NBC is officially starting a formal investigation into the toxic culture at America's Got Talent following a meeting with ousted judge Gabrielle Union. Both the network and the actress called their meeting to discuss the controversy surrounding her exit after one season "productive" in statements released Wednesday, with reports saying fellow judge and executive producer Simon Cowell is at the center of the controversy.
Deadline reports the investigation involves the Got Talent franchise's creator. The outlet claimed the discussion revolved around the British television personality's behavior and "overlording of the Fremantle and Cowell's Syco produced series.
"The ball is in NBC's court to see if they can get Cowell to agree to make some changes to the way things are done on the show," a source told the outlet.
NBC released a statement regarding the five-hour meeting with Union about the controversy that read: "The initial conversation was candid and productive. While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution."
Union tweeted Wednesday on the subject: "We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change."
The controversy started with the announcement that Union, and fellow new Season 14 judge Julianne Hough, would not return to the panel for Season 15 on Nov. 22. A week later, reports surfaced Union was let go after complaining about a hostile work environment, along with racially charged incidents during production of the show.
The situation is also under investigation by SAG-AFTRA, the network and AGT's producers (Fremantle and Simon Cowell's Syco) previously had insisted that the show "has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show."
The companies released another statement Sunday when the scandal intensified, as more celebrities and former judges spoke out about their experiences. Former judges Howard Stern and Sharon Osbourne have both opened up about the show, with Stern calling out Cowell's behavior and mistreatment of female judges.
"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture," the statement read. "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."