In June, David Graziano — a prominent TV writer with a lengthy string of credits — was named showrunner of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” ahead of Season 24.
“Law & Order: SVU” has helped transform the national conversation around sexual assault and abuse during its 24 seasons on the air.
Star Mariska Hargitay, who plays Det. Olivia Benson and is an executive producer on the series, has long championed victims.
But not long after Graziano took over as showrunner, the show’s script coordinator quit and the subsequent job posting triggered warnings from individuals who had previously worked with him.
Graziano’s previous credits include shows such as “Lie to Me” on Fox, “Southland” on TNT, the recent adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” on Starz and the Amazon Original “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.” In 2019, Graziano was the showrunner of drama series “Coyote,” which aired on CBS All Access (later rebranded Paramount+).
More than a dozen individuals who have worked with him previously on several other shows described him variously as a volatile and bullying boss who rage-fired underlings, left staffers in tears and made inappropriate and demeaning comments toward women, support staff and people of color.
In a statement provided by his spokesperson Alafair Hall, Graziano acknowledged that he was “a difficult person to work” with during the production of “Coyote,” citing pain due to collapsed discs in his neck.
But he denied making any inappropriate comments about women or people of color, adding that any remarks he made about women’s bodies or other sensitive topics were always in the context of creating a story, characters or dialogues.
Hall said Graziano was “proud of his leadership skills on SVU,” saying there had been no turnover in the production offices since he took over. Graziano said the former script coordinator’s claims of mistreatment were “false” and undermined by the fact she was “about to be fired” over concerns he had raised about her “unprofessional” job performance.
“Coyote” producer Sony Pictures Television, NBC, Universal Studio Group and Wolf Entertainment declined to comment.
A source close to NBCUniversal said it investigated the former script coordinator’s claims and the studio found that Graziano was not “operating outside of professional expectations.”
The allegations against Graziano occurred in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which sparked a series of anti-harassment laws and workplace policies intended to weed out abusive behaviors.
Graziano faces complaints that he fostered hostile workplaces. Two people described the experience as “traumatizing.”
Former associates said Graziano objectified women, discussing them in sexualized terms, which he has denied.
Many former colleagues of Graziano spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity for fear of personal or professional repercussions. Read their accounts of working with him.