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Law & Order: SVU showrunner David Graziano accused of bullying and sexism in new report

The L.A. Times interviewed more than a dozen people accusing Graziano of unprofessional, "abusive" behavior on the sets of multiple shows

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David Graziano
David Graziano
Photo: Amy Sussman (Getty Images)

David Graziano took control over one of the longest-running and most successful franchises in TV history earlier this year, when Graziano—whose previous credits include the short-lived CBS All Access border drama Coyote, Amazon’s Jack Ryan, and Tim Roth-starring series Lie To Mebecame showrunner of Law & Order: SVU. (Now in its 24th season, and, at 524 episodes, now the fourth-longest-running primetime scripted show of all time.)

The L.A. Times has a long report on Graziano today, containing allegations of abusive, bullying behavior and sexism from people who have worked with him across his career. The statements against Graziano appear to have been inspired in part by a recent post from a former script coordinator for SVU, who warned others off of working on the show, writing, “I urge you — especially women — to think twice before putting yourself in a position that could end as badly as mine did.” The L.A. Times report collects allegations from more than a dozen people, mostly speaking on conditions of anonymity, that accuse of Graziano of bullying subordinates, commenting inappropriately on women’s bodies, and otherwise creating hostile working environments on a number of shows where he was one of the most powerful people on the set.

The longest account comes from Graziano’s former assistant, who recounts working for him from 2009 and 2012, a period where she sometimes wrote down unpleasant incidents with Graziano in a journal. These included hearing him talk “about women’s bodies and the things he’d want to do with them,” expressing inappropriate sexual desires toward her, and a specific instance in which she was groped by another producer, and, when she brought the incident to Graziano, he told her the man in question was “an important showrunner” and that she was a “nobody.”

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Several of the allegations in the report focus on Graziano’s time running Coyote, which starred Michael Chiklis, and which was planned for a 10-episode run on the Paramount Network before getting cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Graziano says he was in intense pain from a neck injury during the filming of the series; others involved described a long series of tantrums from him, many of them involving, somehow, lunch. (With at least one member of the show’s staff allegedly fired due to not meeting Graziano’s particular demands for food.) Here’s a bit from the part of the report centered on Coyote writers’ production assistant Paloma Lamb, who called Graziano’s behavior on the show’s set “emotionally and verbally abusive”:

Lamb said his lunch order became the subject of numerous outbursts. If the order was wrong, he became apoplectic. But he also complained when the order was correct, telling Lamb, “I don’t even want this.”To mitigate his tirades, Lamb said that she took to ordering the same lunch as his as a backup. “If his tortilla chips were wrong, he’d be pissed. So, I gave him mine. Lots of times, I stopped eating lunch.

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(Lamb also recounts the very dark thought she had after Graziano allegedly forced her to drive around Los Angeles at 11 o’clock one night so she could return a bag of jewelry to his ex-girlfriend for him: “I was new in Hollywood and I knew Hollywood to be tricky. I wanted to be a writer and I was like, OK, he’s not sexually assaulting me. This is probably good.”)

Graziano denied pretty much all of the allegations against him (besides admitting that his pain on Coyote affected his behavior), including wider suggestion that his language and framing on his shows put emphasis on describing women in terms of their appearances, and men in terms of their abilities. Most of these were fielded by his spokesperson, Alafair Hall—“When Mr. Graziano spoke about women’s bodies, their appearance, sexuality, race and other sensitive topics, it was always in the context of creating a storyline, imagining characters and writing dialogue with the other writers”—but Graziano did issue a statement that’s worth at least looking at, in terms of how stridently it seemingly seeks to excuse his behavior (while repeatedly professing to be not trying to excuse his behavior):

Though it would be easy and convenient, I refuse to blame some past behavior on the abuse I suffered as a child at the hands of a Catholic priest, as well as at home. Anyone who has worked in a writers’ room will know it is a matter of course to draw upon and use your own experience for the good of the show. Unfortunately, I have a lot to draw from — and with it comes a great deal of emotion, pain and deeply felt personal history. All any of us can do is evolve and grow. Real change is hard, and I continue to work on myself daily.

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Neither NBC, nor Dick Wolf’s Wolf Entertainment, have commented so far on the report.

Update, 5:30 p.m. 12/8/22: Shortly after this story was published, Hall sent us a statement:The implication that Mr. Graziano created a hostile work environment, is sexist, inappropriate, and unprofessional is false. This claim comes from Haley Cameron, who worked briefly as a script coordinator on SVU. It appears she failed to report that she was about to be fired after less than two weeks on the job for substantively changing the scripts she was hired only to format.”