The actor was terminated Friday after allegedly kicking writer-producer Virgil Williams during an on-set argument.
Skip Miller, a prominent litigator with experience in entertainment industry disputes, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that he and partner Sasha Frid have begun representing Gibson and are evaluating whether to pursue legal claims. Miller, Frid and other attorneys at the Miller Barondes firm are set to meet with their client early next week. Miller declined to comment further.
The move comes as new details emerge from the fracas on the long-running CBS procedural and of Gibson’s sometimes-contentious relationship with his cast and crew.
Gibson, 54, was terminated by producers ABC Studios and CBS Television Studios after allegedly kicking writer-producer Virgil Williams in the shins during an on-set argument more than two weeks ago. Gibson, who stars in the show and was directing an episode written by Virgil, is said to have disagreed with Virgil about a creative choice, and the argument escalated to a physical fight. (A source close to Gibson describes his actions as “self defense” because Virgil trains as a boxer but other sources say Virgil is known to be a non-aggressive presence on the set and is small in stature and often wears a bow tie and blazer to work.) The incident was witnessed by several Criminal Minds producers, including showrunner Erica Messer.
After the altercation, Williams filed a formal complaint with human resources representatives for the studios and sat for an extensive interview. (Howard Davine, executive vp for ABC Studios, which is the lead producer on the show, is said to be playing a key role in the internal investigation). Gibson, who has been with the drama for 12 years, was suspended for two episodes and another director was brought in to finish the episode he was helming. A day after news of the suspension became public, Gibson was let go. Neither Messer, Davine nor ABC Studios or CBS Studios would comment but the language in the statement announcing his dismissal lacked the usual Hollywood sugar-coating. “Thomas Gibson has been dismissed from Criminal Minds,” CBS and the studios said in a joint statement Friday. “Creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show will be announced at a later date.”
Gibson, who is said to have made about $5 million to star in the show last season, issued his own statement Friday in which he said he loved Criminal Minds but declined to apologize for any bad behavior. Instead, he said, “I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and most importantly, the best fans a show could ever hope to have.”
It’s unclear what claims, if any, Gibson might pursue against the studios or CBS. In 2011, Charlie Sheen sued Warner Bros. Television and writer-producer Chuck Lorre for $100 million over his dismissal from the hit CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men after repeated erratic behavior. In the suit, Sheen alleged he had “suffered the intangible loss of employment-related opportunities,” among other claims, from his termination. (The case settled.) In a key difference from the Gibson matter, Sheen was not accused of physical abuse.
In 2012, ABC Studios went to trial with Nicollette Sheridan, who claimed she was wrongfully terminated from Desperate Housewives when she complained about physical abuse at the hand of showrunner Marc Cherry. That case is still winding its way through the appeals courts.
Gibson, who first became a TV star on ABC’s Dharma and Greg before starring as an original cast member when Criminal Minds launched in 2005, has had on-set dustups before. In 2010, he was ordered to attend anger management therapy after he allegedly shoved assistant director Ian Woolf during a location shoot. Sources close to the show say there have been other incidents of verbal abuse by Gibson, who is said to have a short fuse and a low tolerance for disagreement on the set. Gibson had a contentious relationship with Minds co-star Shemar Moore, who left the series after last season. Gibson, who tightly scheduled his duties on Criminal Minds so he could fly home to his family in San Antonio, often was upset by Moore showing up late to work. In 2013, Gibson pleaded no contest to reckless driving after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The ABC-CBS investigation is said to be ongoing, and producers and cast members are said to be expressing support for Williams. But as part of the probe, Williams’ role in the altercation also will be dissected, as will Gibson’s history of on-set relations. And if Gibson does decide to file a legal claim against the studios, Williams and other cast and crew members likely would be deposed.