard, but feel listened to, respected, safe, and valued.”