Jeremy Tardy, who had a recurring role as a Kenyan student on Netflix’s series Dear White People, recently announced he was leaving the show, claiming racial discrimination and pay disparities affecting people of color.
In a recent Facebook post, Tardy confirmed he will no longer be portraying the role of “Rashid” and called out the series’ production company Lionsgate for not accepting his negotiated financial compensation counteroffer, while it did accept his white colleague’s.
“After being offered to return for several episodes my team was notified that our counter offer would not be considered and that the initial offer was the ‘best and final’,” he wrote. “This news was disturbing because one of my white colleagues—being a true ally—revealed that they too had received the same initial offer and had successfully negotiated a counter offer. My team expressed this issue to Lionsgate and the producers maintained their position that the white actor was able to negotiate while I was not—regardless of my credits and experience.”
Tardy added that he and six other recurring cast members initially “banded together” and decided not to take the initial offer on Aug. 31, noting that they had all suspected that there were pay disparities negatively affecting people of color on the cast and crew. However, Tardy claimed that Lionsgate and Netflix undermined their collective bargaining power via “side deals” and “lack of transparency.”
According to sources close to the production, the budget for Season 4 was increased significantly, with a portion of the increase earmarked for recurring cast members who all were offered raises. Some of them accepted, others held out for more money, a standard negotiating tactic. All offers were reportedly approved by series creator Justin Simien, with the negotiating window closing when he had to start writing the final season. (Simien serves as EP/co-showrunner alongside Yvette Lee Bowser.)
“These companies have recently released statements and even donations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Tardy continued. “I am calling out their shameful practices of discrimination and racial inequality with regard to how they have historically undervalued and lowballed people of color. Politically correct lip service and symbolic gestures do not absolve you of the daily responsibility of doing business in a fair and equitable manner.”
“This was a purely financial negotiation regarding deal terms,” Lionsgate said in a statement to Deadline. “Lionsgate is committed to equal treatment for all talent regardless of race, gender, age or sexual orientation. We are very proud of Dear White People and its place in the national conversation about racial equality and social justice and we look forward to beginning production on its 4th season.” Netflix deferred to Lionsgate in regard to an official response on the matter.
The series, created by Justin Simien, will be returning for a fourth and final season. We don’t know the exact premiere date yet, but it was initially set to premiere sometime in 2020. Since Lionsgate’s statement shows they are just starting production, the projected date could possibly be pushed back even further.