‘The Umbrella Academy’ Showrunner Accused of ‘Toxic, Bullying Behavior’ by 12 Writers and Support Staff

Twelve writers and support staff accused “The Umbrella Academy” showrunner Steve Blackman of a “long history of toxic, bullying, manipulative, and retaliatory behavior” in an HR complaint filed in January 2023, Rolling Stone reported Sunday. The news comes ahead of the show’s fourth season, which is set by Netflix to be its last.

Blackman was described as a “a manipulative and chaotic showrunner” who nurtured “a toxic workplace by pitting staffers against one another” and took credit for work he didn’t produce. He was also accused of making “sexist, homophobic, and transphobic” comments. The show features Elliot Page, with storylines in Season 3 where his character came out as a trans man.

The showrunner allegedly fired a female writing team (the pair split one salary as part of their deal) after one of the women gave birth. Blackman insisted he didn’t know she was pregnant, despite having interviewed her in his office during her third trimester.

After the HR complaint was filed, the NBC-owned Universal Content Productions launched an internal investigation the outlet described as “less than comprehensive.” The result was the production company finding Blackman to be more or less in the clear of most of the allegations — something that the 12 people Rolling Stone spoke to directly deny. Most of those people were not interviewed as part of the UCP investigation into Blackman’s conduct, they said.

Blackman’s representative denied the allegations to Rolling Stone. “Over six years and four seasons overseeing thousands of crew, actors, and writers, Steve Blackman led ‘The Umbrella Academy’ to become a beloved series with devoted fans, enthralling stories, and a dedicated team making it all possible,” he said. “These allegations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and outrageous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful, and successful working environment Mr. Blackman has cultivated.”

Some of the anonymous sources the outlet spoke with also said Blackman insisted on loyalty no matter what, which often translated into supporting all of his ideas — “whatever his bad ideas are.” Another writer said that Blackman would toss out someone’s ideas when he was angry with them. “I learned over time that’s what he did when he was pissed at someone,” they said. “He was definitely into retaliation.”

You can read the report from Rolling Stone here.

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