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Walter Mosley Says He Quit Star Trek: Discovery After Being Reported for Using the N-Word

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 15: Walter Mosley attends the BAM Gala 2019 on May 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for BAM)
Walter Mosley attending the BAM Gala 2019 in New York
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

After two tumultuous seasons—including the departure of its original showrunners following allegations of their belligerent, verbally abusive, management style—the writers room for Star Trek: Discovery appeared to have landed a coup with the enlistment of acclaimed novelist Walter Mosley. Three weeks into his tenure, however, the O. Henry- and (two-time) NAACP Image Award-winner just mysteriously stopped showing up, according to sources speaking to The Hollywood Reporter.

Mosley opted to tender his resignation publicly, in an unsparing New York Times op-ed published to the site Friday.

An anonymous fellow member of Discovery writers’ room went to human resources to report their discomfort with Mosley’s use of the n-word, uttered while quoting a police officer in a personal anecdote about race relations in Los Angeles.

Someone in the room, I have no idea who, called H.R. and said that my use of the word made them uncomfortable, and the H.R. representative called to inform me that such language was unacceptable to my employers. I couldn’t use that word in common parlance, even to express an experience I lived through.

There I was, a black man in America who shares with millions of others the history of racism. And more often than not, treated as subhuman. If addressed at all that history had to be rendered in words my employers regarded as acceptable.

Mosley, whose debut novel Devil in a Blue Dress became the 1995 film starring Denzel Washington, and whose most recent television work has been as a consulting producer/writer for the FX series Snowfall, is no stranger to Hollywood mores or writers room etiquette. (A generous appraisal of the whole episode might be that emotions remain raw within the writers room after past drama wherein showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts are claimed to have shouted expletives and abusive comments at the staff, and demanded that they only voice their concerns internally.)*

Aside from touching on the civil rights issues at play, as well as the chilling effect that the anonymous charge had on creative chemistry within the writers room, Mosley’s Times op-ed also noted one ancillary benefit to the vigorous defense of free speech: It affords bigots the chance to loudly and proudly tell on themselves.

A few years ago when a group of my peers said that they supported outlawing the Confederate flag, I demurred. Don’t get me wrong. I have no warm and fuzzy feelings about that flag, but I do know that all Americans have the right of self-expression. (Also, if someone has that flag in their mind, I’d prefer to see it on their front porch too.)

In a statement first published by The Hollywood Reporter, representatives for Discovery’s producers at CBS TV Studios said, “We have the greatest admiration for Mr. Mosley’s writing talents and were excited to have him join ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’ While we cannot comment on the specifics of confidential employee matters, we are committed to supporting a workplace where employees feel free to express concerns and where they feel comfortable performing their best work. We wish Mr. Mosley much continued success.”

Correction, Sept. 13, 2019: This piece originally referred to former Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller in an instance when it should have referred to former Discovery showrunner Aaron Harberts.