By Amy Kaufman Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After actress Sarah Scott reported sexual misconduct by another actor on set she found that there were few people and/or systems in place to respond to what happened.
Sarah Scott was lying under the covers wearing only nipple covers and boy shorts when, she says, her co-star Kip Pardue became aroused. She could tell because he took her hand and placed it on his groin just as they were about to film a post-coital scene for an independent television pilot, "Mogulettes."
She was shocked by his behavior, particularly because it was May 16, mere months after hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct had been made against powerful men in Hollywood.
Still, Scott shot the scene. When filming was done, she says Pardue called her into his dressing room, where he proceeded to masturbate in front of her.
"I literally froze," Scott, 35, recalls. "I said, 'What are you doing?'"
"This isn't a #MeToo thing," she alleges he responded. "I'm not your employer. It's not like I can fire you."
Scott says she ran out of the room. She had been a working actress for more than 14 years, appearing on episodes of popular television shows such as "True Blood" and "Castle," but had never experienced a co-star doing something like this.
Pardue, who is a series regular on Marvel's Hulu series "The Runaways," has appeared in films such as "Remember the Titans" and "The Rules of Attraction" over his two-decade career.
The pilot they were filming did not yet have a network or streaming partner attached, but producers hoped to attract interest after it was completed.
As Scott encountered Pardue while preparing to leave the set of "Mogulettes," she says she asked him why he had masturbated in front of her. She says he told her it was because she was "just so hot."
When contacted by The Times, Pardue apologized for placing Scott's hand on his penis during their scene together. But he denied everything the actress alleges that happened after the scene was completed.
"I clearly misread the situation during a sex scene on set and have apologized to Sarah," Pardue, 43, said in a statement provided by his representative, David Shane. "I never intended to offend her in any way and deeply regret my actions and have learned from my behavior."
When Scott returned home from the set that day, she told her husband what had happened. It was the first of many times she would share her story.
From reaching out to the show's producers, the Screen Actors Guild and the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund to filing a police report with the Hermosa Beach Police Department, Scott did everything she thought she was supposed to do, following all the protocols that had been touted by the entertainment industry in the wake of last fall's reckoning.
"How can I be part of the solution? How can I do right by my community?" she recalls thinking at the time. "What can I do that's actually going to make a dent in preventing this guy from doing this again?"
But for five months, she was frustrated by what she saw as slow movement and conflicting advice from industry and production leaders.
After nearly a year of industry hand-wringing and fundraising, of hotline and subcommittee creation, of vows by guilds and studios, she says she feels Hollywood remains a business with many temporary workplaces overseen by people with varying degrees of authority.
After sharing the story with her husband, Scott says the next people she reported the incident to were "Mogulettes" director Dave Fraunces and producer Mandy Henderson.
"Sarah asked to speak with (us) the moment she got on set," Fraunces says. "I did not suspect anything like that had occurred until Sarah mentioned it to me. I was shocked."
Pardue had completed his work on the set and the project's executive producer, Bennett Talsky, says he reported the claims to a SAG-AFTRA business representative.
Talsky, whose background is in construction consulting, was segueing into entertainment for the first time with "Mogulettes" and says he felt unsure of the protocol to follow. He called both actors to get their version of events, but Pardue "danced around the whole thing and never admitted to it," Talsky says.
"He was trying to justify it, saying they had really good chemistry and he got carried away," Talsky adds. "It didn't get anywhere, and I didn't really confront him, I was just trying to feel him out and see if he felt like he had screwed up."
On May 21, Scott decided to personally follow up with SAG-AFTRA. She searched the union's website and determined she should get in touch with the union's Equal Employment Opportunities and Diversity Department.
The man who answered the phone said he was new to the department but requested that Scott recount the entire on-set incident with Pardue, which she did. She was told that she would soon be contacted by Donna Reed, the department coordinator.
The following day, she connected with Reed, who presented her with a number of resources via email.
"While this is not intended to pass judgment on anyone involved, I am terribly sorry for what you experienced," said Reed's May 22 email, which Scott provided to The Times. "If anyone who believes they were subjected to unlawful harassment, the fact that they do not remain silent empowers us all to shine a light in the dark and take action against this behavior so that it is less likely to be repeated."
Reed listed a number of options for Scott. She could make a member-to-member union complaint, which would be handled by SAG-AFTRA's legal department. She could file a police report with the L.A. Police Department. She could contact a lawyer via the union's free legal hotline or the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund. She could seek therapeutic counseling through the Actors Fund or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN.
Scott felt overwhelmed. She didn't feel that she needed to call the crisis center. She was unsure if going to the police would make a difference. And she didn't want to sue Pardue for any financial gain. She just wanted to help make the industry safer for women.
She thought her best move might be to file a member-to-member complaint with SAG-AFTRA. Per Reed's suggestion, Scott reached out to the organization's legal department and was connected with Delia Aparicio, senior counsel at SAG-AFTRA. Again, she was asked to recount the incident.
"I feel like her intentions were good, but it was clear that she was very inexperienced with this particular kind of process," Scott recalls. "If I had a question about confidentiality, 'Can I talk to the media? Can I talk to agents and managers about this?', she kept saying, 'I'm going to have to check on that.'"
Scott also says she was told by Aparicio, who declined multiple requests to comment for this story, that if she pursued the member-to-member route, "you're probably not gonna be satisfied."
"The feeling I got was, 'It's really not worth your time,'" says Scott, who was told the process typically takes six to nine months. "And yet that was the only thing you could do through SAG."
Although Aparicio did not speak with The Times about Scott's description of their communication, Pamela Greenwalt, SAG-AFTRA's chief communications and marketing officer, provided an overview of the member-to-member reporting process, referring to an article in the union's constitution about "Discipline of Members."
"Legal and disciplinary matters are strictly confidential and thus, as is customary, SAG-AFTRA declined to comment on your specific inquiry," Greenwalt said on behalf of the guild.
After her conversation with Aparicio, Scott says she sought advice from a few trusted individuals. One of them was Kevin Kane, an actor and comedian who frequently collaborates with Amy Schumer. Because of Schumer's involvement with Time's Up, he thought the actress could help. With Scott's permission, he told Schumer on May 24 about the situation and Schumer texted Kane with direct contact information for Time's Up and SAG-AFTRA representatives.