On Saturday afternoon, two of the biggest names in television came together at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel to talk shop at the first ever Los Angeles Vulture Fest. Damon Lindelof, creator of The Leftovers and Lost, and Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation and creator of The Good Place, discussed everything from their shared affinity for Rick and Morty to the current state of network TV, but the conversation quickly turned to the ongoing sexual assault crisis hitting Hollywood.
Schur previously cast Louie C.K., another actor who’s had sexual assault allegations come out in the past month, in a recurring guest role in Parks. When the allegations started coming out, Schur took to Twitter.
I don't remember when I heard the rumors about him. But I'm sure it was before the last time he was on Parks and Rec. And that sucks. And I'm sorry.
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) November 9, 2017
Upon being asked about the tweet, here is how Schur responded:
“I wrote that because that’s how I felt, I didn’t think about it too much past that. I felt like in general, and I still feel like the biggest problem in retrospect, in hindsight that… Not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the behavior of all these people. The biggest problem is the weird, creepy, disgusting, illegal, awful behavior, but one of the contributing problems is no one talks about it. There are these people out there. If you think everyone knew about Louis, EVERYONE knew about Kevin Spacey. I was on SNL from ’98 to 2004 and I don’t remember when he hosted but I remember very succinctly being like ‘he’s hitting on the pages and he’s hitting on the young men in the talent department.’ It’s the most open secret that’s ever existed. I didn’t know maybe the extent to which the behavior was predatory certainly, but no one didn’t know. And so I wrote what I wrote, which is very minimal in this landscape because it’s how I felt. I honestly don’t remember when I first heard the rumors [about Louie] but I knew for a fact that I’d heard them before the last time he came on the show. So in my recognizing of my own behavior, my own past, I thought ‘well, I didn’t say anything, I’m complicit just like anyone else is about that stuff and I wanted to say I’m sorry. But the larger issue was, and continues to be that we just don’t talk about this stuff.”
Lindeloff, who acknowledged it was an uncomfortable topic said the conversations are “absolutely and totally necessary.” Admitting the first step is a deep dive on one’s own behavior, Lindelof described the challenge as an ongoing battle to be better.
“How conscious are you of whether everyone is laughing at a joke because you’re the boss or if you look in people’s faces are they actually uncomfortable?”
Describing his own response to a running joke from The Leftovers’ pilot centered on the fact audiences see Justin Theroux’s “genitalia bouncing around” in some sweat pants, Lindelof said it can be hard to notice unacceptable behavior in yourself.
“This was something that people would ask Justin about. You know, he’d go on talk shows and Conan would ask about it, and Kimmel, and he would laugh about it and everyone would say Jsutin Theroux has a great sense of humor about this. So I’m gonna start talking about it in the press or I’m gonna go on instagram and say ‘if you give us an Emmy nomination, Justin is gonna take his pants off.’ And I’m not thinking in terms of I’m actually harassing him right now, cuz he’s a guy and he’s in on the joke. I never asked Justin is this cool until it had already happened which at that point I was extremely apologetic.”
Both mentioned the importance of having female voices at every level of production. In Lindellof’s opinion, “when you start putting the traditionally dis-empowered in positions of power you start to build a culture where that shit’s not gonna happen anymore.” In his mind, the goal is to “create parity” and make sure no one’s perspective dominates.
As for possible solutions, Schur already seems to have a simple one in mind.
“Build shows around nice people, not terrible people.”