Of all of the men who have been accused of sexual assault, harassment and misconduct in the public reckoning known as #MeToo, did Jeffrey Tambor escape most unharmed?
Short of the President of the United States, it’s hard to think of a public figure with multiple accusations stacked against him whose career is still thriving.
Tambor faces two allegations of sexual harassment — one from his former assistant and one from a co-star, both on the “Transparent” set. An internal investigation at Amazon Studios into the accusations is ongoing. Yet though Tambor was fired from “Transparent” when the allegations came out against him after the show’s fourth season, he is doing relatively well.
After denying the allegations, Tambor enjoyed a co-starring role in the movie “The Death of Stalin” and suffered no mentions in major reviews about the accusations — the New Yorker critic lauded his performance. Tambor is also set to star in the long-awaited fifth season of “Arrested Development” on May 29 Netflix, playing the patriarch George Bluth. Sure, filming wrapped long before the allegations broke against Tambor, but still — neither Netflix nor Mitch Hurwitz, the show’s creator, have acknowledged that their star stands accused of assaulting coworkers, particularly vulnerable ones.
On Tuesday, while doing press for the new “Arrested” season in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Tambor spoke for the first time about the two accusations against him. And amid his denials of any inappropriate physical touch or sexual behavior, he offers an explanation for creating a negative work environment that is truly a work of artistic pivoting.
“Lines got blurred. I was difficult. I was mean,” Tambor told the Hollywood Reporter of his onset behavior. Recounting how he made producers cry and was rude to the show’s creator, he said, “I was moody.” He added, “I was rude to my assistant,” referencing one of the women who has accused him of misconduct. “But I was scared, because I was a cisgender male playing Maura Pfefferman,” said Tambor, who has faced public criticism over assuming a role that does not reflect his gender identity. He added, “And my whole thing was, ‘Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right?’ To the point that I worried myself to death.”
Essentially, Tambor claims that it was his anxiety over thoughtfully portraying a trans woman that caused him to lash out at co-workers (Tambor is cisgender, meaning that he identifies as the sex he was assigned at birth). Whether or not he is guilty, this is an ingenious and insidiously terrifying response to Tambor’s situation: being accused of assaulting transgender women.
“Transparent” will go on to release a fifth season next year, sans Tambor. And Tambor will go on to star in “Arrested Development” on Netflix. And in an upcoming animated show where shares a cast list with the likes of Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and John Leguizamo, he’ll provide the voice of God. Next will be a project with Mila Kunis and Jennifer Garner.
Maybe Jeffrey Tambor was just too expensive for #MeToo to destroy, what with so many big-name projects already in the works. But the same was true of Kevin Spacey, and within days of an accusation against him it was announced that he would be cut, frame by frame, from Ridley Scott’s wrapped film at an enormous cost. Spacey was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Maybe being accused of assaulting two trans women just isn’t too important to people.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny