“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” may be looking into the internal affairs of its own showrunner.
Writer-producer David Graziano, who oversees the hit NBC series, was at the center of a Los Angeles Times report alleging a toxic workplace environment. More than a dozen people accused Graziano of mistreating colleagues, making inappropriate comments towards women and people of color, and having a bad temper. Allegations against Graziano cite events spanning over a decade.
The exposé was published the same day as “SVU” star Kelli Giddish’s final episode aired, with Giddish’s exit rumored to be due to salary disputes with series creator Dick Wolf.
“Law & Order: SVU” stars Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson, the leader of a Special Victims Unit in New York City that investigates sex crimes. The beloved procedural has been airing for 24 seasons.
Graziano joined “SVU” as a writer, executive producer, and showrunner in June 2022. He previously worked on TV series “What/If” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” as well as 2021 show “Coyote.”
IndieWire has reached out to NBC and Graziano’s representatives.
Haley Cameron, a former “SVU” script coordinator, wrote on an industry listserv that Graziano “is a very unprofessional, ego-centric, and immature man,” adding, “I have been in this industry a long time, and I have never experienced such pure, white-male misogyny.”
Alafair Hall, a spokesperson for Graziano, told Entertainment Weekly, “The implication that Mr. Graziano created a hostile work environment, is sexist, inappropriate, and unprofessional is false.”
Hall noted that Cameron only “worked briefly” on the series and was “about to be fired” for making unapproved script changes before she quit.
Amy Hartman, who also worked as a script coordinator under Graziano on series “Coyote,” added to the same listerv, “Graz is super toxic and I’ve never run from a job so fast in my life as I did when I SC’ed for him. Stay away.”
Hartman shared with the Los Angeles Times that “every day I was in fight or flight” working with Graziano on set. She said she was “completely floored that he was working again and working on [‘SVU’].”
Hartman’s former co-worker David James, another script coordinator on “Coyote,” told the Los Angeles Times that it was “easily the worst job I’ve had in Hollywood.”
“I thought after this show, no one would give [Graziano] another show to run,” James said, echoing Hartman.
Graziano issued a statement disputing the multiple allegations against him.
“Though it would be easy and convenient, I refuse to blame some past behavior on the abuse I suffered and learned as a child at the hands of a Catholic priest as well as my own mother. For anyone who has worked as a showrunner or in a writers’ room, you must draw on and use your own experience,” Graziano said. “Particularly for a show like ‘Law & Order: SUV,’ I regrettably have a lot to draw from and with it brings a great deal of emotion. All any of us can do is evolve and grow. Real change is hard, and I continue to work on myself.”
Graziano’s representative Hall added that it is “absolutely false” that Graziano made inappropriate comments about women or people of color. “Any statement related to race, ethnicity, or gender by Mr. Graziano was made in the context of creating the storyline, characters, and dialogue,” Hall said.
She added that while on “Coyote,” Graziano most likely “snapped at people and was generally in a bad mood” because he was in “excruciating pain” from three collapsed discs in his neck.
“While he does not view his pain as an excuse, it is an explanation,” Hall said, “and he regrets lashing out.”