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Victoria Rowell Sues CBS, Sony Claiming Racial Discrimination In Soap Opera Biz + Retaliation for Speaking Out

Victoria Rowell Sues CBS, Sony Claiming Racial Discrimination In Soap Opera Biz + Retaliation for Speaking Out

Former longtime “Young and the Restless” star Victoria Rowell has filed suit against the Sony Pictures TV, the show’s producers, as well as CBS, for what she says has been a retaliating by the studio, in response to her public speaking out against discrimination on the soap opera – specifically, the lack of African Americans in front of, and behind the camera, claiming that she was denied re-employment by “Young and the Restless.”

The veteran actress held a news conference yesterday, stating, “This is not about me, but about the many, many other African Americans denied the right to participate in front of and behind the camera on ‘Young and the Restless… The retaliation is deep and broad, I have lived with it for many, many years… I’m not afraid, I am empowered. I am seeking justice.”

In a statement to ABC News, in response to Rowell’s claims, CBS said: “We were disappointed to learn that, after leaving the cast of ‘The Young and the Restless’ on her own initiative, Ms. Rowell has attempted to rewrite that history through lawyers’ letters and a lawsuit that has no merit. We harbor no ill will toward Ms. Rowell, but we will vigorously defend this case.”

Those who follow Rowell on Twitter will be very familiar with her many posts on discrimination in the TV business in general, in addition to sharing her own personal experiences as a member of the cast of  “Y&R,” in which she played Drucilla Barber Winters, joining the show in 1990 – a role for which she received several daytime TV awards – until she left in 2007, because, as she says, she had suffered and witnessed years of racial discrimination on the set, including what she described as “horrific behavior,” including being “spat upon,” “told you’re a freak,” “fined $20,000 for an alleged missed day of work” and being “told to keep price tags in my costume” so that they could be returned.

And after years of speaking out about all of this, before and after she left the show, she says that she couldn’t work again, on any soaps. Apparently, even Rep. Maxine Waters, and National Urban League President Marc Morial, both spoke on her behalf, encouraging her return to daytime soap TV.

“They have blocked the doorway to her success,” one of her attorneys, Dan Stormer said during the news conference. “We have no alternative but to go to court.”

Rowell is asking for back pay and for her job to be reinstated or, be given front pay and considered for employment in the future.

She’s also seeking “consequential and punitive damages” and attorneys’ fees.

Rowell’s other credits include lots of TV work, including as a series regular for 8 seasons on “Diagnosis Murder,” and a few feature films. She’a also author of a bestselling memoir, and two popular novels about soap operas. 2 years ago, she sought to raise $50,000 via Kickstarter, for a series she created and would star in, titled “The Rich and the Ruthless,” which was to essentially be an expose (scripted) of sorts on the soap opera business. The campaign unfortunately fell short, raising just over $17,000. 

Sergio interviewed her about that project when the campaign was launched which you can read here. Of note, when Sergio asked her about her secret to longevity in the entertainment industry, she said this: “This does not happen by accident. I am a hard worker. I absolutely, emphatically, campaign to go on auditions that are not necessarily written for black actors. I’ve even worked in roles that weren’t even written for the same gender originally. I convinced casting people and producers to see it in another way. Our stories are international stories and we are an international people. For example I was very fortunate to take a meeting with PBS recently to discuss the possibility of my memoir “The Women Who Raised Me” for a multi-part mini-series on the network. That was very exciting. But as a minority I knew that I needed to start at the root, so I wrote the book for “The Rich and The Ruthless” first, but continued to work out my script throughout prior to the book and post book, and now we’re at the juncture where we want to shoot the pilot, which is like “Soapdish” meets “The Office” meets “30 Rock.” That is the tone. It is about a black-owned soap opera with multi-ethnic cast that struggles to stay on the air, which they do through some nefarious behavior (behind the scenes, and we get to see this behavior not only on set but off set as well.”

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