Allegations of sexual harassment and bullying made against the actor-producer Noel Clarke have shaken the film and television industry, prompting two broadcasters to cancel popular shows he was starring in and launching a debate about the treatment of women on sets.
The allegations against Clarke also led to questions about the decision by Bafta (die British Academy of Film and Television Arts) to give the actor a special award for outstanding British contribution to cinema last month.
ITV cancelled plans to show the final episode of Clarke’s primetime drama Viewpoint on Friday night after the Guardian revealed it had spoken to 20 women with allegations against Clarke, including that he secretly filmed naked auditions.
Sky halted Clarke’s involvement in any of its productions, effective immediately, as six more people came forward with allegations of misconduct against him and industry figures spoke out in favour of the alleged victims.
They include former students at the London School of Dramatic Art (LSDA) who said he encouraged students to remove their clothes during improvisation workshops. The school’s founder, Jake Taylor, confirmed the incident. Once alerted, he said he acted swiftly and “stopped [Clarke] doing the classes”.
“Nobody should ever be asked to take their clothes off by a member of staff, or anybody,” Taylor said.
Clarke’s lawyers denied that the LSDA had ever asked him to stop giving his classes, and said this workshop, called “Facing Your Fears”, was intended to help students with anxieties over their acting roles, helping to “normalise” the removal of outer clothing in a safe environment.
They say Clarke categorically denies that as part of this he encouraged or forced anyone to be naked and said the workshop was open to, and was attended by, both male and female adult students and that Clarke made it clear it was not obligatory to participate.
Clarke has denied that he has ever coerced, encouraged or pressurised any individual into non-consensual sexual activities.
“In a 20-year career, I have put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of my work and never had a complaint made against me. If anyone who has worked with me has ever felt uncomfortable or disrespected, I sincerely apologise. I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or wrongdoing and intend to defend myself against these false allegations," hy het gesê.
On Friday night, Clarke released a new statement. “Recent reports, egter, have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realise. To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.”
Bafta knew of the existence of the multiple allegations two weeks before it presented Clarke with the award, but said it was provided with no evidence that would allow it to investigate. Insiders said the organisation felt it was in an “impossible” situation.
The Guardian can reveal that Bafta’s chair, Krishnendu Majumdar, repeatedly asked intermediaries to the women making allegations to speak with him, requests that continued until the night before the award was given on 10 April.
None agreed to speak to him, and Majumdar felt he was in an “impossible” position.
“People will say, ‘Bafta knew, and didn’t do anything about it.’ We’ve been trying to do something about it,” Majumdar told one intermediary. “In the court of public opinion we are going to be … this will destroy us.”
ITV said it took the unusual decision to pull the broadcast of the final episode of its five-part big-budget thriller, due to air on Friday night, because of the “very serious nature” of the allegations raised by women who have worked with Clarke.
“ITV has a zero-tolerance policy to bullying, harassment and victimisation, and robust procedures in place to investigate and deal with any complaints,” said a spokesperson. “We strongly believe that everyone deserves to work in a supportive and safe environment.”
The actor Alexandra Roach, who co-starred in Viewpoint, said of the women’s allegations: “I see you. ek hoor jou. I believe you. Thank you to the women for your incredible bravery in coming forward and helping to put a stop to this kind of behaviour in our industry.”
Sky said it had stopped work on the forthcoming series of the award-winning police show Bulletproof, which was created by and also stars Clarke, after reading the allegations. “Sky stands against all forms of sexual harassment and bullying and takes any allegations of this nature extremely seriously,” it said.
Ashley Walters, Clarke’s co-star on the show, said he was shocked by the claims, “and whilst Noel has been a friend and colleague for several years, I cannot stand by and ignore these allegations”.
“Sexual harassment, abuse and bullying have no place in our industry," hy het gesê. “Every woman has the right to a safe workplace and moving forward I pledge my dedication to this.”
Vertigo Films, the UK producer behind of Bulletproof, said it had not received any complaints, but encouraged anyone affected to get in contact. It said: “Effective immediately, Noel Clarke is removed from any Vertigo Films production.”
Michaela Coel, whose award-winning BBC series I May Destroy You was influenced by her experience of sexual assault in the television industry, also publicly offered her backing for the individuals who spoke to the Guardian.
“I am here to offer great support for the 20 brave women who have come forward; those who have shared their identities with us, but also those who have preferred to use an alias.
“Speaking about these incidents takes a lot of strength because some call them ‘grey areas’. They are, egter, far from grey.”
By Friday night, the tally of people the Guardian had spoken to with allegations against Clarke had risen to 26. They include the 20 women who had earlier accused him of sexual harassment, unwanted touching or groping, sexually inappropriate behaviour, bullying and secretly recording naked auditions between 2004 en 2019.
The Guardian also spoke to a number of people who said they had positive experiences working with Clarke. Egter, news of the allegations prompted more people to come forward, including those with concerns about his conduct at the LSDA in the early 2010s.
Mike Clarke, a former student at the LSDA, said that on 12 Augustus 2012 Noel Clarke ran a dramatic workshop in which he encouraged students, mostly aged 18-20, to strip down to their underwear for a scene in which they were improvising “getting ready for bed”. All the students stripped to their underwear, with the exception of one female student who kept on her T-shirt, hy het gesê, adding that teachers at the school were “furious, which makes sense now”.
A female classmate confirmed the incident, which she said made her feel uncomfortable and which she later regretted. “I felt so ashamed that I had been so naive and gullible," sy het gese. “And I’ve remembered it ever since.”