For 24 seasons, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has been wowing viewers with one disturbing case after another.
But the on-screen drama pales in comparison to what’s allegedly happening behind the scenes on NBC’s dominance — the longest-running primetime live-action series in history.
David Graziano, who served as host of “SVU” in June, was accused of abusing script coordinator Hayley Cameron, causing her to quit the series, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“David Graziano is a very unprofessional, self-centered and immature individual. I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I’ve never experienced such pure white male misogyny,” Cameron said in a post on a mailing list circulating among script coordinators.
Describing the production under Graziano (also known as “Graz”) as “an absolute disorganized nightmare”, she added, “I urge you – especially women – Think twice before putting yourself in a situation where it could be as bad as mine.”
Graziano’s spokesman, Alafell Hall, denied Cameron’s claims in a statement to The Times.
“Suggestions that Mr. Graziano created a hostile work environment or that he was sexist, inappropriate and unprofessional are false,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the showrunner has been accused of bad behavior in the workplace, ranging from alleged bullying to sexual harassment. Almost from the beginning of his resume, Graziano complained, including previous stints such as USA Network’s “In Plain Sight,” Fox’s “Lie to Me” and CBS All Access’ “Coyote.”
“Graz is toxic, I’ve never in my life run away from work as quickly as I did when I first graduated. [worked] for him. Stay away,” wrote Amy Hartman, Graziano’s “Coyote” script coordinator, in the same thread as Cameron’s post.
“I was fighting or flying every day,” Hartman told the New York Times. “I’m absolutely devastated that he’s working again and continuing to work hard. [‘SVU’]”
While Graziano acknowledged in a statement that he was a “difficult person to work with” on “Coyote,” he denied making inappropriate comments about women or people of color.
While making “Lie to Me,” Graziano was allegedly angry at a junior writer’s casting decision, according to two people who were there and a third show crew who heard about it the next day. . “He fired him on the spot, telling him to ‘pack up his stuff and get the hell out,'” recalled one.
However, Hall disputed that account, saying Graziano “told disobedient staff writers in a firm voice to get out of the room.”
Meanwhile, a male writer on “Lie to Me” said Graziano “would be in the writers room talking about how he might hit a woman and how he would do it.”
A former assistant who worked under Graziano for “All Eyes” on condition of anonymity said Graziano “talked about women’s bodies and what he wanted to do with them,” joking that he “wanted to Hook me up.”
While the former assistant also worked as a full-time nanny for the Graziano twins, she claims he threw a pair of jeans at her and asked her to buy him five more.
“Mr. Graziano never threw anything at an employee,” Hall said in a statement.
But it wasn’t just women who accused Graziano of creating a toxic work environment.
David James, who worked as a script coordinator on Coyote, described it as “without a doubt the worst job I’ve ever had in Hollywood”.
“People always needed a little time,” James recalls. “There was so much crying in that office; it was every day.
Paloma Lamb, the writer’s production assistant on “Coyote,” said Graziano would even lash out at him for getting his lunch order wrong. “If he got his nachos wrong, he’d be mad,” she said. Plus, Lamb added, “he’s always commenting on how women look.”
Describing the “coyote” culture under Graziano as “a very masculine field of work,” one writer said “he was more free to shut down the idea of working with female writers than he was with male writers.”
But Hall said, “Mr. Graziano emphatically denies discriminating against, mistreating or belittling women writers.”
Jessica Butler, a former TV writer who worked with Graziano on “All Eyes,” told The Times, “I had no negative experience with him.” Still, she added, “I don’t want to Say anything that belittles other women’s experiences.”