When art director Francis Giglio signed on to work on the TBS animated series “The Cops” last summer, he believed he had a full-time job through next May. The project starring the comic dream team of Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks meant steady income for the 36-year-old Newhall resident, who is supporting a wife and a young daughter.
But his economic security ended on Nov. 13 when the show’s production company, FX Productions, and TBS quickly distanced themselves from Louis C.K. after five women went public with accounts of how he forced them to watch him masturbate. Louis C.K. acknowledged the stories were true, and the production was indefinitely suspended by TBS.
Giglio was so upset he wrote an open letter to Louis C.K. on one side of a corrugated box used to pack his office belongings and posted a photo of it on Facebook.
“We now find ourselves out of a job right before the holidays,” Giglio wrote. “So many of us are frantically looking for a new project to jump on, myself included as my wife stays home with my 3-year-old daughter and I always want to take care of them. … All of the stress and frustration that I find myself in now is nothing compared to the pain and distress you have caused these women.”
Giglio and more than 75 other people in Burbank and Vancouver working on “The Cops” are part of the collateral damage of sexual harassment scandals that have brought down a growing number of media and entertainment figures.
The alleged misdeeds of powerful men, including Louis C.K, mogul Harvey Weinstein and “House of Cards” actor Kevin Spacey, have not only harmed numerous victims but upended the livelihoods of hundreds of people who depended on them.
Last week, 20 people who worked on “Charlie Rose,” the long-running daily talk show carried by PBS stations and Bloomberg, learned that the program was gone. The decision came a day after the Washington Post reported that eight women who had worked for or applied for jobs with the host had accused him of sexual harassment.
When Rose addressed his employees after his firing on Nov. 21, he suggested the program could continue, according to one staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But a week later, there is no sign that “Charlie Rose” will be revived or that any PBS replacement would involve Rose’s production company or his employees, a number of whom have been with him for more than 20 years. Rose’s staff will be paid through the end of the year.
The 200-member crew of the hit drama “House of Cards” has been on a paid hiatus since early November as Netflix and the show’s production company Media Rights Capital try to sort out the future of the show without its star Spacey. He was fired after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior were raised by several men. Scotland Yard is also investigating sexual assault allegations made against the actor while he was artistic director of the Old Vic in London.
This past weekend the “House of Cards” crew was told that the Baltimore-based production would not restart before Dec. 8, as producers and writers try to determine how the final season will proceed without Spacey.
Susan Cabral-Ebert, president of the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild (IATSE Local 706), said at least two of her union’s members are out of jobs even if “House of Cards” resumes, as they were dedicated solely to working on Spacey during the show’s first six seasons.
“Our makeup and hair people have been with him for years and have lost their jobs,” she said. “They are now back in L.A.”
The future of Weinstein Co. — and the roughly 150 employees who worked there — remains unclear as the once-powerful studio looks for a buyer to stave off bankruptcy. The New York-based company has scaled back its Los Angeles staff and operations since the New York Times reported that its co-founder paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades.
A number of projects in early development were scrapped, including an Amazon series with Robert DeNiro. Although the company’s TV shows currently in production have not been disrupted, there is clearly anxiety among the rank and file about being associated with the tainted Weinstein brand. About 30 employees signed a letter to the New Yorker that said they had “nothing to hide” and were unaware of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior, which included allegedly raping several actresses. Weinstein has denied having engaged in any sexual activity that was not consensual.
The fallout has been especially severe for those tied to Louis C.K.’s projects.
“The Cops” is the first major TV show in mid-production to have the plug pulled because of a harassment allegation leveled against its principal star and creator. While an actor in a live-action show could have been recast, the animated character that Louis C.K. voiced in “The Cops” was designed and rendered to resemble the comic. He had already done voice tracks for two episodes, and animation production had begun on several more.
Animation director David Wachtenheim, 51, commuted from his home in New York to the Burbank studio of Starburns Industries to work on the series. He held out hope that the show would go on as the staff was told to continue working after the New York Times story about Louis C.K.’s victims first broke. But within several days, he was told it was over.
“I couldn’t imagine them recasting Louis,” Wachtenheim said. “The entire show is all him and Albert Brooks.”
Wachtenheim had suspected early on that Louis C.K.’s conduct might become an issue for “The Cops.” He had heard the whispers in the comedy community about Louis C.K.’s behavior and believed the allegations leveled against Weinstein could eventually bring them to light. His hunch proved correct.
“It was pretty devastating,” Wachtenheim said. “Everybody had a job, and then they didn’t.”
The indefinite suspension of “The Cops” is particularly disruptive, Wachtenheim noted, as animation professionals need to line up their opportunities to keep a steady flow of income.
“When one project ends, then you have to start … looking for the next thing,” he said. “I was lucky I had coals in the fire already, so I think I can land something fast. But there are a lot of people that didn’t.”
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Kelani Lim, a production manager overseeing the 60 animators at Bardel Entertainment in Vancouver working on “The Cops,” was excited about being on a show that featured Louis C.K. With a year and a half of experience, she was unaware of long-circulating rumors about the allegations.
“One of the things that drew me to the project was that his name was attached to it,” said Lim, 28, a Vancouver resident. “A lot of people who worked on the shows were fans of his and looked up to him. Their opinions of him have completely changed, especially since he was involved in them losing their jobs.”
Lim is trying to focus on the larger issue of women being able to come forward about sexual harassment. But the personal consequences are hard to ignore.
“I’m supportive of them,” Lim said. “I also have mixed feelings because I’m out of a job because of one person and I didn’t have a choice.”
Giglio also has tried to keep his thoughts on the women subjected to the comic’s behavior.
After Giglio posted his open letter to Louis C.K, one of the comedian’s accusers reached out to him. She told him she was sorry he lost his job as a result of the sordid revelations that torpedoed the project.
“I told her, ‘That’s not the point, you have nothing to apologize for,’” Giglio said. “We have to change this environment so these people can come forward without the added stress of a production being canceled as some sort of retaliation against them. The ramifications of how this spreads is so much bigger than people realize.”