'Serial Scoop Now': Victoria Rowell Interview and Press Conference To Discuss Her Lawsuit Against CBS, Sony Pictures
|Victoria Rowell at Thursday's press conference in New York.|
Former The Young and the Restless star Victoria Rowell has filed a lawsuit claiming that CBS, Sony Pictures and other media companies refused to rehire her after she advocated for greater diversity among those who worked on the daytime drama. Rowell and her lawyers discussed the complaint at a press conference held steps from CBS headquarters.In the latest episode of Serial Scoop Now (1.5), Ms. Rowell talks about the lawsuit, and we have footage from today's press conference.
“All Ms. Rowell is seeking is basic fairness. We are confident that Ms. Rowell will be rehired if the issueis considered in a serious and non-retaliatory manner,” said Cyrus Mehri, a founding partner of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, the Washington, DC-based law firm representing Rowell. “Ms. Rowell made Drucilla Winters one of the most compelling characters ever to appear on daytime television. In refusing to re-employ her, the defendants aren’t just hurting Ms. Rowell; they’re acting against their own economic self-interest.”
Rowell joined the cast of The Young and the Restless as Drucilla Barber Winters in 1990. After experiencing racial discrimination on the set, she reluctantly left the show in 2007. In 2010, after several years of speaking out about the lack of racial diversity on The Young and the Restless and other soap operas and pursuing writing opportunities, Rowell sought to return to The Young and the Restless or its sister show, The Bold and the Beautiful. Rowell claims executives at CBS, Sony, Bell Dramatic Serial Company and Bell-Phillip Television Production Inc. denied her re-employment because of her public appeals to hire more African Americans in front of and behind the camera on the #1-rated daytime program.
“The Young and the Restless holds such a special place for the millions of viewers who tune in to watch these characters every day. It’s unfortunate that the cast and crew do not reflect this diverse audience,” said Rowell. “The character ‘Drucilla’ was popular because she represented a positive role model for African Americans and audiences need to have that represented in their favorite shows.”
Rowell received 11 NAACP Image Awards and two Daytime Emmy nominations for her role as Drucilla.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants rejected Rowell even though African American women, who comprise a large percentage of the viewership for “The Young and the Restless,” continue to clamor for her return almost eight years after she left the show.
In an industry notorious for racial discrimination, the defendants in this case stand out. According to an analysis in the New York Times, CBS, currently the nation’s most popular network, had the most diverse slate of shows on television 15 years ago and now has the least. Hacked emails revealed racially insensitive comments by the then head of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
According to Dan Stormer, a founding partner of Hadsell Stormer & Renick, LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm also representing Rowell, “Victoria Rowell has committed the crime of being black in American Entertainment. She had the audacity to speak out on issues affecting African Americans. She is an icon who is not welcome by the powers that be simply because she has condemned the second-class status of African Americans in television.”
New York City-based law firm Valli Kane and Vagnini, LLP has joined Mehri & Skalet and Hadsell Stormer & Renick, LLP to represent Rowell in the case.
"Now is a long time for me," Rowell said, when asked why she was filing the lawsuit at this point. "Now isn't just now. Now is many, many years back, under contract, not under contract, it's about ongoing advocacy and the retaliation that I've endured."
Click here to view a 2007-2014 timeline of events ("Victoria Rowell's Opposition to Discrimination and Defendants' Retaliation Against Her").
CBS released the following statement on Wednesday in response to the lawsuit: “We were disappointed to learn that, after leaving the cast of The Young and the Restless on her own initiative, Ms. Rowell has attempted to rewrite that history through lawyers' letters and a lawsuit that has no merit. We harbor no ill will toward Ms. Rowell, but we will vigorously defend this case.”