Jeffrey Tambor, who plays a father transitioning into and living as a transgender woman named Maura Pfefferman in the critically acclaimed Amazon show Transparent, has been accused of sexual harassment by two co-workers on the set. Trace Lysette, who plays Shea, a yoga instructor, is the latest to allege the star of the show acted inappropriately towards her; Tambor’s personal assistant, Van Barnes, was the first to do so.
Amazon opened an internal investigation into Tambor’s conduct when Barnes initially made her claims, but they have now added Lysette’s claims to the investigation as well. Both Lysette and Barnes are transgender actresses.
In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, Lysette outlines how Tambor reacted to seeing her in costume for a scene they shared together in season 2. Lysette was dressed in “a flimsy top and matching short shorts” and Tambor “sexualized” her with an “over the top comment” but Lysette laughed it off as a joke. However, a little while later, Tambor approached her. “He came in close, put his bare feet on top of mine so I could not move, leaned his body against me, and began quick, discreet thrusts back and forth against my body. I felt his penis on my hip through his thin pajamas and I pushed him off of me,” Lysette said. She admitted to laughing it off once again and “compartmentalizing” the incident. “It was discreet. If you were behind Jeffrey you might have thought he was giving me a hug,” she said.
“Given the journey and circumstances of my life, I was used to being treated as a sexual object by men—this one just happened to be famous,” Lysette said.
But this was not the only incident in which she felt uncomfortable around Tambor. Later, during the production of the show’s second season, Tambor organized a meeting with his manager for Lysette for potential representation. When Lysette thanked Tambor, “He said, 'Well, yeah Trace. I really believe in you. And you know what? I don't even want to have sex with you.' And then he just looked at me as if he very much indeed wanted to have sex with me. It was an up-and-down look. I rolled my eyes and went to my trailer and thought, 'This man is something else.'"
The ongoing investigation began after his personal assistant, Barnes, made similar claims of abuse towards Tambor. Her lawyer, Alana Chazan, claims she signed nondisclosure agreements that keep her from commenting on the details of her allegations. Barnes has also refused to publicly comment on how Tambor treated her, but she did, however, detail the treatment in a private Facebook post that circulated within the Hollywood transgender community. She does not name Tambor outright, but in the post, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, writes of an employer who made comments like, "I should be sleeping with him if I want a Hollywood industry appropriate pay grade" and "it wouldn't take long, he pops quick." She also claims the same employer gave her unsolicited "butt pats” and played pornography at loud volumes.
Both Lysette and Barnes claim that they went to Transparent producers to complain of Tambor’s behaviors, but no action was taken in result of their complaints.
Tambor has won two Emmys for his work on Transparent. He is also well-known for playing the Bluth family patriarch on Arrested Development. Tambor issued the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility — of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood. Now I find myself accused of behavior that any civilized person would condemn unreservedly. I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator — ever. I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.