Jason Bateman responds to ‘Arrested Development’ interview backlash: “I’m incredibly embarrassed”
On Wednesday, the New York Times published a group interview with several cast members from Arrested Development, the offbeat, early-2000s comedy with a cultish following that’s about to return for its second revival season on Netflix. During the interview, many of the men in the cast seemed, to critics and fans alike, to brush off costar Jessica Walter’s experience with fellow cast member Jeffrey Tambor — specifically, one notable incident in which he “yelled” at her.
A day after the interview was released, star Jason Bateman — who over the course of the interview interjected, even as Walter was in tears, to suggest “a lot of stuff happens” on sets and such behavior was part of a creative process — apologized in a series of tweets Thursday morning.
The issue of Tambor’s behavior came up in the interview when Times culture reporter Sopan Deb referenced the allegations of sexual harassment against Tambor from his time on the Amazon show Transparent. Deb brought up a separate interview Tambor did with Hollywood Reporter in May, in which he denied any sexual misconduct but said he had yelled at coworkers on sets, including a “blowup” with Walter on the set of Arrested Development.
When Deb first mentioned that incident in Wednesday’s interview, Bateman was the first to make light of it, jokingly suggesting that “we’ve all” yelled at Walter. To which she responded, “You’ve never yelled at me like that.”
Even as Walter was in tears recounting the incident, Bateman and costar Tony Hale were quick to suggest such behavior is somewhat excusable in Hollywood. “What we do for a living is not normal, and therefore the process is not normal sometimes, and to expect it to be normal is to not understand what happens on set,” Bateman said, before again stating his admiration for Tambor.
Eventually, Walter, a longtime veteran of Hollywood, asserted she felt her experience with Tambor was, in fact, not normal. “Jason says this happens all the time,” she said. “In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set.”
The seeming inability of Walter’s male cast members to sympathize with her experience, and their repeated attempts to minimize her suffering, spurred conversation on Twitter Wednesday night. NPR culture critic Linda Holmes pointed out that they seemed not to even register the impact of her experience with Tambor.
New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik criticized Bateman’s apparent implication that yelling at coworkers is just something that happens when you’re making art — a criticism Bateman seemed to have thought about based on his Thursday morning apology.
The question now is whether the swirling accusations against Tambor coupled with Walter’s male costars weak responses to her own experience of abuse with him will suck all the pleasure out of watching the next season of Arrested Development, which premieres on Netflix May 29. After all, we love that the Bluths are horribly flawed, but it’s far less fun to think that about the men who play them.