NBC Opening Formal Investigation Into ‘America’s Got Talent’ After Meeting With Ousted Judge Gabrielle Union

Matt Donnelly

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NBC is launching a deeper investigation into its reality competition series “America’s Got Talent,” eight days after Variety exclusively reported that judge Gabrielle Union would not return to the series amid complaints of toxic culture on set.

Union and the network sat for five hours in a fact-finding meeting on Tuesday evening, both parties said, prompting a deeper probe from NBC.

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“The initial conversation was candid and productive. While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution,” an NBC spokesperson said.

Union tweeted Wednesday that she shared her “unfiltered truth” in the discussion, which according to multiple Variety sources included racial insensitivity in the show’s content and directed at Union herself.

“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change,” she tweeted ahead of NBC’s announcement.

A portion of “America’s Got Talent” is shot on the NBC lot in North Hollywood and was the site of specific grievances including an inappropriate joke from guest judge Jay Leno and, according to another report, frequent indoor smoking from executive producer Simon Cowell. Union is allergic to cigarette smoke, the report said, and developed an ongoing bronchial infection as a result.

A series of high profile celebrities including Ellen Pompeo, Ariana Grande, Patricia Arquette and Kerry Washington came forward in support of Union in the days following the report. Union’s husband Dwyane Wade praised her outspokenness and ask for an answer to why his wife was fired from the show. Womens’ advocacy group Time’s Up issued a scathing statement accusing NBC of protecting powerful men at the expense of women who speak out.

“America’s Got Talent” is wholly owned by Cowell and his Syco Entertainment. UK content producer Fremantle mounts the show, with NBC serving as distributor. Union’s concerns were voiced with top producers and a dedicated NBC executive assigned to the show, but not escalated to higher levels within the companies or investigated at the time, many insiders said.

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