The Umbrella Academy showrunner accused of making transphobic remarks on set

Steve Blackman (left) and Elliot Page as Viktor Hargeeves in The Umbrella Academy (right).

Staff who worked on Elliot Page superhero drama The Umbrella Academy have accused one of the show’s creators of making homophobic and transphobic remarks.

12 people have alleged that Steve Blackman created a hostile workplace, displaying a “long history of toxic bullying, manipulative and retaliatory behaviour”, according to an investigation by Rolling Stone magazine.

A complaint filed in January 2023, obtained by Rolling Stone, alleged that Blackman’s behaviour included taking credit for junior employees’ work, freezing staff out if they pushed back against his ideas, and making lewd “sexist, homophobic and transphobic” jokes about the show’s team.

He was also named in two other reports during production of season two of the show, the publication claimed.

Blackman’s representatives dubbed the complaints “entirely untrue” and “completely absurd”.

Steve Blackman (far right) and The Umbrella Academy cast.
Steve Blackman (far right) with cast members in 2022. (Getty)

Five staffers have claimed that Blackman failed to give them a promised credit after using their work for scenes in the series, while others, including season four’s co-showrunner Jesse McKeown, have accused him of retaliating against them if they did not support his ideas.

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Other complaints include failing to extend a female writer’s contract because she did not disclose she was pregnant when hired, gossiping and complaining about other members of staff, and admonishing people’s work soon after praising it.

“You have to tread carefully with Steve because there have been times when people stand up to him and their status is diminished or they are taken off the show,” one writer claimed. Another described working on the show as “one of the worst jobs” they had ever had.

Regarding the alleged transphobic and homophobic comments, sources suggested that he would pass off lewd and inappropriate remarks about people’s sexualities and anatomies as jokes.

“He could be very good at dropping something that starts to be transphobic or homophobic, like, ‘They’re a he/she,’” one person claimed. “But then [he’d say]: ‘It’s all good, I support it. It’s awesome, live your best life.’ He toes the line of seeing who will join in and laugh with him, and if nobody does, skilfully back-pedals.”

Other sources recalled him making “gross and repugnant” comments about staff members’ buttocks and breasts, with one female writer saying: “I found it to be an incredibly sexist environment. If you were female, you were treated with hostility, or like you were stupid.”

Elliot Page turned down role due to feminine costume.
Elliot Page has previously praised the show’s creator. (Getty)

Page, who plays Viktor Hargreeves in the series, has previously praised Blackman for the way he handled the transition of his character to reflect the star’s real life.

Blackman was one of the first people he came out to, and the showrunner rewrote an entire season to accommodate Page’s transition, he said.

But the magazine investigation referred to text messages in which Blackman allegedly complained of the workload involved in writing Page’s transition into the show. Some sources also claimed he refused to speak to staff about how to address Netflix greenlighting Dave Chappelle’s 2021 special, which included jokes about trans people

According to Rolling Stone, Blackman “generally” denied the complaints made by sources, with his representatives telling the publication that “these allegations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and outrageous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful and successful working environment [he] has cultivated”.

He “always worked to uplift and support trans voices on the show”.

In addition, one producer-writer and two senior producers offered counter experiences of working with Blackman, saying that they never saw any of the alleged toxic behaviour.

Production company Universal Content (UCP) carried out an investigation in spring 2023 and largely cleared Blackman of the accusations made in the January complaint.

However, UCP did substantiate that Blackman had made “inappropriate and unprofessional remarks” and used “foul and derogatory language”, and the complainants now claim they were not contacted to discuss their experiences.

UCP said: “When concerns are reported, they are promptly reviewed, thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken.” Netflix’s publicists did not provide a response to the latest investigation.

The Umbrella Academy returns for its fourth and final season on Netflix on 8 August.

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