In a recent interview with The New York Times, Jessica Walter and the Arrested Development cast sat down to talk about the season five reboot of the show, when an unexpected conversation happened. When the subject of Jeffrey Tambor's on-set behavior came up, Walter's opened up, saying, "I have to let go of being angry at him.” Though she was in tears remembering how Tambor allegedly "verbally harassed" her on-set, her male costars didn't exactly seem to jump to her defense.
It's worth mentioning this had nothing to do with the sexual harassment allegations that led to Tambor's firing from his Amazon show Transparent. Tambor has denied those allegations, saying he's "never been a predator — ever," according to CBS News. Instead, the most recent commentary had everything to do with his verbal harassment of Walter during the filming of Arrested Development. Ultimately, the conversation boiled down to one central question: whether or not it's "normal" set behavior to be rude, aggressive, or downright combative to your co-stars.
In the interview, New York Times reporter Sopan Deb brought up Tambor's interview with Hollywood Reporter, in which he admitted being confrontational and rude to producers and co-stars on set. Specifically, he said he had "profusely apologized" to Walter for a "blowup" that happened. Immediately, Bateman seemed to jump to Tambor's defense, initially saying he, too, had yelled at Walter before (to which Walter replied, "You've never yelled at me"). He went on to argue that on-set relationships can be particularly unique. "But this is a family and families, you know, have love, laughter, arguments," Bateman said. "Again, not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years."
Will Arnett chimed in after Bateman, saying, "I can say that I keyed Bateman’s car. I never admitted that. Because I was like, look at this guy, taking up a spot and a half." Tambor went on to add that he had already apologized for his actions, and was paying for his mistakes. Bateman interjected again, seeming to make the case in defense of Tambor's actions once more:
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. 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.
However, Walter was quick to disagree with Bateman's argument that Tambor's verbal harassment of her was par for the course in the industry. "In like almost 60 years of working," she said, "I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set."
In the midst of this disagreement, Alia Shawkat inserted another valuable opinion, pointing out that just because something is a "norm", doesn't mean that it's right. "The point is that things are changing," Shawkat said, "and people need to respect each other differently."
Bateman tried once more to explain his thinking, clarifying that he did not excuse Tambor's behavior, but rather argued that it was unsurprising for actors to act irrationally. "Not to excuse it... but to be surprised by people having a wobbly route to their goal, their process — it’s very rarely predictable," Bateman said, then added, "All I can say, personally, is I have never learned more from an actor that I’ve worked with than Jeffrey Tambor. And I consider him one of my favorite, most valued people in my life."
To make the relationships between these co-stars even more complex, all of them agreed at the end of the interview that they would prefer for Tambor to stay on the show, with Walter saying, "I don’t want to walk around with anger. I respect him as an actor. We’ve known each other for years and years and years... Of course, I would work with him again in a heartbeat."
Season 5 of Arrested Development (presented as a reboot of Season 4) is now available on Netflix. It's still unclear as to whether or not Tambor will return to the show for future seasons.