Law & Order: Special Victims Unit showrunner accused of ‘toxic’ behavior on set

David Graziano
David Graziano of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit accused of bullying. Pic credit: NBC

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is facing a difficult challenge outside of any cases.

Showrunner David Graziano is being accused of misconduct that includes bullying and poor treatment of women. 

This comes from a recent article in The Los Angeles Times that cites former writers on both Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Graziano’s previous series, Coyote, endured terrible experiences with him.

According to the report, Graziano has shown a history on his sets of bullying, insulting remarks, and more on staff writers and set workers.

Graziano himself has denied the allegations, and his representative claims at least one supposed witness barely even knew Graziano. 

When Warren Leight left after several years as showrunner of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit earlier in 2022, a search was on for a replacement.

The choice was David Graziano, already a staff writer and producer, including for the CBS All Access (now Paramount Plus) series Coyote. 

What are the accusations against David Graziano?

While Graziano has done well in the position since Season 24 began, a story on Thursday in The Los Angeles Times has cast a shadow on him. 

The story claims that on the set of both Coyote and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Graziano used harsh language and horrific behavior towards his writers. 

While many of those cited in the LA Times article declined to reveal their names, one who did was Haley Cameron, a former Law & Order: Special Victims Unit writer. 

Cameron’s complaints were made on an industry listserv in June, shortly after Graziano was hired as showrunner for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

“The new showrunner, David Graziano, is a very unprofessional, ego-centric, and immature man. I have been in this industry a long time, and I have never experienced such pure, white-male misogyny. I urge you — especially women — to think twice before putting yourself in a position that could end as badly as mine did.”

Others soon chimed in with tales of Graziano, which included Amy Hartman, who worked as a script coordinator on Coyote. 

“Graz is super toxic and I’ve never run from a job so fast in my life as I did when I SC’ed for him. Stay away.”

David James, another script coordinator on Coyote, claimed, “It was the worst job I ever had in Hollywood,” and he was “floored” to hear Graziano had been hired for a network show. 

The majority of those cited in the LA Times article did so under anonymity, but their stories backed up the claims of Graziano’s behavior.

Graziano makes his defense

The article naturally caused a fuss with Alafair Hall, a spokesman for Graziano, making a statement to Entertainment Weekly.

“The implication that Mr. Graziano created a hostile work environment, is sexist, inappropriate, and unprofessional is false.”

Hall stated that Cameron had only worked briefly on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and was about to be fired after less than two weeks for changing scripts without approval. 

Hall also said it was “absolutely false” that Graziano made inappropriate comments about women or people of color. She added, “Any statement related to race, ethnicity, or gender by Mr. Graziano was made in the context of creating the storyline, characters, and dialogue.”

Hall did acknowledge Graziano having a poor attitude on the set of Coyote but blamed it on his “excruciating pain” from three collapsed discs in his neck alongside the pressure of filming during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“While he does not view his pain as an excuse, it is an explanation, and he regrets lashing out.”

Graziano himself responded in a statement to Entertainment Weekly on his behavior. 

“Though it would be easy and convenient, I refuse to blame some past behavior on the abuse I suffered as a child at the hands of a Catholic priest, as well as at home. Anyone who has worked in a writers’ room will know it is a matter of course to draw upon and use your own experience for the good of the show. Unfortunately, I have a lot to draw from — and with it comes a great deal of emotion, pain and deeply felt personal history. All any of us can do is evolve and grow. Real change is hard, and I continue to work on myself daily.”

Notably, a week ago, Graziano shared a story on his Instagram page of his “journey” and noted his issues.

“All any of us can do is continue to evolve and grow. That’s exactly what I’ve done this past year. Fortunately, I work in an arena that allows me to put all I’ve learned to good use and maybe save somebody else the same idiotic 35 years it took me to drop my sharp tongue and false bravado. Healing is possible. So is redemption — if you’ll allow it.”

As of yet, neither NBC nor Dick Wolf Entertainment has issued any statement on Graziano’s departure. 

However, in an interview with Variety discussing her exit from the series, Kelli Giddish stated that “it was alarming to read” the story. 

While the fallout from the article continues, David Graziano remains the showrunner for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit even as the backstage takes on a story seemingly ripped right from the series.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Season 24 returns Thursday, January 5 at 9/8c on NBC.

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