Day 6

'Being groomed': How Hollywood preys upon young male actors

This week, a series of men alleged that Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey sexual harassed them. Actor Blaise Godbe Lipman says he was abused by an agent a decade ago and that too many young men are being preyed upon in Hollywood.
Blaise Godbe Lipman (IMDB)
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by Brent Bambury

This week, two famous actors find themselves facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct. Dustin Hoffman was accused of groping writer Anna Graham Hunter on set.
Anthony Rapp at Comic-Con International 2017 in July. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
And actor Anthony Rapp said Kevin Spacey manhandled him at a party and tried to seduce him.

The alleged victims were 17 and 14 at the time.

Hoffman and Spacey apologized for those specific incidents, but then others came forward with more allegations against each star.

Spacey now faces allegations that he abused colleagues on set during the production of House of Cards, and at the Old Vic Theatre during the 11 years that he served as artistic director.

Making movies or television or theatre is an art, but it's also work.

Performers compete for roles in a field with little security. They must manage their career decisions as carefully as their craft.

When the women accusing Harvey Weinstein recount their experiences, you're reminded that these are people trying to do their jobs, how vulnerable they are, and how easy it is to leverage power to exploit them.

Now, the allegations against Spacey hint at the extent of the abuse absorbed by boys and young men in the industry.

              

Fall of a celebrity agent

Last month, the star of Stranger Things, Canadian actor Finn Wolfhard, 14, left the powerful APA agency which had represented him.

His former agent, Tyler Grasham has been accused by multiple young men of sexual assault. Wolfhard is not among the accusers. APA investigated their employee and later fired him.  

Actor Finn Wolfhard attends The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January. (Charley Gallay/Getty Images)

The doors to the Grasham allegations were opened by Blaise Godbe Lipman. He's a former child star who posted on Facebook his account of how he was exploited. Lipman writes:

"Tyler Grasham, under the pretense of a business meeting regarding potential agency representation at APA Agency, fed me alcohol while I was underage and sexually assaulted me."

"APA Agency has kept this man employed, working with kid actors. I find it incredibly difficult to believe they do not know of his predatory behavior, using his position within the company to prey on naïve kids."

      

          

In a statement to Day 6, APA says it "takes these allegations very seriously" and that it "engaged an independent investigator to research these claims the moment these allegations came to our attention."

APA claims it was unaware of Grasham's alleged behaviour. The L.A. Times reports that two former APA employees who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity said Grasham's alleged conduct with underage clients was known within the agency.

                        

More susceptible if you're gay

On Day 6, Lipman says young actors are more susceptible to being victimized if they're gay.

"The first step is kind of instilling this idea that you must be closeted," he says, because agents or managers who exploit gay actors also know that outing them could damage their career.

"It's an additional way to silence them because it's something that can be used against them if they were to speak out against their accuser, or to try to use their voice to challenge what happened."

"It's almost like grooming them."

It worked on him. Lipman says he told his parents about the incident with Grasham, but he begged his Dad not to take action.

"At this point I turned 18 and I'm living on my own and I was still very desirous for this career. I was very ambitious and I didn't want to ruin any chances." 
 

"I don't think it has traditionally been a very safe environment for people to speak out." - Blaise   Godbe   Lipman

The threat to his career kept Lipman quiet for a decade.

"Because the threat of being blacklisted and the threat of being outed was very, very real, I think that really speaks to this imbalance of power within the industry."

"It just creates a really perfect breeding ground for predators, because of that imbalance of power."
 

Prepared for the worst

Lipman says he wasn't naïve when he came to Hollywood and that he knew there would be predators in the industry.

"However I was surprised by how quickly I learned those lessons for myself and how quickly those people showed themselves," he says.

"I think for me, personally, because I was so ambitious and I wanted to work so hard, I was very much willing to accept that that was just a part of it."

"So I think I had to have a certain level of armour. And I think a lot of other people who might not be able to do that, they don't."

He's been hearing from those people since he posted his story.

"You know, for me this was a decade ago and on a personal level, I've processed and worked through those issues. So for me, I feel very healed."

"I wasn't seeking any kind of revenge or any kind of… emotional healing from this."

"But there were a lot of people whose wounds were a lot fresher."
 

#MeToo

Lipman, now 28, is still in the business as a producer and filmmaker. He shared his story because he was inspired by the courage of the women who spoke out about Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey Weinstein attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards in February. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

On his Facebook post he wrote:

"The collective power of agents is massive. I hope the light that's shed by the newly empowered victims who are coming forward, makes predators think twice."

Lipman was the first to make public allegations against Tyler Grasham. Does he wish he'd come forward sooner?

"I don't think it has traditionally been a very safe environment for people to speak out. And it's really only within the last few years in which I've built, you know, my own successes professionally within this industry that's kind of taken me out of that actor mentality of not being enough and not having a voice."

"Because, you know, essentially as an actor you are completely replaceable," Lipman says.

"Of course it would've been wonderful if it [speaking out] happened sooner so that, you know, more people could have been saved, I guess. But that's the way the cards fell."

Day 6 was unable to find an active contact for Tyler Grasham. He has yet to respond to the allegations publicly as of publishing.

Here is the full text of APA's statement to Day 6.

"APA takes these allegations very seriously and our hearts go out to anyone who may have been affected.  The safety and security of our clients and employees is of paramount importance to us.  We engaged an independent investigator to research these claims the moment these allegations came to our attention.  That investigation is ongoing and we will take appropriate action based on the findings."


To hear the full interview with Blaise Godbe Lipman, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.