Australia’s longest-running TV drama Neighbours has been plunged into scandal after two actors claimed a racist and homophobic culture exists behind-the-scenes.
Former cast member Meyne Wyatt revealed on Twitter on Tuesday that he had experienced racism during his time on the show and claimed homophobia was also “rampant”.
In a series of tweets, the Wongutha-Yamatji actor, director and writer claimed he had overheard the use of a racial slur while at work on the soap.
“I called it out and it didn’t happen around me again,” Wyatt said.
“Though I did walk in on this incident, so I have no doubt things were being said behind my back.”
He said that a culture of homophobic jokes and comments also made the set an “unsafe environment” for anyone in the LGBTIQ+ community and called on the industry to do better.
“Racism and Homophobia needs an active and present force behind it to be driven out! Neighbours do better! The Film and TV Industry do better! Australia do better!” he tweeted.
Wyatt pointed out that in 2015, after the show had been running for 30 years, he was the first indigenous actor to appear on the main cast.
Earlier on Tuesday, Wentworth star Shareena Clanton said her six-week stint on Ramsay Street in a guest role was marred by “multiple racist traumas” that have required ongoing counselling.
“It’s been lonely, triggering and traumatising to work in such a culturally unsafe space,” she wrote on Instagram, adding she would never work for the Network Ten show again.
In the social media post, the 30-year-old Perth-born actor listed multiple allegations of racist and inappropriate behaviour by senior Neighbours staff and fellow cast members.
From Shareena’s Instagram.
Massive yikes 😬
Will be interesting to see how production responds.
— v i c t o r i a ✌🏼🇦🇺 (@NeighboursNerd) April 5, 2021
Clanton said she fired her agent when he described a senior staff member’s alleged use of the term “slave driver” – in reference to him working hard – as “office banter”.
She also claimed the set was “rife” with covert levels of racism, citing a white actor openly calling another actor of colour a “lil’ monkey” as an alleged example.
Clanton said she heard a highly racial slur uttered twice on set and in the green room, and was told to “go somewhere else” when she confronted the actor directly.
In another instance, an actor is accused of laughing when the same racist term was used – a claim Clanton said the woman denied when questioned by human resources.
“She said that I ‘misconstrued’ what she was ‘laughing at’ and that she was laughing at ‘something else’. That is a blatant lie,” Clanton wrote.
“The retaliation for calling out this misconduct and racism often left me ostracised and further marginalised.”
Wyatt, whose comments were made in support of Clanton’s claims, said it was “disappointing but not at all surprising to hear that five years later, racism continues to be present in that workplace”.
“But what can you say, we are in Australia,” he said.
Other claims by Clanton included paying out of her own pocket to have a Wurundjeri elder on set for “cultural safety reasons”, and a department head laughing when a cast member used a highly sexualised term.
A Fremantle Media spokesperson said the Network Ten soap, now into its 35th year, “strives to be a platform for diversity and inclusion on-screen and off-screen”.
“Shareena’s involvement in the creative process and on set was invaluable and hugely educational and will benefit the series moving forward” a statement said.
“There have been significant and lengthy discussions with Shareena during her time on Neighbours and we will continue to work with all cast and crew to ensure Neighbours continues to be a fully inclusive environment.”
But in Wyatt’s tweets, which went out before the statement from Fremantle media, he called out a distinct lack of inclusion and diversity in the Australian TV landscape, including Neighbours.
“I don’t see a lot of Indigenous actors on the show or on any prime time Television series, whether it be Neighbours, Home and Away, anything on Channel Seven, Nine or Ten, for that matter. Stan and Netflix take note! But these attitudes are prevalent throughout the industry,” he wrote.
In its statement, Fremantle Media did not address Mr Wyatt’s remarks.
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