Disturbing allegations about The Umbrella Academy showrunner's toxic behavior surface ahead of Season 4; he responds | Web Series


Nearly a month before the premiere (August 8) of The Umbrella Academy's fourth and final season on Netflix, co-creator and show creator Steve Blackman's name has been dogged by disturbing allegations of “toxic” and “bullying” behavior.

The Umbrella Academy season 4 will arrive on Netflix on August 8, 2024.

According to new news from Rolling Stone, 12 former writers and support staff from all four seasons of the hit Netflix series shed light on an alleged “long history of toxic, bullying, manipulative, and vindictive behavior” during Blackman's time in the pilot seat at the top of The Umbrella Academy pyramid. These inflammatory allegations were reportedly addressed in a human resources complaint filed to NBC-owned Universal Content Productions in January 2023.

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This science fantasy series packed with thrilling action sequences rose to the ranks of other Netflix staples like Stranger Things and The Witcher after its premiere in February 2019. Its success and growing popularity is reflected in the subsequent greenlight for a new season, leading to the upcoming final chapter.

However, the latest bombshell report has raised a cloud of uneasiness about how things unfolded behind the scenes of the beloved show starring Elliot Page, Tom Hopper, David Castaneda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher and Justin H. Min. Nearly all of the employees coming forward with these claims are accustomed to the chaotic mess that is the television industry. Despite their vast experience in this world, they described their time on The Umbrella Academy as one of the most turbulent times. One writer said, “Someone called me, whispering into the phone, completely panicked, like, 'Don't take this job'.”

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The Umbrella Academy show producer Steve Blackman accused

The HR complaint, uncovered by Rolling Stone in January 2023, painted Blackman as a manipulative showrunner who allegedly harbored a toxic workplace and pitted employees against each other. Employees also accused her of creating an unrelenting atmosphere filled with fear.

Complaints about alleged sexist, homophobic, transphobic comments

The list is so long that team members have blamed him for taking credit for other people's work and making allegedly inappropriate comments that sources have described as sexist, homophobic, and transphobic, which becomes a troubling thought since the show's lead poster actor, Elliot Page, is a transgender man.

Although Page praised Blackman highly, and insisted he supported showing his transition on screen in Season 3, text messages shared with HR in January 2023 revealed otherwise. “Elliot wants to come out as trans on the show. As Evan. Oh my god. Kill me now,” he reportedly wrote. (The show eventually named Page's character Victor.)

“They say, 'Hey, write these scenes,' and make all these big promises, and you put your all into it, only to then be fired. It's devastating. … If we had the protection to get credit for our work or had someone we could talk to, I think that would protect us from this kind of toxic behavior,” said one support worker.

Sources claimed to the outlet that in addition to making allegedly homophobic and transphobic comments, Blackman also made comments about people’s sexuality and anatomy. However, he cleverly twisted them, “He could be very good at doing something that started out transphobic or homophobic, like, ‘They’re a man/woman,'” a second employee said. “But then [he’ll say]'It's all good, I support it. It's awesome, live your best life.' … He tries to see who will join in and laugh with him, and then if nobody does, he backs off really skillfully.

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The complaint also detailed his derogatory and sexist comments about the size of female employees’ breasts and their sexual orientation.

Alleged employee termination case resolved

Multiple sources alleged that the path to success at the Blackman-led chain was to pledge allegiance and demonstrate unwavering loyalty to her. One employee reported, “I was told before my first day of work that she's all about loyalty.” Meanwhile, another said it meant “supporting her bad ideas.” They also confirmed that standing up for other employees was considered an act of disloyalty to her.

Along the way, some writers and staffers have reportedly gotten off The Umbrella Academy train and taken their own lives. They explained that their alleged acts of retaliation or misbehavior weren't always explicit, and often people felt like “it wasn't fair” when removing them. Additionally, these departures would be tied to studio decisions or budget cuts.

One writer alleged, “You have to tread carefully with Steve, as there have been times when people have stood up against him and then had their positions reduced or were taken off the show.”

Co-showrunner breaks silence

The 2023 HR complaint details at least five instances in which Blackman allegedly hit back at her staff, including Season 4 co-showrunner Jesse McKeon, who advocated for a writer embroiled in a pay dispute. She also allegedly singled out a few others and later fired them for expressing their opinions.

McCain also broke his silence and told the outlet, “I always thought, 'Well, this was obvious retaliation, [but] He would never do that to me.’ It eventually happened to me, and it happened to many other people in between.”

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How did Steve Blackman react to the allegations?

An investigation conducted by the UCP in the spring of 2023 cleared Blackman of the allegations. However, most employees argued that they were never contacted to discuss their side of the story. Eventually, a spokesperson for the show's producer also denied the allegations listed in the complaint, calling them “completely untrue” and “completely absurd.” Blackman's representative credited Blackman with creating such a “beloved series” with “dedicated fans, engaging storylines, and a dedicated team that made it possible.”

He told Rolling Stone, “These allegations made by a few disgruntled employees are completely false and defamatory, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful and successful work environment that Mr. Blackman has cultivated.”

Blackman also said he “never retaliated against anyone” and that no writer was ever fired during the show's four seasons. “At the end of contracts, as is standard practice, decisions are made about whether to renew those contracts for an additional season … Those decisions are made solely based on performance and available budget, and any allegations to the contrary are false. Mr. Blackman worked with HR on all employment matters — from hiring to contract renewals and vacations,” his spokesperson said.

Regarding his reaction to the Elliot Page Season 3 arc, Blackman stressed he was referring to the “huge responsibility” and complete rewrites that would happen despite the compressed timeline “and the responsibility to handle it with sensitivity and care.” His spokesperson said, “Mr. Blackman commented on his stress level related to this and other responsibilities of managing the show and a large team.”

Of the claims made against Blackman, the UCP's investigation substantiated only one, stating that Blackman had made “inappropriate and unprofessional comments” and used “filthy abusive language”.

Furthermore, a writer-producer and two senior producers provided by Blackman's team – all women – claimed they never heard the boss use sexist, homophobic or transphobic language. In contrast, a female writer agreed with the others, saying, “I found it to be an incredibly sexist environment. If you were a woman, you were treated with hostility, or felt like you were stupid.”

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