It was when Fred Savage was preparing to direct his ninth episode of ABC’s reboot of The Wonder Years that a group of six women on the crew united to take action. Despite her fears about the potential repercussions, in February she sent a complaint to Disney and later spoke to an HR executive about her concerns about the former child star’s conduct toward multiple women on the production.
“To their credit, I was contacted within hours,” says one of the group. “An investigation started immediately and they were barred from the sets.” On May 6, news broke that Savage had been fired as executive producer and director of the well-reviewed series, which has been renewed for a second season. A spokesperson for Disney’s 20th Television cited the “accusations of inappropriate conduct” but did not elaborate.
A few days later, a Page Six item reported that sources close to Savage said he was “reflecting too much.” Savage “knows he can be a hole sometimes,” Colm said. “Despite everything, we are told that Savage has received ‘overwhelming support’ from friends and colleagues on the Wonder Years production.”
That’s when several women who reported Savage decided to contact The Hollywood Reporter about issues that led them to report their allegations to Disney. One says, “Me and other women feel that people need to know what the wrongdoing was.
She notes that Savage has faced charges before. In 1993, a costumer from the original The Wonder Years sued Savage for sexual assault, who was then 16 years old. The matter got resolved. A female crew member on the set of Fox’s The Grinder, which ran from 2015-16, claimed that Savage “relentlessly abused” female employees and yelled at and hit her during a dress fitting.
Fox found no evidence of wrongdoing and the lawsuit was settled. In both cases, Savage denied wrongdoing. Despite those allegations, Savage has had an illustrious career not only acting but directing episodes of Boy Meets World, Black-ish, The Conners, Modern Family and 2 Broke Girls among other shows.
The women who worked on the Wonder Years reboot say they saw two very different sides of Savage: a charismatic, seemingly supportive ally and a darker, grumpy alter ego. They say that he can turn to the latter personality in an instant, and at such moments, one says, “His eyes will die.” One says that Savage never engaged in such behavior in front of actors or executives. They all see their full, best faces, she says, but they sometimes “show a different side to the employees below, who don’t have the power.”
The women who contacted Disney requested anonymity for fear of possible damage to their careers. He says he started complaining about conduct towards women ranging from verbal harassment to an alleged assault by a former crew member.
In a statement, Savage tells THR: “Since I was 6 years old, I have worked on hundreds of sets with thousands of people, and have always strived to contribute to an inclusive, safe and supportive work environment. It is devastating to know that there are coworkers who feel that I have fallen short of these goals.
While there are some incidents being reported that absolutely did not and could not have happened, no one who feels hurt or hurt by my actions He is one person too much. I will work to address and change any behavior that has negatively affected anyone, as a supportive coworker, friend, husband, father to me in this world. And nothing is more important than being a person.”
The One Wonder Years crew member, who was not part of the group that complained to Disney, says she was a very positive influence of Savage. He was not only an exceptionally capable director, but also “very charming” and “very friendly”. She continues: “Fred is very social. He would invite the crew to rent a bar or a small house.” She remembers those gatherings as “a lot of fun.”
But then, suddenly, he was gone. “It was very mysterious,” she says. In the media, the narrative focused on issues of Savage’s alleged anger. But the crew admits that she was uneasy about the “weirdness” of Savage’s relationship with a much younger woman who served on the crew. (Savage is 46 years old and has three children.)
It was not the source alone who became concerned. Others say that at one point the young woman moved into a home occupied by Savage in the artsy Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta where The Wonder Years was filming. A colleague says he shared that he was buying her gifts and talking about what they would do together in the future.