“What we do for a living is not normal,” Jason Bateman said in Wednesday’s New York Times interview with the cast of Arrested Development, in an effort to address his co-star Jeffrey Tambor’s admitted verbal abuse of Jessica Walter. “Therefore the process is not normal sometimes, and to expect it to be normal is to not understand what happens on set. Again, not to excuse it.” As Hollywood continues to grapple with widespread revelations of hostile work environments, institutional sexism, and sexual misconduct on and off set, Bateman insisted that he wasn’t trying to explain away an actor’s bad behavior—while displaying, over and over, exactly how his industry does it.
Bateman’s glaring mistake in the interview—for which he has already apologized—is how he rushed to defend Tambor from Walter’s account of Tambor screaming at her on the set of Arrested Development years ago. In doing so, Bateman defaulted to every entrenched cultural script of minimizing fault, downplaying misbehavior, and largely attributing Tambor’s verbal harassment to the unique, circumstantial pressures of acting—a process, he suggested, most onlookers could not hope to understand.
“It’s a very amorphous process … It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes,” Bateman, who has worked in Hollywood since he was a child, said. He continually compared the Arrested Development cast to a family, as if Tambor—who was fired from his other show, Transparent, over claims of abusive conduct and sexual harassment—is a curmudgeonly grandpa who’s occasionally guilty of losing his temper. It’d be a strained rationalization under any circumstance, but it felt particularly patronizing because Walter, who has been in the industry far longer than Bateman, was in the room, trying to explain how she had to find it within herself to forgive Tambor’s behavior.