The Umbrella Academy co-creator denies allegations of toxic behaviour

Steve Blackman, co creator of The Umbrella Academy, has denied allegations of toxic and bullying behaviour while working as showrunner on the Netflix series.

The hit sci-fi drama, which began in 2019 and stars Elliot Page, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Emmy Raver-Lampman, will return for its fourth and final season on Thursday (8 August).

The show, however, was hit with controversy last month when Rolling Stone obtained a HR complaint against Blackman.

Blackman, who co-created the show with Jeremy Slater, was accused of creating an environment that discriminated against women, with allegations from 12 staffers, the publication reported.

The complaint against Blackman was filed in early 2023 and an investigation was launched by Universal Content Productions (UCP), which ultimately cleared Blackman of all accusations in the HR complaint, although sources claimed to Rolling Stone the investigation was not thorough.

In the report, staffers claim Blackman hired a female writing team, one of whom was pregnant and took maternity leave one month into the 20-week job. The employee returned a month before her contract was due to end and, although the rest of the show’s team’s contracts were extended for another 10 weeks to finish the season, the female writing team’s was not.

“He told me he fired them because one was pregnant and didn’t tell him,” one employee alleged, while another claimed Blackman felt “ripped off” that he didn’t know the writer was pregnant when he hired her.

A spokesperson for Blackman told Rolling Stone the showrunner worked with UCP’s HR department to make sure the women’s contracts were “in full compliance with all policies and regulations”, adding that the decision to let them go was “solely based on performance and budget”.

Elliot Page in ‘The Umbrella Academy' (CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX)
Elliot Page in ‘The Umbrella Academy' (CHRISTOS KALOHORIDIS/NETFLIX)

Other staff members also claimed they had been fired under dubious circumstances, with Blackman demanding “unwavering loyalty”. They alleged The Umbrella Academy co-creator would reduce staff members’ roles or fire them if they ever disagreed with him.

Blackman was also said to have made “sexist, homophobic, and transphobic” comments throughout the show’s four-season run. In text messages provided to HR as part of the 2023 complaint, Blackman wrote to an unnamed recipient: “Elliot [Page] wants to come out as trans on the show. As Ivan. Oh my f***ing God. Kill me now.”

The showrunner has denied all allegations against him, with his representative telling Rolling Stone Blackman hesitated to include Page’s trans storyline on the show because the scripts for season three had already been written.

“Over six years and four seasons overseeing thousands of crew, actors, and writers, Steve Blackman led The Umbrella Academy to become a beloved series with devoted fans, enthralling stories, and a dedicated team making it all possible,” Blackman’s representative said.

“These allegations from a handful of disgruntled employees are completely false and outrageous, and in no way reflect the collaborative, respectful, and successful working environment Mr Blackman has cultivated.”

The Independent has contacted Netflix and Blackman’s representatives for comment.