By Russ Burlingame - January 31, 2019
The CW president Mark Pedowitz briefly addressed an ongoing domestic abuse lawsuit involving Black Lightning showrunner Salim Akil, saying that an internal investigation found nothing.
Back in November, actor Amber Dixon Brenner filed lawsuits against Akil, his production company, and OWN, claiming that ideas she pitched to Akil ended up being used for the OWN series Love Is ____. Brenner alleges that the project was pitched to Akil while they were engaged in a years-long romantic relationship, which she claims ended last year. The lawsuit includes a detailed list of allegations, including rough and sometimes non-consensual sexual relations, but says that she did not break off the relationship because of her work relationship with Akil. She also says that he hit her, and photographed a sexual encounter without her permission.
"Salim obviously has a personal issue with this person and is in litigation," Pedowitz said at TCA earlier today, adding that the issue "has nothing to do with the show. The cast, the crew, they deserve to work."
Shortly after the suit was launched, representatives for Akil denied the claims.
"These allegations are deeply upsetting -- but they are also totally untrue," a statement from Akil's attorney read. "We will defend Salim to the fullest against the false and offensive claims that a woman with whom he had a past relationship has included in multiple unsubstantiated lawsuits. Salim looks forward to clearing his name and to being able to focus on his work and his family."
The CW similarly opened an investigation into iZombie's Robert Knepper last year, after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused a woman on a movie set.Then as now, the investigation determined the Knepper's behavior on the set of iZombie was appropriate. His character died at the end of last season, but it seems unlikely that there was any connection between that development and the real-world allegations against the Prison Break veteran.
Such internal investigations are generally aimed at minimizing any potential liability to the company (in this case, Warner Bros. Television) rather than estalishing a "truth." Barring major revelations one way or another, the specifics of such investigations are generally not made public.
Last year, Supergirl and The Flash executive producer Andrew Kreisberg was accused of sexual and professional misconduct by nearly twenty current and former employees, both male and female. At the time the news broke, Berlanti Productions -- which also oversees Black Lightning -- had already launched an investigation into the allegations and placed Kreisberg on leave. He was eventually let go entirely.
Love Is ____, which is also produced through Warner Bros. Television, was cancelled in December. Although the Warner Bros. investigation found no wrongdoing on that set either, the negative publicity from the lawsuit likely did the show no favors. Given that the series was marketed as being inspired by true-life love stories from Salim and Mara Brock Akil's lives, it seems likely that OWN saw the claims as compromising the series' integrity and very premise.
Black Lightning airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following new episodes of Arrow on The CW.
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CW President Offers Update on 'Black Lighting' Showrunner's Domestic Abuse Lawsuit
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