Actress and producer Gabrielle Union was “rotated out” as a judge on NBC reality-TV show America’s Got Talent after she raised complaints about alleged racist incidents and fellow judge Simon Cowell’s indoor smoking habit, according to a report from Vulture based on seven unidentified sources. During one clash, producers allegedly told Union they wanted to eliminate 10-year-old black rapper Dylan Gilmer and replace him with a group of white high-kicking dancers. When Union objected to that choice, she was reportedly told by producers that they needed to pick an act “America can get behind.” Other incidents that Union raised were reported by Variety on Wednesday, including a joke on set allegedly made by late-night host Jay Leno that perpetuated Asian stereotypes. Union brought up her concerns with NBC executives regularly after joining the show in February, according to Vulture. After some time, Cowell and his team of producers reportedly began to perceive her as “difficult,” and she was told she was being let go last Friday after just one season as a judge, despite having a three-year contract.
A source involved in the production disputed that characterization to Vulture, claiming that Union was not fired—and that she was simply “rotated out.” “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” NBC said in a statement. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”