Alia Shawkat really regrets how that explosive Arrested Development interview was handled — and yeah, she cried about it
While the latest batch of new Arrested Development episodes have been on Netflix for a little over a week, there’s been a bit of a dark cloud lingering over them. Just days before the first half of Season 5 hit the streaming platform, a New York Times interview with the cast not only addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct by Jeffrey Tambor and his on-set “blowup” directed at Jessica Walter — which had been briefly referenced in a recent Hollywood Reporter profile on the actor — but saw the male cast members tripping over themselves in support of Tambor and downplaying the altercation, while an emotional Walter attempted to defend herself.
Alia Shawkat, the only other woman in the room during the interview, was relatively quiet during the cringeworthy exchange, only stepping in to correct Jason Bateman when he attempted to normalize Tambor’s outburst as part of the “process.” When the interview was published, the backlash was swift and angry, prompting Jason Bateman, Tony Hale, and David Cross to apologize for their parts in belittling Walter’s experience.
Skawkat remained relatively silent about the whole ordeal, until she recently opened up about the NYT interview with Broadly.
In the interview, it seemed clear that the Arrested Development cast wasn’t prepared to talk about the Tambor allegations, which Shawkat confirmed to Broadly. She said that as Bateman, Cross, Hale, and Arnett jumped to defend Tambor’s behavior while she waited for the opportune moment to share her thoughts, she could see Walter’s reaction to the conversation, which “wasn’t good.”
“I finally got a word in edgewise, and [that’s when] Jessica got very emotional and started crying," Shawkat said. "Once that happened, I realized we were having a public and private conversation at the same time, which is very unnatural. All of a sudden, we’re having this intense moment as a group of people who’ve known each other for 15 years — and it’s being recorded.
“They were almost trying to cover themselves up while simultaneously talking, instead of actually listening to each other — which is the biggest theme that I learned from this whole experience, this 20-minute interview that made so much noise,” she continued.“The minute Jessica started crying, my instinct was just to go up to her and hug her and be like, ‘This interview’s over.’”
Shawkat admitted that she cried following the interview, adding that while she was initially disappointed in herself for not speaking up for Walter more in the immediate aftermath of the interview, she was more focused on making sure her co-star was okay.
Looking back on the experience, the actress wishes she had pushed for her co-stars to be quiet. She said, “In that room, when I look back on it, I wish I was able to gather myself, to not be afraid to speak out more and realize that I wouldn’t be hurting anybody—but actually helping. I know I said a little, but what I wish I had said was, ‘Stop talking. Stop. Jessica, go on.”
The actress also revealed that following the interview, she spoke with Walter and her male cast mates, educating them on the importance on listening to — and certainly not diminishing — a woman’s experience.
“I tried to explain to them that, in defending Jeffrey, we covered up something that was more important in the conversation — which was Jessica’s feelings in the moment, and also any voice that I felt I had," Shawkat said. "I’ve known these people for 15 years; I was a child when I met them. For the most part, they still have seen me as a little girl. For the first time as a woman, through this awkward scenario, I finally had their ears to say, ‘This is how I felt, and this is what I want, and this is what I believe in.’ I think they were hurt to realize they had not been aware of that. They were all very sincerely apologetic, as well as surprised.
Shawkat added that after speaking with them, her co-stars each apologized for their own behavior during the interview. She also said that she felt they were receptive to her and hopes their conversation forces them to re-examine their behavior going forward and take time to listen to the experiences of others.