In May, Fred Savage was fired from ABC’s reboot of the Wonder Years. Savage was a director and producer on the show, and the situation was surprisingly hush-hush around his firing. While everyone could feel that there was something major happening, the lukewarm tea was that Savage “was quick to anger” and he liked to overshoot scenes. Television directors aren’t getting fired for that, let’s be honest. They will get fired for predatory behavior and emotionally abusive behavior towards female coworkers. Which is what happened in this case. From the Hollywood Reporter:
It was as Fred Savage was preparing to direct his ninth episode of ABC’s reboot of The Wonder Years that a group of six women on the crew united to take action. Despite their fears about possible repercussions, in February they sent a complaint to Disney and subsequently spoke to an HR executive regarding their concerns about the former child star’s conduct toward several women on the production.
“To their credit, I was contacted within hours,” one of the group says. “An investigation started immediately and he was barred from set.” On May 6, news broke that Savage had been fired as executive producer and director of the well-reviewed series, which has been renewed for a second season. A spokesman for Disney’s 20th Television cited “allegations of inappropriate conduct” but did not elaborate.
Days later, a Page Six item reported that sources close to Savage said he was “doing a lot of self-reflecting.” Savage “knows he can be an a-hole at times,” the column said. “Despite everything, we’re told Savage has had ‘overwhelming support’ from friends and colleagues on The Wonder Years production.” That’s when several of the women who had reported Savage decided to contact The Hollywood Reporter about the issues that led them to report their allegations to Disney. “I and the other women feel that people need to know what the wrongdoing was,” says one.
The women who worked on the Wonder Years reboot say they saw two very different sides of Savage: a charismatic, seemingly supportive colleague and a far darker, angrier alter ego. They say he could flip to the latter persona in an instant, and in such moments, one says, “His eyes would go dead.” One says Savage never engaged in such behavior in front of actors or executives. “They all see his absolute perfect, best face,” she says, but he sometimes showed a different side to “below-the-line employees who don’t have power.”
The women who contacted Disney have requested anonymity out of fear for potential damage to their careers. They say they initiated the complaint regarding conduct toward women that ranged from verbal harassment to one alleged assault of a former crewmember.
The women all pointed to Savage’s relationship with one “much younger woman working on the crew.” Savage is 46 years old, married and a father of three. Apparently, he was renting a house in an artsy neighborhood in Atlanta during filming and he moved this much younger woman into the house with him. He bought her gifts planned for the future with her, but their coworkers could see that the young woman was terrified of his mood swings and that Savage was “extremely controlling” of her. Savage was “manipulative and erratic” towards the young woman, and when other crew members tried to help the woman, Savage would verbally harass them and belittle them.
It wasn’t just this young woman though – there was another female crew member, this one in her early 30s, who caught his eye. He exhibited “very blatant favoritism” towards this woman. She spoke to THR and they did not publish her name. She told THR that at first, she thought she and Savage were friends and that he was mentoring her as a writer and comedian. She considered him a big brother. Then he sexually assaulted her in the bathroom of a bar, and after that night, he harassed her and threatened her via text.
So… yeah, it sounds like the Wonder Years set was a huge catastrophe and Savage was a giant legal liability for Disney. I’m glad Disney moved so fast when the women alerted Disney and HR.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.