Lethal Weapon stars hardly speaking amid on-set tension
They had the makings of America’s next favorite TV duo — popular comedian Damon Wayans and character actor Clayne Crawford taking on the iconic Lethal Weapon roles played by Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the popular movie franchise. But two seasons into the Lethal Weapon series, they are hardly speaking to each other.
Following the quick flame-out of the Rush Hour reboot on CBS, expectations were low for Lethal Weapon.The series created by Matt Miller exceeded them and became a breakout for Fox, earning a second-season renewal. However, behind the success there had been on-set tensions.
There were alleged incidents involving Crawford, including him having an outburst in the middle of a scene, and an actor suffering a minor injury during an episode Crawford was directing. Those incidents, along with other contributing factors, led to things on the show escalating to a point where it is in danger of cancellation.
Following Deadline’s report, in an Instagram post on Tuesday (you can read it in full below), Crawford admitted to being reprimanded over two incidents, adding that he was “incredibly sorry if my passion for doing good work has ever made anyone feel less than comfortable on the set, or feel less than celebrated for their efforts.”
Here is what I have learned since my initial story that gives a more detailed and nuanced picture of the events with some context.
I hear the first incident happened last fall during a location shoot in a park of an emotional scene featuring Crawford and a guest actor. I hear there were sound issues stemming from noise coming from a nearby building interfering with the scene, which prompted Crawford’s verbal outburst that I hear might have been recorded. “I reacted with anger over working conditions that did not feel safe or conducive to good work under the leadership of a guest director and assistant director who, in turn, were angry with my response,” Crawford wrote on Instagram. “I met with Human Resources, I apologized for my part of the conflict, and I completed studio-appointed therapy. I even shared a sizable portion of my paycheck with one of the parties involved per the instruction of the studio.”
I hear that party was the director, who subsequently quit before finishing his second Lethal Weapon episode, allegedly over Crawford’s behavior. It is unclear what exactly set the director off, but there had been a discussion over the filming of an action scene, with Crawford, coming off an on-set injury he had suffered doing a movie, sharing concerns, asking for safety precautions and objecting to the suggested way of setting up the sequence.
The second reprimand to which Crawford refers involves an episode he directed early this year. “An actor on set felt unsafe because a piece of shrapnel from an effect hit him,” Crawford wrote. “It was an unfortunate event that happened in spite of all safety precautions and procedures being followed. I take responsibility for the incident because I was in charge of the set.”
I hear the actor involved was Wayans. I hear the incident happened on the second day of filming the episode, and production already had been behind because Wayans had called in sick the first day. Following the shrapnel incident, Wayans was sent home for the day and when he returned to work, he set limitations to what he was willing to do in the episode, even if it was in the script, including not holding a gun or running down stairs, citing safety concerns. I hear that led to an argument with Crawford, with Crawford using strong words to tell Wayans how he felt about him.
I hear the issue went all the way to the high ranks of the studio, Warner Bros. TV. And while Crawford ultimately completed the episode, I hear the relationship between the two stars suffered irreparable damage.
Crawford’s volatile outbursts — which have been well documented while still surprising some of his closest friends, who describe the Alabama native as a Southern gentleman — might have been the tipping point that sent Lethal Weapon to the bubble, jeopardizing the jobs of dozens of cast and crew on the show and possibly costing Warner Bros TV a fortune in international sales should the globally recognizable title get canceled by Fox.
But there had been ongoing issues on the show from the onset. Lethal Weapon does not do table reads, allegedly upon star Wayans’ request. While that is not unheard of for drama series, it puts extra pressure on production and rehearsing scenes on the spot. There was a significant writer turnover on the show between seasons, which might have contributed to adjusting scripts. (I hear Crawford has been pushing for more creative input on scripts.)
Lethal Weapon does not have a seasoned on-set executive producer who could help rein in high-caliber talent like Wayans and on-set demands that often come with that, as well as handle two very different stars coming from different backgrounds — as is the case with Wayans and Crawford. The series does have a co-executive producer/director as well as a producer specifically assigned to the two leads. Additionally, because Lethal Weaponfilms in Los Angeles, writing showrunner Miller has been able to visit the set often.
Complicating communication is the fact that neither Wayans not Crawford has had agency representation for at least six months. (I hear Crawford parted ways with his agents after the incident with the director, in part over how it was handled.) I hear Crawford had reached out to SAG-AFTRA for help with the situation. SAG-AFTRA declined comment, but a source said the union is looking into the matter.
About two weeks before Fox makes its renewal decisions, Lethal Weapon remains in limbo. Whatever happens, Crawford spoke fondly of his experience on the show and of his colleagues. “I take great pride in treating everyone in life with dignity and kindness. I am very grateful for my job, and I work extremely hard at it,” he wrote. “I absolutely love, respect and care for my crew and cast and would never intentionally jeopardize so many jobs. Moreover, I love the process of making film and television. I appreciate and respect the work of everyone involved.”
Here is his full post: