Warner Bros. examines complaints of toxic culture on ‘Ellen’ TV show

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LOS ANGELES — The producer of Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show told employees it was looking into reports of a toxic workplace, including complaints of intimidation and racism.

Telepictures, a unit of Warner Bros. Entertainment, informed staff on the show last week that it was enlisting WarnerMedia’s employee relations team and a third-party consultant to interview current and former employees about their experiences on the production, according to a memo seen by The Times.

The memo asked those approached to participate openly in the confidential process so it could improve the environment on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

A Warner Bros. spokesman declined to comment. A representative for DeGeneres and the show was not immediately available for comment on the memo, first reported by Variety.

Ellen DeGeneres, who received her Hollywood star last fall, is set to host the Oscars for a second time.

The move to gather testimony by employees follows months during which DeGeneres has been quarantining at home during the pandemic, but the allegedly unflattering workings of her show have spilled into public view.

DeGeneres, whose tag line is “Be kind to one another,” faced a litany of criticisms for bad behavior in a Twitter thread started by comedian Kevin T. Porter, complaints from crew about being abandoned during the shutdown, and an investigation by BuzzFeed News into allegations of intimidation and racism on the chat show, which airs on NBC.

The employees, current and former, interviewed by BuzzFeed, spoke of being fired for taking medical or bereavement leave; one said she was a victim of racial discrimination.

Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner told BuzzFeed News they took the stories of the employees “very seriously” and committed to do better.

“We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us,” the group said.

In April, “Ellen” producers told the union crew to expect a 60% cut in pay while a nonunion, outside tech company, Key Code, was hired to assist with production as DeGeneres tapes shows on a set constructed at her home, Variety reported.

A Warner Bros. Television spokesman said at the time that union crew members on the show have been paid consistently since the pandemic hit, albeit at a reduced rate. Some had been with the show for the duration of its 17-year run, which has made DeGeneres one of TV’s highest-paid stars.

In March, comedian Porter solicited negative stories about DeGeneres to raise money for the L.A. Food Bank.

Dutch makeup and popular YouTuber Nikkie de Jager aka NikkieTutorials, who appeared on the show in January to talk about coming out as transgender, has been vocal about what a bad experience she had on the show.


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