Van Barnes, former assistant to Jeffrey Tambor who accused the actor of sexual harassment, gave her first television interview Wednesday morning. In an interview with Megyn Kelly on her NBC morning show, Barnes revealed more details of the harassment she said she experienced “continually” while working for Tambor. Because she spoke out, along with “Transparent” actress Trace Lysette, Amazon announced earlier this year that Tambor would not be returning to the groundbreaking show on which he plays the central character.
“Continually, I was always harassed. It ran the gamut of sexual harassment, physical harassment, and verbal abuse constantly. And this all really falls under the problem Hollywood has right now with this abuse of power and misogyny,” said Barnes.
Tambor denied the allegations when they first surfaced last fall, saying in an official statement: “I have never been a predator—ever. I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone.”
Barnes said it was the fact that Tambor was playing a transgender woman on the show that made her feel more comfortable with him. “It gave a sense of relationship.” She worked for Tambor for two years, on “Transparent” and a few other projects. She said the harassment would escalate during negotiations for the next job.
“During job negotiation times, he would start making comments about, ‘Well, why haven’t we slept together?'” She said these comments occurred “three times a week.”
Barnes denied Tambor’s advances many times, but added, “It wasn’t something that I could always deflect.” After telling him she was married on many occasions, she told him she wasn’t comfortable with her body. According to Barnes, Tambor said, “I’m comfortable with your body.” When she asked him what he meant, he said “I’ve seen you naked.”
“He said that in the middle of the night he actually watched me sleep.” Stunned, she asked him what she looked like. Tambor replied: “You sleep with one arm over your head.”
As a transgender woman, the decision to come forward was particularly fraught for Barnes. Not only has “Transparent” advanced the conversation for transgender rights, but the series employs many transgender actors and crew members. As a minority in Hollywood, Barnes is uncertain how speaking out will affect her career. “Not everyone is really open to having a transgender person working for them, and they don’t all understand our plight.”
The show’s creator, Jill Soloway, received criticism show for casting Tambor as a transgender woman in the first place. “Transparent” brought a heightened social awareness to the rights of transgender people, but it did so from an extremely problematic central character. Because she show emplyed so many other transgender actors, such as Lysette and Alexandra Billings, Tambor was essentially given a pass. It is all the more disheartening that someone the community rallied behind was himself enacting violence on transgender women — the most at risk group for sexual violence.
“Him being fired is just. In a male-driven Hollywood. He brought this on himself,” said Barnes. “But, they haven’t completed the whole process of helping me stand back up on my feet.”
Amazon has done the right thing, at least partially, by Barnes. Tambor is still set to appear on “Arrested Development” when it returns to Netflix later this year.
Watch the interview on “Megyn Kelly TODAY” below.