Above all else, this #MeToo era we find ourselves in has been about having the conversations that we never did before. At least, that’s what it’s meant to me, personally. Sure, creeps and criminals have been outed along the way, but blame isn’t the entire point of the game here. Conversations are more than just talking; they’re exercises in listening, too — and right now the stories we’re sharing are only part of the movement. The other part is about hearing the experiences of others without jumping to conclusions or passing judgment. It’s about finding strength in the ties that bind us, while at the same time accepting the fact that there are things outside of our own personal experience. Things that we don’t understand, but are still valid nonetheless. That someone’s truth can still be true, despite all the “Well, actually”s thrown at it.
So what’s this got to do with Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz? Well, he recently opened up to Deadline about the on-set incident between Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walter — you remember, the one that made Walter cry during that infamous New York Times interview, while her male co-stars basically tried to pooh-pooh the situation away? It was, uh, not a great moment in the show’s history, but it has proved to be an excellent case study in watching people learn from their mistakes on the fly (David Cross offered a master-class in this during a follow-up interview with Gothamist). And having clearly listened to the evolving conversation that’s sprung up around that incident and that NY Times interview, Hurwitz has now joined it.
First, he offers some context on what the actual incident was:
The incident stemmed, he said, from the differing approaches Tambor and Walter took to a scene. “It was something minor, like he was doing a speech and Jessica wanted to redo something in her speech,” he explained. “She’s a perfectionist, which I have a horrible case of myself, and he’s sort of loose with it, finds his way back if he gets off course within the speech, for instance… And she was resetting and he got upset and was like, ‘Oh, come on! You always do this!’ He continued for a bit and she apologized. ‘I’m sorry, Jeffrey, I’m sorry.’ But he continued and then walked off—the set apparently, but he walked out of frame.”
Walter told Hurwitz that the incident upset her at the time, and Tambor apologized shortly after. Hurwitz then praised Walter’s professionalism, saying that she continued working as always without letting on that the altercation was still upsetting her. But he also notes that, “I’m guilty of not realizing how deeply upsetting that was for Jessica,” and goes on to offer up the perfect after-school special, bite-sized life lesson to be gleaned from this whole mess (emphasis mine):
“There was more to it than I realized, and it’s not my place to opine about what I believe was the weight of it,” he said. “I misinterpreted what I understood to have played out, and more importantly the depth of Jessica’s pain about it. I feel so bad about that. I feel bad because I love these people — I feel bad for very personal reasons… I wish I’d known, or made a greater effort to know, the pain that it caused.”
FUCKING THANK YOU!
What he witnessed, he saw through dailies. He wasn’t there, and even hearing Jessica’s first-hand account, he didn’t quite get what she was going through. And as he pointed out, it’s a sign of her professionalism that she continued to work despite her pain — which is not to be confused with a sign that her pain wasn’t deep. But as a friend, and especially as a boss, it’s his job to “make a greater effort” to understand how she was feeling, and protect her — especially after she came to him and TOLD HIM she was upset. Maybe from what he saw, it didn’t seem like that big a deal, but that doesn’t matter. If someone tells you it was, in fact, a big deal to them… fucking listen and try to understand why that might be.
I never thought the phrase “make a greater effort to know” would make me so excited, but here we are. Can we all, just, you know… do that? Please?
Of course, not all of Hurwitz’s comments are likely to please people as much as that one did for me. He also explained the decision to continue working with Tambor after his dismissal from Amazon’s Transparent amidst sexual harassment accusations, saying:
“Jeffrey refutes those claims, Amazon hasn’t shared details with us, and we’ve never had any sexual harassment allegations of any type on our show — a point that Jessica Walter has made as well,” Hurwitz insisted. “To be clear: in saying this I’m not defending sexual harassment. It is and should be a job-terminating offense. I just don’t have any information on whatever happened there. Nor do I have any evidence of him ever sexually harassing anyone in the 20 years, off and on, that I’ve worked with him.”
Look, I don’t know whether Hurwitz made a “greater effort to know” what happened over on Transparent, but he does acknowledge that Tambor’s an “emotional guy” who can be “difficult.” I guess I’m just wondering: if sexual harassment is a job-terminating offense, then what does verbal harassment warrant?
Maybe we’ll find out on the next… Arrested Development.