Frankie Shaw, who developed the Showtime series SMILF out of her Jury Prize–winning Sundance short film, has been accused of abusive behavior on the set of her series, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. The allegations revolve primarily around claims that Shaw was inappropriate while filming sex scenes and that the show separated writers within its writers room by race.
According to THR, actress Samara Weaving, who plays a love interest of Miguel Gomez’s Rafi, is leaving the show after claiming that her contract was breached while filming a sex scene from its second season. Shaw reportedly insisted that crew members turn on video monitors during the filming of the scene, though the set was supposed to be closed. That followed an incident during the filming of the first season where Weaving was reportedly also asked to do a nude love scene despite the fact that she had a no-nudity clause in her contract: “When she balked, a source says an exasperated Shaw pulled her into a trailer, yanked off her own top and demanded to know why Weaving had a problem being nude when Shaw had no such concerns.” THR says Weaving reported the incident during the second season to SAG-AFTRA and Showtime. Kristin Calabrese, a script supervisor on set, described that incident as “completely unprofessional” to THR: “I know there were past incidents that led up to this being such a sensitive situation, but on any show, if an actor is feeling unsafe or uncomfortable with something, it’s our responsibility to make them feel safe.”
In addition to those complaints about the handling of sex scenes, THR also reports that “multiple staffers have made complaints to the WGA about both credit issues and alleged race-based separation, though no formal grievances have been filed.” Writers of color on SMILF were reportedly put in different rooms from caucasian writers and “felt that their ideas were exploited without pay or credit.” Shaw’s attorney, in a statement to THR, said that the show did not intend to divide the writers that way, and that “smaller ‘breakout’ groups are formed solely based on ability and the strengths of the individual writers.” There are also allegations that assistants were given writing assignments and did not get credit or standard pay for them.
ABC Studios, which produces SMILF via ABC Signature, is aware of the complaints against Shaw and told THR, “Complaints were brought to our attention after season two production wrapped, and we are investigating.” Showtime did not comment, though THR reports that its executives “were aware of at least some of the allegations.” Through her attorney, Shaw told THR, “I work daily to create an environment in which everyone should feel safe, and in which I can continue to grow as a leader and manager. I am now and always have been open to hearing and addressing all concerns and issues that fall within my control. It pains me to learn that anyone felt uncomfortable on my set. I sincerely hope we can work together to resolve any and all issues, as I am committed to creating a workplace in which all people feel safe and heard.”
Update: According to Variety, the ABC Studios investigation was triggered when Rosie O’Donnell (who plays Shaw’s character’s mother) brought Weaving’s complaints to Showtime, which passed them on to ABC. ABC Studios’ human-resources investigation, however, has since concluded and found that there had been no wrongdoing on Shaw’s part. Weaving was still released from her contract at her request.