According to a New York Times report, five writers have left the CBS drama All Rise over the show's depictions of race and gender, behind-the-scenes treatment of staff members of color, and disputes with showrunner and executive producer Greg Spottiswood, who is white. Writers who left the show said Spottiswood had "ignored, rejected, or resisted" attempts to ensure the show accurately reflected the experiences of people of color.
Two former writers who left the show in 2019, Sunil Nayar and Shernold Edwards, spoke to the Times for the story. "We had to do so much behind the scenes to keep these scripts from being racist and offensive," said Edwards. After Nayar left, he said, "It became clear to me, when I left the show, that I was only there because I'm the brown guy. Greg hired me to be his brown guy." They both also provided specific examples of times they spoke up about the show's handling of race and gender issues, and were not met with positive reactions.
According to Edwards, the lead character Lola Carmichael, played by Simone Missick, was sometimes written dialogue and stories that seemed false or offensive. When Edwards voiced her concerns about inaccurately portraying the actions of a Black woman, she was asked "why the character's race mattered." "The fact that I'm still being asked that question tells me that there are people on the show who are incapable of writing for people of color and should not be writing for people of color," she wrote in an email to the show's top producers that was shared with the Times.
They also referenced storylines that they found offensive, including one that appeared as early as the second episode in which the character Emily Lopez (Jessica Camacho), who had recently left her physically abusive husband, was told by another character that a "'one-night stand' would solve her problem," which some writers said was insensitive. Later in the scene, a naked white man got on the elevator with the women, and the characters proceeded to ignore him.
According to the report, Nayar and Edwards sent emails to Spottiswood objecting the sequence, and he subsequently admonished them for speaking up so late into the process. The scene was ultimately cut, but Edwards said, "Two women would not calmly continue a conversation with a naked white guy running into the elevator. That is violence. That is a dangerous situation that they would have to respond to."
They also both spoke about a scene wherein a Black character, played by J. Alex Brinson, was stopped by police while jogging. Nayar said that Spottiswood went on to cut a scene he wrote wherein Brinson and Missick's characters discuss the incident, and it was only re-added after Missick spoke up about the omission. The report also referenced a Season 2 episode that reinforced offensive stereotypes of Latin American people, which were removed from the script after cast member Lindsay Mendez objected.
Last year, after staff complaints about Spottiswood, Warner Bros. reviewed the show's workplace, ultimately deciding to keep Spottiswood in place, but provided him with a corporate coach, a Black woman.
In their statement to the Times, Warner Bros. said, "As soon as we became aware of concerns in the All Rise writers' room, we took steps to conduct a review of the work environment. While the studio identified areas for improvement, the findings did not reveal conduct that would warrant removing series creator Greg Spottiswood from the executive producer role."
In his own statement, Spottiswood said, "I acknowledge that I can have a rhetorical, professorial tone in the room, and that can be perceived by some as condescending, and that I can be defensive in creative conversations and debates. I remain strongly committed to improving my communication style and skills, and to being a more inclusive leader — ensuring that writers and artists are not just heard, but feel listened to, respected, safe and valued."
All Rise, which was renewed for Season 2 earlier this year, follows the lives of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders as they work within the flawed legal system to seek justice for the people of Los Angeles.
CBS did not respond to TV Guide's request for comment.