The shady side of Clayne Crawford

Clayne Crawford was plucked from relative obscurity before taking on the character made famous by Mel Gibson in the hit Lethal Weapon. With small roles on 24, Justified, NCIS: New Orleans, and SundanceTV's Rectify, Crawford didn't seem like a bankable choice to play Detective Martin Riggs in the small screen adaptation of the successful film franchise. Famous actor Damon Wayans, Sr. was set to play Roger Murtaugh, a role originated by Danny Glover, so would Crawford be overshadowed? Could Crawford effectively portray a loose cannon with frightening anti-social behavior? Oh man, could he. 

After two successful seasons on the buddy cop action-drama, Fox and Warner Bros. learned Crawford could apparently do it offscreen as well. From screaming profanities at 10-year-olds and forcing directors to quit mid-episode to not being very proficient with apologies or special-effects, the actor was reportedly trouble on set. Let's jump in the cruiser, hit the lights, and investigate the shady side of Clayne Crawford. 

He reportedly caused trouble on set

During Lethal Weapon's second season, the show was Fox's highest-rated returning drama behind Empire, pulling in 8.7 million viewers per week. The show's success made a third season look like an inevitability. But on April 23, 2018, with the season finale two weeks away, Deadline exposed Lethal Weapon as a beleaguered production under attack from its star, Clayne Crawford. Shedding light on his "history of bad behavior" and the repeated discipline he'd faced for "emotional abuse and creating a hostile environment," the article was the first peek into the many troubles that eventually would put those renewal plans in jeopardy.   

"I hear the issue has escalated to a point where other actors, as well as crew on Lethal Weapon, would feel uncomfortable being on set with him," the Deadline report read. The article's writer, hinting at the potential severity of the situation, also claimed Crawford was "threatening the future of the show," and that it would be "a rare and dramatic move" if the network pulled the trigger on a recast. As one might have expected, Fox and Warner Bros. declined to comment at the time.

He apologized after facing backlash

A day after the Deadline article dropped, Crawford posted a lengthy Instagram apology where he admitted to being "reprimanded twice" and attempted to make the case that his actions, while unacceptable, were either in the best interest of the show or due to forces beyond his control. The first incident arose after his angry outburst at a guest director for what he deemed to be unsafe working conditions. He claimed he met with human resources, completed "studio-appointed therapy," and donated a "sizable portion" of his paycheck to "one of the parties involved" per Warner Bros.' mandate. The second reprimand followed an injury to an actor who was hit by shrapnel during an episode Crawford was directing. He called it an "unfortunate event," despite all "safety precautions and procedures" being followed.

"I absolutely love, respect and care for my crew and cast, and would never intentionally jeopardize so many jobs," Crawford continued. He then apologized if his "passion for doing good work" made anyone feel uncomfortable on set. He concluded, "Furthermore, I apologize to all the crew and cast for any negative attention Lethal Weapon is receiving because of these incidents," adding that he hoped fans would "stick with" both him and the show.

It's good Crawford apologized for any bad behavior, but is it really a sincere apology if it was likely only made to save his job?

Crawford's future with the show was in danger

Two weeks after Crawford's disruptive behavioral issues went public, Deadline's sister site TVLine spoke with multiple sources close to the show who claimed the increasingly untenable situation forced the network to actively begin searching for someone to "replace the embattled actor in the role of Martin Riggs." Reps for Fox and Warner Bros. once again declined comment and Crawford's agent didn't respond to requests for confirmation. However, even though damaging rumors about Crawford becoming impossible to work with spread, a source maintained a "final decision" had yet to be made on anything, causing further speculation on the show's future.

The silence from the main players left fans wondering if Crawford's fate was sealed — including Crawford himself. "Hmmmmmm?" he tweeted at the time, alongside a goofy photo of himself on a boat. He jokingly followed up with, "Wait, wait, wait......you can't fire me on my day off!" Turns out they can.

Crawford's behavior cost him his job

"Warner Bros. Television has decided not to renew Clayne Crawford's contract for Lethal Weapon," the network said in a statement less than a week later. After much speculation, they rendered the final verdict. A mere 24 hours before Fox unveiled its 2018 fall lineup, the show officially received the green-light for its third season with a new lead on board: Steve Stifler himself, American Pie's Seann William Scott. 

In a statement to Variety, the president of entertainment of Fox Broadcasting, Michael Thorn, called Scott "a fantastic addition to this already amazing cast" and expressed his excitement to see "Damon and Seann together on screen." Making this his first leading role on prime-time television, Scott will reportedly play a brand new character "who folds into a partnership" with Damon Wayans' Detective Murtaugh. 

However, despite Thorn's best public relations platitudes, Fox Chairman and CEO Dana Walden admitted firing Crawford was "not [their] choice," but it went down after Warner Bros. forced their hand. Promising the network would "support it from a marketing point of view," she conceded that the only "circumstances that they could offer" were ultimately parting ways with Crawford and replacing him with another actor.

Some co-stars had Crawford's back

"To my cast and crew — CONGRATULATIONS on season 3! To the Fans — Thank you for the overwhelming support and love," Crawford posted on Instagram hours after the news of his termination broke. Adding that the character of Riggs was "a dream role" and that his "heart was full," he wished them luck in the new season. Almost immediately, his castmates rushed to social media to lavish praise on their recently fired friend. Crawford's on-screen stepson Teo Briones singled him out for making his experience on Lethal Weapon "really special for [him]." 

The most significant endorsement, however, came from former One Tree Hill actress Hilarie Burton, who played Riggs' love interest DEA agent Karen Palmer. When asked by a Twitter fan if she could share any "kind words" about Crawford, she didn't hesitate. 

"That guy greeted me on my very first day and has been a friend ever since," she wrote. "When I couldn't find childcare while I was working, he had his wife and kids take care of Gus. He shows up early. He knows his lines. He pushes to make every scene its best. I've watched him fight on the behalf of other people." Burton said that in defending Crawford she would "upset" someone, but she believed it was the "right thing to do." 

"It's hard to stand up in this business," he gratefully replied. "Thank You! #family #integrity." 

Crawford made an enemy out of Damon Wayans

The person Hilarie Burton knew she would upset? Probably Damon Wayans. Two days after the Seann Williams Scott casting news was announced, Wayans hopped on Twitter and went nuclear. "Now that the fate of the show is solidified..I'd like to address the TWITTER outrage with this video and image to follow #directedby @ClayneCrawford," the veteran actor tweeted with an accompanying video of himself being struck violently by shrapnel from a special effects explosion.

He then posted a photo of his bleeding head wound and reiterated that Crawford had directed the specific episode. "How does the shrapnel from this hit me on the opposite side of the head?" he asked, pointing out that the blast took place on his right while he suffered an injury to his left. "Below is a rendering seeking to explain yesterday's incident," Wayans further elaborated, adding "#noapology" specifically for Crawford. 

Sit back, guys. Wayans was just getting started. 

Damon Wayans called Crawford an 'emotional terrorist'

His tweetstorm now in full swing, Wayans then proceeded to share a photo of a sticker (which portrayed Crawford's face in wanted poster form) that read, "Clayne Crawford is an emotional terrorist." He fired off, "Since @warnerbrostv is not defending me at all..here's another photo of images other people were posting in and around the lot. Not me!" With the hashtag "#dontblameme," Wayans declaimed, "He became UNINSURABLE! Relished in making [females] cry. And [struck] fear in cast and crew." Next, Wayans alleged Crawford purposely hit legendary character actor Lance Henriksen with "a bottle of green tea and busted his mouth open." 

Frustrated by the replies he was receiving, Wayans threatened to leave Twitter over "weirdos who don't understand set decor" and the "privilege it is to do what we do." He added, "Put up with this two seasons. Kiss the dark side of my a** if you don't understand it wasn't just me. @ClayneCrawford has a file of infractions," before tagging Warner Bros. and imploring them to "#releasethetapes."

Wayans made his account private immediately following his rant, but, at the time of this writing, it is now public again. 

Anonymous sources bashed Crawford

On June 1, 2018, Variety published a bombshell exclusive that detailed an environment so hostile and toxic that it seemed the cast and crew of Lethal Weapon were making Lord of The Flies behind the scenes. Consisting of 31 anonymous interviews with people who worked on the series, the report described a hijacked production that had descended into sheer chaos by the time the second season had wrapped. The contentious relationship between Crawford and Wayans was allegedly responsible for "grinding production to a halt on multiple occasions" and "splitting the crew into factions." Their virulent dislike of each other deteriorated to such a point that armed security guards were reportedly hired to work in shifts to prevent simple disagreements from boiling over into physical violence.

While crew members saw Wayans as an out-of-touch diva, they painted Crawford as an unhinged tyrant with a hair-trigger who routinely clashed with everyone around him. Described as "combative" and "aggressive-aggressive," the actor allegedly subjected crew to profanity-laced tirades that went on so long that they eventually learned to tune him out.

The set was allegedly such a raging dumpster fire that it's unfathomable how the network managed to keep it as quiet as long as they did.

Crawford reportedly caused co-workers to quit

Per Variety, director Eric Laneuville was hired to helm several episodes throughout the second season. He is said to have "butted heads with multiple actors," but, during the filming of episode nine in October, he allegedly caught the ire of Crawford who had grown "increasingly frustrated" while shooting a scene at a Los Angeles public pool which production had failed to lock down for filming. The constant background noise from a group of children playing in the pool "repeatedly interrupted filming."

During the middle of a take, Crawford allegedly went ballistic on the assistant director. He is said to have screamed, "Shut the f**k up! Goddamnit Newman, f**king they're right here! Get somebody in here with a f**king walkie and shut 'em the f**k up! Or did we not pay for this f**king place? If we did, shut 'em the f**k up!" The assistant director reportedly then "walked off set" and resigned his position on his way out.

The next day, Crawford and Laneuville reportedly argued over how to shoot a scene involving a car accident. Tensions escalated to the point where Laneuville "metaphorically threw up his hands and let Clayne and the stunt coordinator deal with the whole scene," as reported by Variety. Laneuville then quit the show the next morning, leaving the show's editor, Matt Barber, stuck with the task of directing the rest of the episode. Warner Bros. reportedly used $40,000 from Crawford's paycheck to compensate Barber for his work.

Crawford and Wayans went at it on set

With Clayne Crawford in the director's chair for the 20th episode, Damon Wayans Sr. was struck on the back of the head by a piece of shrapnel from an errant special effects explosion (via Variety). A crew member stated Wayans refused medical attention and exited the set, leaving Crawford with only Wayans' stunt double to shoot the remainder of the scene. During this time, Wayans' assistant was by one of the production's monitors "using his phone to take video of playback from the incident." When Wayans returned to set the next day, he and Crawford immediately started a heated exchange, with Wayans demanding "to know who was responsible for the explosion," and threatening to have the special effects crew fired. Variety secured partial audio of their argument, in which Crawford was recorded calling Wayans, "A p***y," adding, "You're the biggest crybaby p***y I've ever met in my life." Wayans replied, "Well suck this p***y's d**k."

Wayans then told producers he wouldn't shoot another gunfight scene due to the incident and left the set. After Crawford found out, he stormed over to Wayans' trailer where Wayans' assistant blocked him from entering and "the two exchanged profanities," before Wayans jumped in. Security soon arrived to break up the altercation. Production shut down for the remainder of the day, and, when the pair returned to work, the episode had undergone a rewrite so Crawford and Wayans "would not be in any scenes together for the remainder of shooting."