Allegations of sexual harassment and a side of racial insensitivity have surfaced against “NCIS: New Orleans” executive producer Brad Kern, according to two separate HR investigations launched into his behavior, reports Variety. Kern took over as showrunner in January 2016, in the midst of its second season.
Within a year, he was the target of HR inquiries centered on allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination against women — particularly working mothers — and racially charged comments, among other issues.According to multiple sources, he would often speak in an offensive voice meant to imitate African-American vernacular speech.
In the writers room, he would sometimes employ a stereotyped rendition of African-American speech patterns as he tried out dialogue meant for characters played by Darryl “Chill” Mitchell and C.C.H. Pounder, African-American members of the drama’s cast. “It was offensive,” says a former employee.
One “NCIS: NOLA” writer had penned a script in which two guest characters — a couple — were supposed to be African-American. It emerged that the woman was likely to be played by a white woman. On a conference call, Kern said it would not make sense to cast a Black man as a romantic interest for a character played by a white woman, according to one person who was on the call and one person who was told about the comment afterward.
As for Kern’s sexual harassment allegations, the producer is accused of making sexualized remarks about women, giving massages without asking, and mocking a nursing mother in front of her colleagues.
Several sources said that at many different times, he spoke approvingly of casting a well-known actress in a role on the show because an important CBS executive “wanted to f—k her.” Kern allegedly engineered the exit of Zoe McLellan, an original cast member who did not return for the third season, because, in his view, men didn’t find her “f—kable,” multiple sources tell Variety. (McLellan did not reply to Variety’s requests for comment.)
While the investigations found Kern had indeed made “insensitive” and “offensive” comments, CBS concluded that there was no evidence of retaliation, harassment, discrimination or gender bias but told staffers that “appropriate” action had been taken, including sensitivity training for the producer. Variety spoke to seven people who have worked for the series who report that his inappropriate behavior has continued, despite the investigations.
“We were aware of these allegations when they took place in 2016, and took them very seriously,” CBS said in a statement to Variety. “Both complaints were acted upon immediately with investigations and subsequent disciplinary action. While we were not able to corroborate all of the allegations, we took this action to address behavior and management style, and have received no further complaints since this was implemented.”
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