The return of Arrested Development to Netflix should be a joyous occasion for fans, particularly since early reviews say the revered sitcom is back to form after an odd fourth season. But there's a cloud hanging over the series, and it's in the shape of star Jeffrey Tambor.
Tambor was fired from Amazon's Transparent after he was accused of sexual harassment and assault by his former assistant Van Barnes and co-star Trace Lysette, and his presence in Arrested Development has many questioning whether or not he should be part of the production at all given his past behavior. It turns out that behavior wasn't isolated to the Transparent set.
Living comedy legend Jessica Walter, who plays Tambor's on-screen wife Lucille Bluth and voices Archer's Malory Archer, told The New York Times that Tambor verbally abused her on set. But she's since moved on and has even said she would work with him again.
"I have to let go of being angry at him," Walter said. "He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go." She continued, "In like almost 60 years of working, I've never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it's hard to deal with, but I'm over it now."
A few cast members also in the interview tried to downplay the incident, saying it's part and parcel with being on a TV set with creative people. Jason Bateman, who plays Michael Bluth, appeared to wave off Tambor's outburst.
"Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, 'difficult.' And when you're in a privileged position to hire people, or have an influence in who does get hired, you make phone calls," Bateman said. "And you say, 'Hey, so I've heard X about person Y, tell me about that.' And what you learn is context. And you learn about character and you learn about work habits, work ethics, and you start to understand. Because it's a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It's a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes."
Tony Hale, who plays Buster, also tried to defuse the situation. "But I will say, to Jason's point, we can be honest about the fact that — and not to build a thing — we've all had moments," he said.
It appears that only Alia Shawkat, who plays Maeby and was by far the youngest cast member present in the interview, was willing to come out and say that what Tambor did was wrong. "But that doesn't mean it's acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently," she said.
Netflix has publicly supported Tambor, and submitted his work in Season 5 for Emmy contention.
The first eight episodes of Arrested Development Season 5 come to Netflix on May 29. The second half will come later this year.