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‘The Umbrella Academy’ Showrunner Accused of Toxic, Manipulative Behavior Before Season 4 Premiere

The Umbrella Academy Showrunner Accused of Toxic and Manipulative Behavior Before Season 4 Premiere
(L to R) Ritu Arya as Lila Pitts, David Castañeda as Diego Hargreeves, Justin H. Min as Ben Hargreeves, Aidan Gallagher as Number Five in episode 307 of The Umbrella Academy. Courtesy of Netflix

The Umbrella Academy cocreator and showrunner Steve Blackman has been accused of toxic and manipulative behavior by former staffers on the Netflix series.

Over a dozen former writers and support staff members who worked on The Umbrella Academy detailed their interactions with Blackman for a Rolling Stone exposé, published on Sunday, June 30. The employees — who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution — cited a January 2023 human resources complaint that pointed to a “long history of toxic, bullying, manipulative and retaliatory behavior” during Blackman’s time at Netflix.

The allegations included claims that Blackman demoted or fired staffers who didn’t agree with his ideas, using budget issues as an excuse. Blackman would also allegedly compliment his employees in public but insult them privately. Others accused Blackman of using ideas pitched by writers without giving them appropriate credit or offering a promotion for their work.

A representative for Blackman issued a statement to Rolling Stone denying any allegations of retaliation.

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“Over six years and four seasons overseeing thousands of crew, actors, and writers, Steve Blackman led The Umbrella Academy to become a beloved series with devoted fans, enthralling stories, and a dedicated team making it all possible,” read the statement. “These allegations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and outrageous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful, and successful working environment Mr. Blackman has cultivated.”

The Umbrella Academy Showrunner Accused of Toxic and Manipulative Behavior Before Season 4 Premiere
Elliot Page as Viktor Hargreeves Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

The response also addressed claims that Blackman was agitated about transitioning The Umbrella Academy star Elliot Page‘s character after the actor came out as trans while filming the series. In text messages provided to HR as part of the 2023 complaint, Blackman wrote to an unnamed recipient, “Elliot [Page] wants to come out as trans on the show. As Ivan. Oh my f—king God. Kill me now.”

Blackman’s representative told Rolling Stone that he initially was hesitant because season 3 scripts were already written and would require a lot of work to rewrite. They added that his reaction was not meant to indicate he did not support Page, 37.

When season 3 was released in 2022, Blackman told TVLine he was “really proud” of how the show handled Page’s transition. Blackman specifically cited his desire to tell a “pro-trans, authentic, sensitive” story as Page’s character Viktor was introduced on screen.

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Page addressed the decision at the time, telling TVLine that “one of the most special things about this [story] is how it’s handled.”

The production company behind The Umbrella Academy, Universal Content Productions, originally opened an investigation into the claims against Blackman in 2023. Only the allegations that Blackman had made “inappropriate and unprofessional remarks” and used “foul and derogatory language” were substantiated.

Following Rolling Stone’s exposé, a spokesperson for Universal Content Productions told Deadline the studio has “no further comment” at this time.

The Umbrella Academy‘s fourth and final season will premiere on Netflix on Thursday, August 8.

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