Director Tristram Shapeero has apologized for the “unacceptable and insensitive remarks,” he made in August during a Zoom casting addition, about actor Lukas Gage’s apartment. Shapeero, however, believed he was on mute during the virtual audition.
“These poor people live in these tiny apartments, like, I’m looking at his, you know, background, and he’s got his TV and–” Shapeero was heard saying before Gage acknowledges that he can hear the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Brooklyn Nine-Nine director.
“Yeah, I’m muted. I know, it’s a shitty apartment, that’s why… give me this job so I can get a better one,” Gage responded.
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“Oh my God, I am so, so sorry,” said Shapeero after realizing that his comments were heard by the actor.
“Listen, I’m living in a four by four box, it’s fine, just give me the job and we’ll be fine,” quipped Gage in response.
The actor later published the video of the incident to his Instagram account, with the caption, “psa: if youre a shit talking director make sure to mute [your] mic on zoom [meetings].”
After the video garnered “millions of views and he has received support from all corners of the acting world and from many of his fans,” Shapeero apologized for his “insensitive remarks” in an op-ed published by Deadline.
“I have decided to come forward, take responsibility, make the apology Mr. Gage deserves, and offer some background for my unacceptable and insensitive remarks,” wrote Shapeero, adding that he was apologizing despite the “wise advice” he had received, which was, “to say the least possible and let this pass.”
“First and foremost I offer Mr. Gage a sincere and unvarnished apology for my offensive words, my unprofessional behavior during the audition and for not giving him the focus and attention he deserved. My job is to evaluate performers against the part I am trying to cast. Lukas deserved better.”
Shapeero said he was coming from a place of sympathy in his usage of the word “poor,” adding that he genuinely felt bad for actors that were “what the actors were having to endure, stuck in confined spaces, finding it within themselves to give a role-winning performance” during lockdowns in the wake of the Chinese coronavirus.
“It was emotional to see actors work so hard to win the few parts available and we were deeply moved by the passion of these young people under the extraordinary circumstances,” said Shapeero. “I was using the word ‘poor’ in the sense of deserving sympathy, as opposed to any economic judgment. My words were being spoken from a genuine place of appreciation for what the actors were having to endure, stuck in confined spaces, finding it within themselves to give a role-winning performance under these conditions.”
“I’m mortified about what happened,” continued Shapeero, adding that while he cannot change what happened, he will “move forward from this incident a more empathetic man. I promise, an even better partner to actors from the audition process to the final cut.”
Upon sharing the video to Instagram, Gage received support from several celebrities, including pop star Joe Jonas and actresses Bella Thorne and Lucy Hale.