Australian actor Linden Furnell has lost the lead role in the musical American Idiot for making “inappropriate” comments to a female cast member on stage during a rehearsal.
Mr Furnell was cast in the lead role as Johnny, based on the songs of US band Green Day, but he didn’t appear in the opening night performance at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne after being sacked over the comments which were described as “a crude allusion to menstruation”.
“Mr Furnell’s dismissal was a consequence of breaching the company’s ‘Statement of Zero Tolerance to Inappropriate Behaviour’ previously communicated to him and all other company members by company management,” said artistic director Nick Skubij in a statement.
Mr Furnell described the incident in a post on his Facebook page.
“Some off-mic character banter takes place between us in the background. On one night I wasn’t careful and made a mistake,” he wrote.
“It was a particularly hot night in an old theatre without suitable aircon and we were both comically sweaty.
“Without thought, I made a crude allusion to menstruation among the banter. It was in poor taste and a lame attempt at humour.
“The kind of thing you say to make your friends go ‘euugghhh gross’,” and said he “apologised immediately.”
“I made a poor judgement call, assumed too much comfort in a work friendship.
“I apologised again for the upset caused.”
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at employee advocacy firm Discrimination Claims, said the case showed just how seriously the local entertainment industry is now taking complaints of sexual harassment.
“After the Harvey Weinstein and Craig McLachlan scandals, Aussie productions are taking a no-nonsense approach if there is even a whiff of inappropriate conduct,” he said.
“This case should really ring alarm bells for anyone who is even tempted to step outside acceptable boundaries of behaviour in the workplace.
“Unfortunately for Mr Furnell, an off-colour joke has cost him a lucrative gig, and it will no doubt have damaged his reputation in the industry,” Mr Heffernan said.
If you believe that you have been sexually harassed, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your options.