ABC president responds to ‘Rookie’ star Afton Williamson’s sexual, racial discrimination claims

Afton Williamson, shown at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills in September 2018, says she's quitting "The Rookie" because of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Afton Williamson, shown at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills in September 2018, says she’s quitting “The Rookie” because of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
(Willy Sanjuan / Invision/AP)
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ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke is reserving judgment on sexual harassment and racial discrimination allegations that prompted actress Afton Williamson to quit the network’s drama series “The Rookie.”

Burke, appearing Monday at ABC’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills, said she learned of the personnel issues on the show at the end of June and is awaiting results of an investigation into the claims.

Williamson made her allegations public Sunday in an Instagram post that announced she is leaving the program ahead of its second season. “The Rookie,” which stars Nathan Fillion, is produced by Toronto-based Entertainment One in association with ABC Studios.


Burke said an outside firm hired by Entertainment One is investigating Williamson’s allegations and would not give further comment on the matter. “We will make a determination based on what we find out,” she said, adding that the conclusions from the investigation “will help guide us how to handle situations like that in the future, if in fact there has been any sort of communication breakdown.”

Entertainment One issued a statement Sunday that said the investigation is ongoing. “We take claims of this nature very seriously,” the company said.

Williamson, who is black, said she was subjected to “racially charged inappropriate comments” from the show’s hair department and bullying from its executive producers. She also said she was sexually harassed by a recurring guest star and that the racist commentary and bullying from the hair department “escalated into sexual assault at our wrap party.”

She also alleges that she brought her issues to “The Rookie” showrunner Alexi Hawley and claims he never passed it along to human resources. Representatives for Hawley were not immediately available for comment.

Williamson, 32, played training officer Talia Bishop, who’s in charge of Fillion’s character, John Nolan, a middle-aged rookie officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. The show’s Season 2 premiere is scheduled for Sept. 29.

The allegations are the first major controversy Burke has faced since replacing Channing Dungey as president of ABC Entertainment in November 2018.