ABC Studios is investigating claims of misconduct made against SMILF creator, showrunner and star Frankie Shaw, per a Monday story from THR. Based on Shaw’s short film of the same name, SMILF is a production of Disney’s ABC Signature Studios and is set to premiere its second season on Showtime in January.
In a statement to THR, ABC Studios, which houses ABC Signature Studios, says it is “committed to a safe work environment, and when we are made aware of issues we address them appropriately. Complaints were brought to our attention after season two production wrapped, and we are investigating. We will take appropriate steps going forward if season three is ordered.” Trade publication Variety has confirmed that earlier this year, ABC Studios completed an investigation into alleged misconduct by Shaw, but it would appear based on the studio’s new statement to THR that the investigation is ongoing.
In Shaw’s statement to THR, issued via her attorney, she denied any bias, saying, “I work daily to create an environment in which everyone should feel safe, and in which I can continue to grow as a leader and manager.” She added, “It pains me to learn that anyone felt uncomfortable on my set. I sincerely hope we can work together to resolve any and all issues, as I am committed to creating a workplace in which all people feel safe and heard.”
Sources tell THR that at the end of season two production in August, star Rosie O’Donnell contacted Showtime executive Amy Israel as well as executive producer Scott King in order to express concerns over SMILF’s chaotic and troubled set, particularly Shaw’s treatment of actress Samara Weaving, who plays Nelson Rose, the new love interest of Shaw’s character’s ex, Rafi (Miguel Gomez).
Weaving has reportedly exited the show alleging breach of contract due to mishandled sex scenes, including an incident during the filming of season one in which she was allegedly given 40 minutes’ notice to perform a nude love scene, despite a no-nudity clause in her contract.
Several staffers who spoke with THR on the condition of anonymity also shared their fears of having their careers threatened if they spoke publicly about the alleged issues on set. “[Shaw] uses this idea of being feminist and a progressive as camouflage,” said one staffer.
While no formal grievances have been filed, THR reports that multiple staffers have made complaints to the WGA regarding credit issues and alleged race-based separation, including claims that writers of color were put in different rooms from white writers, and did not receive pay or credit for their work. Other writing staff allegations include claims that assistants were improperly given writing assignments without receiving credit or standard pay.
The second season of SMILF is currently set to premiere on Showtime Jan. 20, 2019. While another season has not yet been set for the series, Shaw remains in charge of the series as it assembles a third-season writing staff, and is reportedly in talks to helm a limited series based on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for the premium cabler.