In his first comments since NBC announced Gabrielle Union would not return as a judge on the next season of America's Got Talent, Jay Leno called the actress "a great girl," adding that he "really enjoyed" working with her. The former late-night host told Daily Mail reporters as he left The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California, on Sunday, "I love Gabrielle Union, she's a great girl. I really enjoyed working with her, she's really good."
When asked if he thought Union was treated fairly, Leno remained vague, saying, "I don't know, but I think she's a great girl."
When asked if he regrets telling the joke, he only jokingly mimed as if he were giving a response, but said no actual words.
Both Leno and Union made headlines last week when Variety reported that Union complained to NBC producers and an executive about a racially insensitive joke Leno made during a taping of America's Got Talent. The report also said that Union raised several other issues of a toxic work environment with producers behind the scenes, which some are speculating could be a reason that both she and Julianne Hough are not returning as judges for the next season of AGT, while all three male judges will return.
On Sunday, NBC and AGT producers Fremantly Media and Simon Cowell's Syco released a new statement, with the trio claiming to be "working with" Union and her representatives to decide "next steps."
"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," the network and producers said in a joint statement to Variety Sunday. "We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate."
After the statement was released, Union took to Twitter, agreeing with culture writer Joelle Monique that a "solid apology comes in three parts." Monique later added, "anything less is covering your own a—."
This! This! AND THIIISSSSSSS!!!!!! https://t.co/RCrtKtkQ4L— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) December 1, 2019
Aside from Union voicing concern about Leno's racist remark, she also reportedly objected to the show airing an audition from a man who impersonated several celebrities, including Beyonce. When it came time to perform as the pop star, he came out with "black hands," which Union said many would find offensive. She continued to argue with producers to cut the audition until it eventually was.
Both Hough and Union reportedly received multiple notes about their appearance on the show throughout the season. In one note, Union was reportedly told that her different hairstyles were "too black" for the audience, four sources told Variety.
"So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever," Union wrote in a Nov. 27 tweet, adding a heart emoji.