It was like Fred Savage was gearing up to direct its ninth episode of ABC’s reboot of The good years that a group of six women from the crew has united to take action. Despite their fears of possible repercussions, in February they sent a complaint to Disney and later spoke to a human resources manager about their concerns about the former child star’s conduct towards several women in the production.
“To their credit, I was contacted within hours,” said one of the group members. “An investigation immediately began and he was removed from the set.” On May 6, news broke that Savage had been fired as executive producer and director of the well-reviewed series, which has been renewed for a second season. A spokesperson for Disney’s 20th Television cited “allegations of inappropriate conduct” but did not elaborate.
A few days later, a Page 6 article reported that sources close to Savage said he was “doing a lot of self-reflection”. Savage “knows he can be a hole sometimes,” the column said. “Despite everything, we’re told Savage has received ‘overwhelming support’ from friends and colleagues on The good years production.” It was then that several of the women who had reported Savage decided to contact The Hollywood Reporter on the issues that led them to report their allegations to Disney. “Me and the other women think people need to know what the wrongdoing was,” said one.
She notes that Savage has previously resisted the allegations. In 1993, a customer of the original The wonderful years sued Savage, then 16, sued for sexual harassment. The matter has been settled. A female crew member on the set of Fox’s The grinder, which ran from 2015 to 2018, sued alleging that Savage “constantly threw profanity” at female employees and yelled at and punched her during a costume fitting. Fox found no evidence of wrongdoing and the lawsuit was settled. In both cases, Savage denied any wrongdoing. Despite these allegations, Savage has had a prolific career, not only as an actor, but also directing jobs on Boy Meets World, Black-ish, The Conners, Modern Family and 2 broke girlsamong other shows.
The women who worked on the wonderful years reboot say they saw two very different sides of Savage: a charismatic, seemingly supportive co-worker and a much darker, angrier alter ego. They say he could switch to the latter persona in an instant and in such moments it is said, “His eyes would go out.” Savage is said to have never engaged in such behavior in front of actors or executives. “They all see his perfect, perfect face,” she says, but he sometimes showed a different side to “employees below the line who don’t have power.”
The women who contacted Disney requested anonymity for fear of potential damage to their careers. They say they filed the complaint about conduct towards the women that ranged from verbal harassment to an alleged assault of a former crew member.
In a statement, Savage says THR: “Since the age of 6, I have worked on hundreds of sets with thousands of people, and I have always strived to contribute to an inclusive, safe and supportive work environment. It is devastating to learn that there are colleagues who think that I have not achieved these objectives. Although there are reported incidents that absolutely did not happen and could not have happened, anyone who feels hurt or offended by my actions is one too many I will strive to address and change any behavior that has negatively affected someone, as nothing in the world is more important to me than being a colleague , a friend, a husband, a father and a person who supports me.
A wonderful years crew member who was not part of the group who complained to Disney says she had a very positive impression of Savage. He was not only an exceptionally competent director but “very charming” and “very likeable”. She continues: “Fred is very sociable. He invited the crew to a bar or a small house he rented. She remembers those gatherings as “so much fun.”
But then, suddenly, he was gone. “It was so mysterious,” she says. In the media, the narrative focused on Savage’s alleged anger issues. But this crew member acknowledges that she was worried about the “strangeness” of Savage’s relationship with a much younger woman working on the crew. (Savage is 46 and married with three children.)
This source was not the only one to be worried. Others say that at some point the young woman moved into the house Savage occupied in Atlanta’s artsy Cabbagetown neighborhood, where The good years was filming. An associate says she shared he was buying her gifts and talking about what they would do together in the future.
The young woman in question refused to speak to THR. But sources say she shared that she was sometimes afraid of him when he was angry. He was “extremely in control of his daily behaviors,” says an associate who observed their interactions. “He was manipulative and erratic.” Another crew member says she tried to protect the young wife from Savage, at which point “he started verbally harassing me and putting me down.” This woman says she found Savage “creepy” because “when he pulled me away several times while he was verbally harassing me, his eyes went blank”, but then “he flips a switch and It’s Fred Savage.”
Crew members who had become uncomfortable watching the interaction between Savage and the young woman say that in the end, she seemed to be transformed by her interactions with Savage – more the bubbly person than she was. had been.
It was mainly the concern Savage seemed to have over this much younger person that ultimately prompted several women to report him to Disney HR. But she wasn’t the only one of the crew who caught Savage’s attention to the point that others took notice. One of the women who reported Savage said she saw his “very blatant favouritism” of another crew member, a woman in her early 30s, and found it disturbing. “I’ve been in the industry for a long time. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen a lot,” she says.
The woman in question, who has worked in the industry for about ten years, says THR that Savage befriended her over the months of the show. “We became acquaintances and friends,” she says. “It was very platonic.” He took her out to dinner and gave her expensive gifts which she refused. He met and charmed his parents. Knowing that she was an aspiring writer and comedian, she says, he made efforts to help her in her career. He came to his shows. He paid her to co-write a public service announcement. She says she considered him a brother or a cousin.
At one point, she had a bad breakup. “He was aware of it. I was very vulnerable,” she says. “You are on set 16 hours a day. I told him everything. Then she was abruptly fired, though she doesn’t believe it was at Savage’s direction. “I received no prior warning or reason,” she said. “I texted Fred. He was thrilled. He was, ‘This is the start of your career. You’re moving to LA’”
Although she was no longer working on the show, one night in early December 2021 she was invited to join the group at Astoria, a bar near Savage’s house with an outdoor area where the team often met. “He was buying shots for everyone,” she said. At some point, she went to the bathroom. As she exited the cabin, Savage entered. “I started laughing, like, ‘What are you doing? It’s a women’s bathroom,’ she says. She says he approached her with “like dead eyes” and pushed her against a wall. “I said, ‘Please don’t do this.’ I meant ruining the friendship I was pleading, not so much out of fear, but it wasn’t turning back.
At that moment, she said, “He put his mouth on mine very forcefully. He went to get the top of my pants. I brushed it off. Then he put his mouth on mine again, grabbed my hand and pulled it to his groin area. I was stepping back. He stopped very angry. I checked it on the shoulder so I could get out.
They both went back outside and Savage quickly left with the young crew member who had also absorbed much of his attention. But she says he texted her that night asking her to come to his house right away. “To stay neutral, I laughed like, ‘Ha ha, no, good night,’ because I was really scared of him for the first time,” she said.
He kept texting and calling for a few weeks, she said, asking to meet. “Once he just sent the note, ‘Tonight’,” she said. Then there was a silence for a few weeks, then a voicemail that she shared with THR. “It’s your old friend Fred,” he said. “We worked together for a while, then we didn’t work anymore, then I was a huge asshole. A huge asshole. And I’m really sorry. And I kind of owed you an apology for a minute here and so, uh, the truth is, I really like you and I really want to be friends and I’m so sorry I messed this up. She says she didn’t answer.
Several women who reported Savage to Disney HR said concern for the young crew member was the primary motivation for reporting his conduct to Disney. But they express their disappointment in someone who presented himself as an ally for women who wanted to further their professional advancement. “These men in charge know what the public is looking for and they know what words to use,” we explain. “We all felt supported by Fred. We really thought he supported women. He told us that he supported women. But that kind of support is not real.