Gabrielle Union is opening up about her experience on America’s Got Talent and her involvement in NBC’s investigation surrounding her controversial exit last November.
During a recent appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the L.A.’s Finest star, 47, discussed today’s civil rights movement — which began in response to the killing of George Floyd and the many injustices that people of color have faced — as well as her decision to call out racism that she says she’s witnessed while working in Hollywood.
“I thought it was the easiest show,” Union said of joining AGT as a judge. “How hard is it to … watch jugglers? That’s what I thought I signed up for.”
However, Union shared things weren’t easy for her from the start — including with series creator and fellow judge Simon Cowell.
“Day one, Simon Cowell is smoking cigarettes inside. I’ve worked a long time. I’ve worked with all kinds of people. I’ve never experienced that,” Union, who is severely allergic to cigarette smoke, alleged to Noah.
“When your boss — the person who has the ability to determine who gets opportunities and who doesn’t — doesn’t believe that the law applies to him or the rules apply to him, and he does it in full view of NBC, Fremantle and Syco and no one cares about Simon Cowell exposing all of these employees to second hand smoke, that’s day one,” she claimed. (Cowell has been open about his smoking habit, most recently telling host Ellen DeGeneres in September that while he opted for a strict vegan diet, he hasn’t stopped drinking or nicotine. But he does not appear to have addressed the allegation that he has smoked indoors, in violation of California law.)
“What message do you think that sends to anyone that has an issue with the very real racism and the lack of accountability? And it goes on and on and on,” Union continued.
PEOPLE reached out to Cowell’s rep for comment. Cowell previously told Variety through a spokesperson that “when he was directly informed of the smoking complaint during the first couple of days of the season, he immediately changed his behavior and the issue was never raised again.”
Union then talked to Noah about the investigation into the NBC competition series that was commissioned by the network, and which she said she thought was going to be “independent.”
“I decided to participate in this investigation. … Silly me, I thought ‘independent’ was independent. But when NBC and [producers] Fremantle and Syco pay for that investigation, they control it,” Union charged.
“They turn over what they believe to be inflammatory things, or things that are not advantageous to me,” Union alleged.
Union then said that things got so bad that NBC chairman Paul Telegdy threatened her agent. Union had previously accused Telegdy of trying to silence her in her complaint against the media conglomerate filed on June 4.
” ‘Gabrielle better watch who she calls a racist,’ ” Union alleged Telegdy told her team.
“In the middle of an investigation about racism and discrimination? This is what’s happening from the top of the company,” Union continued.
As for how Hollywood can better help black people? “There has to be an increase in representation across the board from the top to the bottom,” Union told Noah.