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Boss of one of Netflix’s biggest TV shows accused of ‘toxic behaviour’

Robert Sheehan in The Umbrella Academy
A boss on The Umbrella Academy has been accused of ‘toxic behaviour’ (Picture: Netflix)

The boss of one of Netflix’s biggest TV programmes has denied accusations of ‘toxic behaviour’.

The Umbrella Academy showrunner Steve Blackman is facing allegations of creating a ‘toxic work environment’ on set of the Elliot Page-starring superhero series.

12 staff members who worked on the series, which is set to air its fourth and final season next month, have accused Blackman of bullying and creating an environment that discriminated against women, as detailed in a Rolling Stone report.

The publication also cites a HR complaint filed in 2023, which cleared Blackman after an investigation, though sources claim it was not entirely comprehensive.

It’s claimed Blackman told a writer he fired a female staff member who was pregnant when she was hired because she ‘didn’t tell him’.

He allegedly felt ‘ripped off’ that he had hired her, but his spokesperson has claimed he worked through the HR department to ensure the ending of the contract was handled ‘in full compliance with all policies and regulations’ and the decision was ‘solely based on performance and budget’.

Another writer claims they were told not to take the job by someone ‘freaked out’ but chose to do so anyway ‘against my better judgement’.

Steve Blackman
Steve Blackman has denied the allegations (Picture: Errich Petersen/Getty Images for SXSW)
The Umbrella Academy season four trailer with Elliot Page
The Elliot Page-starring superhero series is airing its fourth and final series next month (Picture: Netflix / YouTube)

The HR complaint also accuses Blackman of having a ‘long history of toxic, bullying, manipulative, and retaliatory behavior’, and allegedly paints him as a ‘manipulative and chaotic showrunner’ who is accused of pitting staffers against each other and creating an environment of fear and distrust.

Blackman is accused of taking credit for other people’s work and for allegedly making lewd remarks that sources said they thought to be sexist, homophobic and transphobic.

One of the alleged comments includes Blackman texting one staffer about another, according to messages provided to HR in the complaint: ‘She’s relentless […] I’m sure that’s good for certain things… but in the room it’s exhausting. But … the rack.’

‘I found it to be an incredibly sexist environment. If you were female, you were treated with hostility, or like you were stupid,’ one female writer claimed to the publication.

A statement sent to Rolling Stone by Blackman’s spokesperson denies the accusations, calling them ‘entirely untrue’ and ‘completely absurd’.

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The rep says: ‘Over six years and four seasons overseeing thousands of crew, actors, and writers, Steve Blackman led The Umbrella Academy to become a beloved series with devoted fans, enthralling stories, and a dedicated team making it all possible.

‘These allegations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and outrageous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful, and successful working environment Mr. Blackman has cultivated.’

The Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page came out as transgender in 2020, and was later introduced as Viktor in the show, having previously played Vanya.

Juno actor Page previously spoke highly of Blackman saying he ‘was the one who was very insistent on immediately having it be a part of the show and supported me to be able to access the care I was hoping to get at that time’.

Elliot Page
Elliot Page came out as transgender in 2020, and was later introduced as Viktor in the show, having previously played Vanya (Picture: Getty Images North America/Theo Wargo)

However, it’s claimed one comment Blackman made in a message shows him to be not initially supportive, and in text messages sent to HR, he wrote: ‘Elliot wants to come out as trans on the show. As Ivan. Oh my fucking God. Kill me now.’

In the statement sent to Rolling Stone, Blackman insists he was referring to the incoming workload, not because of transitioning Page’s character.

‘Faced with a tremendous undertaking — a complete rewrite under a wildly compressed timeline and the responsibility to handle this with sensitivity and care — Mr. Blackman commented on his stress level related to this and other responsibilities of managing a show and a large team,’ a rep said.

Staffers however elsewhere accuse Blackman of transphobic comments, with one alleging: ‘He could be very good at dropping something that starts to be transphobic or homophobic […] He toes the lines of seeing who will join in and laugh with him, and then if nobody does, really skillfully backpedals.’

As well as The Umbrella Academy, Blackman serves as a producer on Fargo, Altered Carbon and Outsiders.

Metro.co.uk has approached Blackman’s reps for comment.

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