The actor who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a trans woman on the Amazon series details his on-set outbursts and his "biggest disappointment" with showrunner Jill Soloway.
It's one of several new details the actor, who played transgender character Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed Amazon series, spilled to The Hollywood Reporter in an in-depth article published Monday, nearly 3 months after he received Solloway's text, which was the last time he spoke to his former boss.
"I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do remember her last words were: 'Do you need help with a statement?'" Tambor said. "If you can picture a man outside a gym for forever, in his workout shorts and everything, just staring."
The dismissal came as a huge shock for Tambor, who said he was expecting a "slap on the wrist" sort of punishment for what he considers temperamental outbursts on set.
"I drove myself and my castmates crazy," he told THR. "Lines got blurred. I was difficult. I was mean. I yelled at Jill — she told me recently she was afraid of me. I yelled at the wonderful [executive producer] Bridget Bedard in front of everybody. I made her cry. And I apologized and everything, but still, I yelled at her. The assistant directors. I was rude to my assistant. I was moody...But I was scared, because I was a cisgender male playing Maura Pfefferman. 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."
As the world now knows, Tambor wasn't fired for yelling at people on set. It was a series of complaints about his behavior off set from two transgender women. Van Barnes, his former assistant, accused him of various forms of sexual harassment, including allegedly asking for sex multiple times and admitting to watching her sleep in the nude while briefly living together.
Trace Lysette, who plays Shea on "Transparent," has accused Tambor of unsolicited sexual advances, including kissing her on the lips when she intended to kiss him on the cheek. In one incident she explained to THR, Lysette claimed Tambor told her he wanted to "attack her sexually" while they were filming a scene in pajamas. "[He] waddled over to me in his pajamas and put his feet on top of mine, and started these little, like, thrusts on my hip," she said. "They were discreet and insidious and creepy. I felt his genitals on me. And I pushed him off."
Tambor has repeatedly denied the sexual harassment claims levied against him in the height of the #MeToo movement in fall of 2017, and continued to do so in his first extensive interview on the subject. Here's everything else he spilled:
His Job Was in Jeopardy Before the Allegations
Tambor pulled back the curtain to reveal that producers were struggling with the transgender community criticizing the show for casting a cisgender male to portray a transgender woman. "Because the revolution got bigger," Tambor said of the backlash. "So the very thing we were doing, the awakening to this movement, made the disparity [of my non-transness] more apparent."
Both Jill Soloway and sister Faith, who is also a producer of the series, were in Tambor's corner initially.
After releasing his second statement denying the harassment allegations, Tambor said Faith emailed him. "I can quote it verbatim because I’ve looked at it for five months," he told THR. "It said, 'We are in a coup. You are f-cking fantastic. You have changed the world. We have changed the world. We will get through this. Love, love, love, Faith.'"
Tambor said the message sent a "shock wave" through him and he got the feeling "something was up, over and above me. Some dots were not connecting." After releasing a third statement ("Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to 'Transparent.'") Tambor said he received an email from Jill.
"She wrote these words: ‘They have been after Maura from the beginning.’”
There Was a Plan B
If viewers could no longer accept Tambor as Maura, Jill had another idea. In what Tambor described as "one of the top-five difficult phone calls of my life," the showrunner pitched him "a third way" to proceed, with Tambor only appearing in flashbacks as pre-transition Mort Pfefferman. Tambor agreed, but the plan never came into fruition since Amazon never cleared him of the harassment allegations.
"My lawyer was present," Tambor told THR about the 10-hour long inquiry with his employer. "They asked me questions, and I responded to the questions. And that’s pretty much what I want to say about that."
Tambor was officially cut from the show on Feb. 15, and hasn't spoken to Jill since.
“I said to her, 'Since you know the truth, would you make a public statement on my behalf?' It’s my biggest disappointment that she hasn’t," Tambor said.
Jill responded to THR by saying, "I never told him I was going to accuse Van or Trace of being liars. He knew that nobody could do that. And I was really working with him to help him understand that a simple apology would go a really long way. I was hoping to get him there."
When pressed to address the specific allegations, Tambor told THR he didn't "want to characterize them."
"What I said was that she was a disgruntled assistant. I think that was generous of me," he continued. "I dispute her account. I did raise my voice at times, I was moody at times, there were times when I was tactless. But as for the other stuff, absolutely not."
He also denied watching his former assistant sleep in the nude and regrets temporarily sharing a house with her and Lysette. "My arrangements hadn’t come together. In retrospect, I should not have stayed there and just waited for my house to become ready," he said.
Life After the Scandal
"It’s already changed my behavior on set," Tambor said of the ordeal's impact on his day-to-day life. "Just walking in here today, into this cafe, I hadn’t seen the owner in a long time. I mean, do you hug? Do you not hug? When you see fans ... You know what I do feel? More present. Everything’s just clearer to me."
He'll be back on TV as George Bluth Sr. in the fifth season of "Arrested Development" returning this month, and will be making the press rounds for it, too. In the meantime, he's enjoying raising his 8-year-old twins Hugo and Eli.
"I know Goodnight Moon pretty well," he said. "And there’s this other book about a bear hunt. I’ve read it to every generation of child. They go on a bear hunt and they say, ‘Uh-oh, there’s mud! You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it. Got to go through it.’ And I can’t think of anything more typical in my life right now."