A former “Below Deck” production staffer has accused the Bravo reality series of covering up sexual misconduct from cast member Gary King.
Samantha Suarez, who first joined the show’s makeup department on “Below Deck” Season 10, told Rolling Stone that King tried to force himself on Suarez in the preparation time for the fourth installment of “Below Deck Sailing Yacht.” Following the incident, Suarez said an HR representative for the show discouraged her from sharing her experience with other production staffers and retaliated against her when she wasn’t asked to return to the show.
“Bravo is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for cast and crew on our reality shows,” a spokesperson for the network said in a statement to TheWrap. “We require our third-party production companies to have appropriate workplace policies and trainings in place and a clear process on how to report concerns. The concerns Ms. Suarez raised in July 2022 were investigated at that time and action was taken based on the findings.”
The incident of sexual misconduct occurred at the DoubleTree by Hilton Olbia-Sardinia in Italy, where the entire cast and crew resided during the duration of the season. While assisting the talent manager in daily tasks, Suarez was responsible for bringing food and water to cast members under COVID-19 protocols, including King, who displayed “difficult” behavior for remaining isolated.
On one day in July, Suarez was responsible for accompanying King back to his room after partaking in several interviews for the show, during which she noted King was inebriated after consuming a “substantial amount of alcohol” — which was not limited by production. While bringing him back, Kind suggested that Suarez asked her to get into bed with him and asked her not to leave his room several times. When Suarez left the room and returned with snacks and water, King answered the door in his underwear before forcing himself on her and prohibiting her from leaving the room, she said. Suarez eventually escaped from his grasp and King slammed the door behind her, she added.
“At that point, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was freaking out,” Suarez told Rolling Stone. “It just happened so fast.”
Suarez said after the incident she told the show’s producers immediately, as well as a co-executive producer, executive producers Courtland Cox and Vivian Choi and the talent manager. She told producers that she no longer felt comfortable around King, and Cox assured her King would be removed from the show if additional incidents occurred. Suarez also informed the COO of 51 Minds Entertainment, the production company behind “Below Deck,” of the incident.
As Suarez struggled with declining mental health, an HR representative connected her with a counselor. Later in the season, however, Suarez noted that the HR representative asked her not to discuss the incident with other production staffers because “it was becoming water cooler talk.” Suarez accused the show of retaliating against her for reporting the incident to the production company. While Suarez was not asked back to the series, King remained on the show.
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