The creators of some of the most successful fictions have come out of the shadows, but not always for good reasons. Several stars from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Justice League accused Joss Whedon in 2021 of workplace harassment and creating an unbearable atmosphere on the sets of both the beloved series and the movie that brought together DC’s main heroes. Now, something similar is happening with The Umbrella Academy showrunner, Steve Blackman, after Rolling Stone magazine revealed the complaints of 12 former writers and production members.

After the report was released, Blackman issued a statement through his representative in which he downplayed the accusations. «For six years and four seasons overseeing thousands of team members, actors, and writers, Steve Blackman led The Umbrella Academy to become a beloved series with devoted fans, fascinating stories, and a dedicated team that made it possible,» the statement reads. And it continues, «These accusations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and scandalous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful, and successful work environment that Mr. Blackman has cultivated.»

The Rolling Stone report contains a Human Resources complaint filed in January 2023, stating that the showrunner has a «long history of toxic behavior, harassment, manipulation, and revenge.» The complaint presents at least five cases in which Blackman allegedly retaliated against writers and team members of the show, including his former co-showrunner Jesse McKeown, who did not hesitate to provide his testimony. «I always thought, ‘Okay, it was a clear retaliation, but he would never do that to me.’ But it is something that not only happened to me, but to many more people,» he said.

Another case presented involves a pair of writers who were fired after one of them gave birth and took maternity leave, a situation similar to what actress Charisma Carpenter, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, accuses Whedon of. Referring specifically to this issue, the director’s spokesperson stated that the decision not to extend their contract was based «solely on performance and budget.» However, another writer from that season claimed that Blackman told him, «He fired them because one was pregnant and did not tell him.»

The extensive report also revealed that two members of the writing team and an actress from the series had a private conversation in which they all expressed their frustrations with Blackman regarding the character’s storyline. When those comments reached Blackman’s ears, he allegedly demanded details from them. One of those involved refused to do so and was not invited to participate in the next season. «It’s over,» the showrunner reportedly texted another team member.

Text messages and WhatsApp messages were also revealed in which Blackman questioned Elliot Page’s insistence that his character undergo a gender transition from woman to man. His request had a clear motive: he himself was going through that process and there were aesthetic and personal issues at stake as well.

While the actor publicly thanked Blackman for agreeing to the request, according to the messages revealed by the magazine, the showrunner’s stance behind closed doors may not have been as empathetic. «Elliot wants to come out as trans on the show. As Ivan. Oh, my God. Kill me now,» reads one of those messages. Although in his defense, he later claimed that those comments referred to «his level of stress related to this and other responsibilities of managing a program and a large team,» to many who worked with him, that justification did not convince them.

Most of those who testified to the magazine claimed that it was very common to hear Blackman make transphobic, homophobic, and misogynistic comments at work. In fact, an internal investigation conducted by Universal Content Productions, the production company behind The Umbrella Academy, also stated that it was «highly likely that he made inappropriate and unprofessional comments about employees and used rude or derogatory language.»

Many believe that both the production company and Netflix allowed things to escalate to this point because they did not want to jeopardize the success of the series. The Umbrella Academy was the third most-watched series on that platform in 2019, the year of its debut, and in 2020, Blackman signed a $50 million development deal with the streaming service.

However, as it was reported this Wednesday, the streaming giant may have taken note of the impact of the report against Blackman and put on hold the development of the Horizon Zero Dawn video game adaptation, which had him as showrunner and head. The fourth season of The Umbrella Academy, meanwhile, will premiere in August.