In discussing his departure from Transparent with The Hollywood Reporter, Tambor swerves between expressing regret and anger. He had expected a “slap on the wrist” and was shocked to be fired, he said. He argued that he was being ousted because he was a cisgender man playing a transgender character, and claimed that when the allegations surfaced, he had received messages of support from both Jill Soloway and their sister Faith. Both siblings confirmed the communication to THR, but Jill added, “It was a text I wrote in frustration after pouring my heart into this show for years … I never told him I was going to accuse Van or Trace of being liars. He knew that nobody could do that.”
Amazon’s inquiry reportedly included 10 hours of interviews with Tambor, as well as sessions with his accusers and many other staffers. “Lines got blurred. I was difficult. I was mean. I yelled at Jill—she told me recently she was afraid of me,” Tambor told THR. “I was rude to my assistant. I was moody.” But it’s unlikely that Tambor lost his job for being moody.
There are hints that Tambor’s mercurial behavior wasn’t confined to the set of Transparent, a possibility that would have implications for Netflix. A detail in the THR story referenced a past “blowup” at the actress Jessica Walter, who plays Tambor’s wife on Arrested Development, although Walter’s representative replied with the icy statement, “Jessica does not wish to talk about Jeffrey Tambor.” At least one Arrested Development actor has been happy to talk: Tambor has received public support from his co-star David Cross, who said in a separate interview in February, “I can’t speak for everybody … but I know there are a number of us [on the show’s cast] who stand behind him—from the limited amount we know, we stand behind Jeffrey—and I am one of them.”
But another co-star took pains to note the elephant in the room when asked about Tambor later in April. Alia Shawkat called the accusations “sad” and “surprising” and added, “What those victims said needs to be heard just as much. And that’s the facts, that’s just the truth of it. And they can’t be squashed down because of something else.” Indeed, the accusations against Tambor will be hard to ignore as Arrested Development’s fifth season rolls out, and especially as the fallout from Transparent continues: Amazon confirmed Wednesday that it would not be submitting the actor for contention at this year’s Emmys (Tambor has collected two awards for Best Lead Actor for his work on the show).
Tambor’s current situation is somewhat unique in that he had largely filmed the new Arrested Development season before the allegations against him came out. So the need for him to offer a public accounting of his reported actions has come more quickly than it will for some other entertainers accused of sexual harassment. Louis C.K., for example, didn’t have an entire TV season almost wrapping production when claims surfaced against him. Firing or somehow replacing Tambor would’ve been a major statement for Netflix; keeping him on board is the simpler choice, but not one that really allows the studio to appear neutral on, or detached from, the issue of Barnes’s and Lysette’s allegations.