CBC Investigates

Artistic director of Vancouver arts school steps down after sexual harassment allegation surfaces

A Vancouver-based actor well known for his role as "Happy" the dwarf in the hit TV series Once Upon A Time has stepped down from the private arts institute he co-owned after staff became aware of an allegation of sexual harassment dating back to 2009.

Michael Coleman denies the allegation, said he stepped down because of shareholder dispute

Michael Coleman is no longer involved with SchoolCreative: Institute for the Arts or GO Studios. He has sold his ownership interest in both companies, according to a statement from the institute.

A Vancouver-based actor well known for his role as "Happy" the dwarf in the hit TV series Once Upon A Time has stepped down from the private arts institute he co-owned after an allegation of sexual harassment dating back to 2009 emerged.

Officials with SchoolCreative: Institute of the Arts issued a statement to CBC News saying that the allegation against Michael Coleman does not involve any students of the school and predates his involvement with SchoolCreative. No other details about the alleged incident were revealed.

In a statement to CBC News, Coleman called the allegation "unfounded" and said he stepped down because of a shareholder dispute. He said because the school's investigation was not completed, he did not have an opportunity to respond to the complaint.

The school and its affiliated agency GO Studios have confirmed Coleman — who was the artistic director and chief academic officer — no longer has any relationship with them.

"Michael Coleman will no longer be involved with SchoolCreative: Institute of the Arts or GO Studios. Mr. Coleman has voluntarily agreed to step down from all roles with the company and has sold his ownership interest in both companies," the statement read.

Teachers return after resignations

After news of the allegation emerged two weeks ago, 14 instructors at the school resigned. Some of those instructors told CBC News at the time that they planned to return now that Coleman has resigned.  

The institute said the allegation stems from an incident in 2009 which predates the school itself. (Don Marce)

Coleman was one of three owners of SchoolCreative: Institute of the Arts. He has a lengthy career in acting including roles in series such as Supernatural, Smallville and Stargate SG-1. According to his website, he is also a filmmaker and director. Coleman has also worked as an acting instructor.

SchoolCreative: Institute of the Arts was founded in 2013, but has evolved and merged with other businesses in the past, including the Vancouver Acting School. Its current programs include acting, video game programming and design, animation, photography and writing.

Other alleged incidents

CBC News has learned that a number of women have contacted one Vancouver-based lawyer about alleged incidents involving Coleman.

"I have been speaking to various women who have come forward with information regarding their experiences with Michael Coleman, among others," said J.J. McIntyre.

McIntyre would not say how many women he's spoken to or details of any alleged incidents, citing attorney-client privilege.

There are no legal proceedings currently underway. The CBC has not independently verified any of the allegations against Coleman.

'I have done nothing wrong'

Coleman did not respond to CBC's request for an interview, but in his statement said the allegations are untrue. 

"Due to an ongoing shareholders dispute for the past several months — a dispute that has nothing to do with recent unfounded allegations – I have chosen to sell my shares of SchoolCreative," said Coleman.

He added he was informed of complaints, but was never given a chance to address them.

"As for the recent unfounded allegations, the school's investigation was never completed. I was provided with some details about four complaints but I was never given an opportunity to respond to those allegations, all of which are untrue. Moreover, I was not provided with any information whatsoever about any other allegations purportedly made to the school," said Coleman.

"I am confident I have done nothing wrong."

About the Author

Farrah Merali

Reporter

Farrah Merali is a reporter with CBC Toronto with a passion for politics and urban health issues. She previously worked as the early morning reporter at CBC Vancouver. Follow her at @FarrahMerali