A day after the New York Times shared an interview with the Arrested Development cast that left Jessica Walter, who plays matriarch Lucille Bluth, in tears, Jason Bateman apologized for his insensitive comments. The actor took to Twitter to say he was "extremely embarrassed" by the way he handled the interview in which Walter talked about co-star Jeffrey Tambor yelling at her on-set. But Bateman's comments also show how much further Hollywood needs to go to make sure everyone feels safe in the workplace.
Early Thursday morning in a series of tweets, Bateman wrote that after listening to the audio of Walter crying and seeing other people's comments on Twitter, he realized that he was wrong in defending Tambor, who admitted to verbally harassing Walter on set. Bateman wrote:
"I sound like I’m condoning yelling at work. I do not. It sounds like I’m excusing Jeffery. I do not. It sounds like I’m insensitive to Jessica. I am not. In fact, I'm horrified that I wasn’t more aware of how this incident affected her. I was so eager to let Jeffrey know that he was supported in his attempt to learn, grow and apologize that I completely underestimated the feelings of the victim, another person I deeply love."
Many felt that Bateman and his male co-stars were gaslighting Walter by making her feel as if she had no reason to be mad at Tambor anymore because, as Tambor said, he "profusely apologized" to Walter for the "blowup."
In doing so, Bateman seemingly downplayed Tambor's actions, which are not related to previous sexual harassment allegations, which resulted in the actor's firing from Transparent in February. Tambor has repeatedly denied those allegations, saying he's "never been a predator — ever," according to CBS News.
In the Times interview, Bateman appeared to make excuses, saying he had also yelled at Walter before and that all families fight. "Again, not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years," he said.
But Walter — still clearly hurt by Tambor's verbal harassment — made it known that was not normal on-set behavior, telling Bateman, "You've never yelled at me like that." She added, "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.”
Through tears, Walter said she needs to forgive Tambor for his actions. "I have to let go of being angry at him," she told the Times. "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."
Throughout the interview, Bateman pushed back on Walter's comments and continued to defend Tambor, which he later acknowledged made him part of the problem. He tweeted:
"I shouldn’t have tried so hard to mansplain, or fix a fight, or make everything okay. I should’ve focused more on what the most important... There’s never any excuse for abuse, in any form, from any gender. And, the victim’s voice needs to be heard and respected. Period. I didn’t say that and instead said a bunch of other stuff and not very well. I deeply, and sincerely, apologize."
What is clear throughout the interview is that Walter's male co-stars didn't seem to understand how this moment made her feel — and they never tried to. But, as Alia Shawkat — who was the only cast member to stick up for Walter — said in the Times interview, just because this was once acceptable behavior doesn't mean it is anymore. "The point is that things are changing," Shawkat said, "and people need to respect each other differently."
In an interview with IndieWire last month, Shawkat also showed her support for those from Transparent who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Tambor. “I was surprised, obviously. I’ve known him since I was very young,” Shawkat said. “I support the voices of the victims though, whatever they said.” (As noted above, Tambor has repeatedly denied these allegations.)
No surprise, there were many who couldn't help but channel Ron Howard's Arrested Development narrator to explain just how problematic and upsetting the cast's Times interview was.
But there were others who, like Shawkat, felt Bateman's apology showed how the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are changing things. Twitter user @yaboyfacepaulm wrote, "[The] only way sexism will die is if men take other men to task over it. This doesn’t work otherwise."
Another user @noirmasri tweeted, "If it’s a learning moment, learn and acknowledge that at least there’s a fine line between male camaraderie and insensitive ignorant support."
While user @Jthemarketer wrote, "it's the 'boys club/pack mentality' that is truly toxic & the barrier to movements like #MeToo making strides. Us men need to be true allies not gaslighting mansplainers!"
Bateman's apology is a good start, but what it reveals is that men need to actually listen to women. And more importantly, that everyone needs to listen to the victims of any form of assault if things are to ever truly change.