Fans were shocked and confused this week when Fox renewed Lethal Weapon for a third season, but re-cast one of the main roles, and now many are wondering what they might have missed.
The TV adaptation of the Lethal Weapon franchise is one of the most successful remakes on network television these days, which made it all the more surprising when word began to get around that Fox and Warner Bros. Studios were going to fire Clayne Crawford and re-cast the role of Martin Riggs.
Re-casting a main character is a huge and risky move for executives, and while Crawford was reportedly difficult to deal with on set, he was extremely popular among viewers. Still, something behind the scenes must have had the higher-ups pretty upset with him. Not only was Crawford let go — he was left in the dark for nearly a week while journalists speculated on his employment status. The actor claimed to have had "no word" from the network or the studio on these rumors.
The actor further complicated his predicament by stirring his fans up into a frenzy on social media. Before long, the entire fandom was discussing his prospects and doing their best to petition the network to keep him. The campaign drew the attention of some other actors as well, who threw their voices into the conversation.
The whole scenario wasn't helped by the confusion over at Fox. The network was in the headlines all week as it slashed its prime time line-up, and TV fans from all corners of the Internet were watching in terror as some massively popular shows got the axe.
Today, we know that Lethal Weapon is one of the few shows returning to Fox next season. We also know for sure that Crawford is out, and the show has cast a whole new partner for Murtaugh (Daymon Wayans). Look below for a blow-by-blow account of the drama.
Toward the end of April, a report by Deadline emerged claiming that multiple co-workers had accused Clayne Crawford of "creating a hostile work environment."
"I have learned that Crawford has had a history of bad behavior on the show, and that he has been disciplined several times over complaints of emotional abuse and creating a hostile environment," wrote reporter Nellie Andreeva. "I hear the issue has escalated to a point where other actors as well as crew on Lethal Weapon would feel uncomfortable being on set with him. The problem is threatening the future of the show, with a recasting — a rare and dramatic move when involving a lead of an established series — being explored. Fox and Warner Bros TV declined comment."
The show was reportedly on the verge of cancellation over Crawford's behavior.
Shortly after that, Crawford posted a lengthy apology on Instagram.
"As you can imagine, yesterday's headlines were incredibly distressing," he wrote. "It is true that I have been reprimanded twice during the past season of Lethal Weapon. The first reprimand was because I reacted with anger over working conditions that did not feel safe or conducive to good work under the leadership of a guest director and assistant director who, in turn, were angry at my response."
"I met with Human Resources, I apologized for my part of the conflict, and I completed studio-appointed therapy. I even shared a sizable portion of my paycheck with one of the parties involved per the instructions of the studio. The second reprimand came during an episode I was directing. An actor on set felt unsafe because a piece of shrapnel from an effect hit him. It was an unfortunate event that happened in spite of all safety precautions and procedures being followed. I take responsibility for the incident because I was in charge of the set," he added.
"I absolutely love, respect and care for my crew and cast, and would never intentionally jeopardize so many jobs," Crawford continued. "Moreover, I love the process of making film and television. I appreciate and respect the work of everyone involved. It takes a village. I am incredibly sorry if my passion for doing good work has ever made anyone feel less than comfortable on our set, or feel less than celebrated for their efforts. Furthermore, I apologize to all the crew and cast for any negative attention Lethal Weapon is receiving because of these incidents."
"I take great pride in treating everyone in life with dignity and kindness. I am very grateful for my job, and I work extremely hard at it. I feel a responsibility to do good work for my coworkers, for my family, for my home state, and most especially for the fans. I hope they will stick with me, and stick with the show," he concluded.
Last week, Fox put the whole TV ecosystem on edge by unexpectedly canceling five shows. The network cut The Mick, Lucifer, The Exorcist, Last Man on Earth and even the massive comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It all traced back to the network's new priority: live sports. Back in January, Fox signed a five-year deal with the NFL for Thursday Night Football. The sporting event will occupy more than 30 hours of Fox's airtime, leaving less room for many of the beloved shows that call the network home. In addition, Fox holds the rights to air Major League Baseball postseason games, including the World Series.
The news had all TV fans biting their nails, and many thought it didn't look good for Lethal Weapon.
On Tuesday, May 8, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article asserting that Crawford had officially been fired. It said that Fox and Warner Bros. were actively looking for an actor to replace him as Riggs, though at the time they believed the show would re-cast rather than introduce a new character.
The article said that producers were "scrambling" to find a replacement in the hopes of saving the show and all the people employed by it. It also reported that several actors had already made it through auditions for Crawford's role.
Of all the people stunned by The Hollywood Reporter's news, Crawford was chief among them. The actor posted a photo of himself shrugging on Instagram, saying that he had no idea what was going on.
"When everyone seems to know your future but you," he wrote on Tuesday. "Zero communication with Fox or Warner Bros. I hope I'm not fired!! Dang."
In the days that followed, Crawford retweeted a number of compliments and endorsements from other actors who had worked with him over the years. One of the longest and most heartfelt came from co-star Hilarie Burton.
"I have a multitude of kind words about @ClayneCrawford!" she tweeted. "That guy greeted me on my very first day and has been a friend ever since. When I couldn't find childcare while I was working, he had his wife and kids take care of Gus. he shows up early. He knows his lines. He pushes to make every scene its best. I've watched him fight on the behalf of other people. And a good leader isn't afraid to be a bad guy."
"The pace at which a show like lethal weapon shoots doesn't always allow for constructive conversations to be warm and fuzzy," she continued. "But it's my experience that Mr. Crawford genuinely cares about the well-being of every member of the cast and crew."
"Clearly he's upset someone that turned to the media. And in defending him I may also upset that person. But standing up for someone who has been good to me is something I believe is the right thing to do. So yes, I'm a fan of Clayne Crawford," she added.
"It's hard to stand up in this business, Thank You!" Crawford replied, adding the hashtags "family" and "integrity."
On Sunday, fans could finally stop holding their breath when Fox renewed Lethal Weapon, and officially announced that Crawford was fired. The company's President of Entertainment, Michael Thorn, released a statement announcing the renewal. Rather than remarking on Crawford's firing, he praised the casting of Seann William Scott as Murtaugh's new partner.
“Seann is a fantastic addition to this already amazing cast,” Thorn said. “Lethal Weapon is packed with action, drama and pure fun and we can’t wait to see Damon and Seann together on screen. Matt Miller, his incredible team and everyone at Warner Bros. have been tremendous partners, and we’re thrilled to bring this show back for another season.”
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. confirmed the announcement, adding that the studio “decided not to renew Clayne Crawford’s contract for Lethal Weapon” after reports of disruptive behavior on set.
On Sunday afternoon, Crawford responded humbly to news in another post on Instagram.
"To my cast and crew - CONGRATULATIONS on season 3! To the Fans - Thank you for the overwhelming support and love," Crawford wrote, including a photo from the set. "Riggs was a dream role and the experience will live with me forever. My heart is full. Good Luck [next] season!!"
The Lethal Weapon news left many fans heartbroken. While they haven't had a chance to see Scott in action yet, many have grown attached to Crawford. Some sent him messages of commiseration while others lashed out at the executives who had fired him.
"Hi @ClayneCrawford Really sorry to hear your departure of the lethal weapon," one fan tweeted. "I love the way you play Riggs, you form a great duo with @DamonkWayans .I hope things will work out for you. Good luck dude".
Hi @ClayneCrawford Really sorry to hear your departure of the lethal weapon. I love the way you play Riggs, you form a great duo with @DamonkWayans .I hope things will work out for you. Good luck dude 😢🙏— Tenshiro (@TenshiroT) May 14, 2018
"That's it for me" declared another. "I will never watch Lethal Weapon again. It would never be the same."
That's it for me. I will never watch Lethal Weapon again. It would never be the same.— Dee Mecklin (@MecklinDee) May 14, 2018
Surprisingly, Fox executives took the time to address the controversy, pinning the blame on Warner Bros. Studios rather than the network.
“It wasn’t our choice," said Fox chairman Dana Walden. "Our partners at Warner Bros. came to us and said that they could not deliver the show as it was.”
“I think we made the right choice,” Walden said, adding that the addition of Scott brings a “good new dynamic to the show with a lot of its original dynamic intact.”2comments
Fox chairman Gary Newman also spoke about the shows next season, explaining that “90 percent of the cast is coming back.” This includes the family of Murtaugh, which is a crucial element of the series.
“We will be making sure to let the audience know there is something new,” Newman added.