Thursday, February 12, 2015

Former Soap Star Victoria Rowell Sues CBS, Sony For Retaliation

Victoria Rowell at Thursday's press conference. Photo courtesy of Roger Newcomb
[press release]


Victoria Rowell, Y&R’s “Drucilla Winters,” Claims Companies Refused to Rehire Her in Retaliation for Advocacy on Behalf of African American Actors 

New York, NY
— Former “Young and the Restless” star Victoria Rowell today filed a lawsuit claiming that CBS, Sony Pictures and other media companies refused to rehire her after she advocated for greater diversity among those who worked on the daytime drama. Rowell and her lawyers discussed the complaint at a press conference held steps from CBS headquarters.

“All Ms. Rowell is seeking is basic fairness. We are confident that Ms. Rowell will be rehired if the issueis considered in a serious and non-retaliatory manner,” said Cyrus Mehri, a founding partner of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, the Washington, DC-based law firm representing Rowell. “Ms. Rowell made Drucilla Winters one of the most compelling characters ever to appear on daytime television. In refusing to re-employ her, the defendants aren’t just hurting Ms. Rowell; they’re acting against their own economic self-interest.”

Rowell joined the cast of “The Young and the Restless” as Drucilla Barber Winters in 1990. After experiencing racial discrimination on the set, she reluctantly left the show in 2007. In 2010, after several years of speaking out about the lack of racial diversity on “The Young and the Restless” and other soap operas and pursuing writing opportunities, Rowell sought to return to “The Young and the Restless” or its sister show, “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Rowell claims executives at CBS, Sony, Bell Dramatic Serial Company and Bell-Phillip Television Production Inc. denied her re-employment because of her public appeals to hire more African Americans in front of and behind the camera on the #1-rated daytime program.

“’The Young and The Restless’ holds such a special place for the millions of viewers who tune in to watch these characters every day. It’s unfortunate that the cast and crew do not reflect this diverse audience,” said Rowell. “The character ‘Drucilla’ was popular because she represented a positive role model for African Americans and audiences need to have that represented in their favorite shows.”

Rowell received 11 NAACP Image Awards and two Daytime EMMY nominations for her role as Drucilla.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants rejected Rowell even though African American women, who comprise a large percentage of the viewership for “The Young and the Restless,” continue to clamor for her return almost eight years after she left the show.

In an industry notorious for racial discrimination, the defendants in this case stand out. According to an analysis in the New York Times, CBS, currently the nation’s most popular network, had the most diverse slate of shows on television 15 years ago and now has the least. Hacked emails revealed racially insensitive comments by the then head of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

According to Dan Stormer, a founding partner of Hadsell Stormer & Renick, LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm also representing Rowell, “Victoria Rowell has committed the crime of being black in American Entertainment. She had the audacity to speak out on issues affecting African Americans. She is an icon who is not welcome by the powers that be simply because she has condemned the second-class status of African Americans in television.”

New York City-based law firm Valli Kane and Vagnini, LLP has joined Mehri & Skalet and Hadsell Stormer & Renick, LLP to represent Rowell in the case.

- Longtime 'The Young and the Restless' Star Victoria Rowell Filing Complaint in Federal Court Against CBS, Sony Claiming Denied Re-Employment + CBS Response


  1. Obviously I don't know Ms. Rowell, but she's coming off as an entitled nut job with delusions of grandeur.

  2. After she left Y&R didn't CBS hire her for a prime time show?

    1. She was on Diagnosis Murder for several years while she was still on Y&R. She guest-starred on Ghost Whisperer in 2010.

  3. Okay. Now, I am a very big fan of the actress and the character she played on Y&R. I don't think the show has recovered from her departure...I think she may not be totally off-base about the popularity of her as Drucilla Winters...

    That being said, I have difficulty supporting Victoria Rowell because there feels like a lot of narcissism there but I absolutely think her claims have merit_ the medium is inherently racist.

    She is the only actor (besides Ellen Gray, years later) I am familiar with to call out daytime soap opera's inexcusable track record when it comes to employing people of color both onscreen and behind the scenes. Daytime serials are aired daily and have a completely different impact on viewers who can regularly access these shows, learn and grow about diverse peoples and diverse subjects. I would argue that daytime feels less diverse now than it was in the early to mid-90's! Shameful!

    A few years ago, WLS posted an interview with Ellen Holly (daytime's first African-American lead) in which she describes the harsh treatment she and Lillian Hayman (Sadie Gray) received from executives at OLTL/ABC. I am not sure much has changed.

    Interesting, I have been thinking about the glaring omission of, deserving, African-American actresses in the list of pre-nominated actresses for daytime Emmys: Mischael Morgan and Karla Mosley.

    1. Joshua, I brought up Ellen Holly at the press conference yesterday. Ms. Rowell mentioned the infamous spitting incident and I couldn't help but flash back to the day Ms. Holly told us about being spit on by Paul Rauch. There are differences, different people and different times, but their stories have a lot of similarities as well and, whatever ultimately happens with this case, I hope we don't have to hear about another actress getting spit on 20 years from now, for any reason. Some fans want to dismiss Ms. Holly's claims because if they believe the stories of racism, there might be an ounce of truth to things she's said about a legendary OLTL actress. It makes people feel better to believe she is bitter, crazy, etc, the same things some say about Ms. Rowell. Ellen Holly is a brilliant, well-spoken woman, even today.

      Anyway, I hope more people will be willing to discuss race issues in an intelligent way, including the role they've played in soap opera history and today.

      Lastly, I've been working on a 25 Biggest Soap Opera Lawsuits in History list for 5 years now. It's about time to finish it. :)

    2. "Lastly, I've been working on a 25 Biggest Soap Opera Lawsuits in History list for 5 years now. It's about time to finish it. :)"

      ^^ One of the MANY reasons I love this site!

      Re: Rowell. If she weren't calling out the racism in the industry, who would? For that reason alone, I hope that she successfully sues and wins against her former employers. The industry desperately needs to "wake up" on this matter.

      Separately, daytime needs to stop recycling the same "talent" behind the scenes to run and write soaps when they have poor track records. Hello, Jill Farren Phelps? Dena Higley back at DAYS? I'd even include Ron Carvialti at GH.

      (And excuse my earlier typo, it's Ellen Holly not Gray. Both Linda Gray and "Sadie Gray" were on my mind when typing earlier :-)