Warner Bros. TV has opened an investigation into accusations of abuse made against “Black Lightning” showrunner and “Love Is” executive producer Salim Akil, in a lawsuit filed last week. Akil’s attorney calls the accusation “deeply upsetting” and “totally untrue.”
A studio insider told TheWrap Friday it is standard practice for Warner Bros. — which produces both “Black Lightning” and “Love Is” — to conduct an internal investigation/inquiry with cast and crew any time there are accusations of abuse or assault made. In Akil’s case, the accusations are not related to a WBTV production, but the studio is investigating to ensure the safety and well-being of the cast and crew.
“These allegations are deeply upsetting – but they are also totally untrue,” Akil’s attorney Stephen D. Barnes told TheWrap in a statement Sunday. “We will defend Salim to the fullest against the false and offensive claims that a woman with whom he had a past relationship has included in multiple unsubstantiated lawsuits. Salim looks forward to clearing his name and to being able to focus on his work and his family.”
Per the source, production is currently underway on the second season of The CW superhero series, and there will be no suspension for Akil or the production as the internal investigation, which began Friday, occurs. According to the insider, Warner Bros believes in due process and has never had a complaint about Akil.
Warner Bros declined TheWrap’s request for comment on the studio’s investigation.
Actress and screenwriter Amber Dixon Brenner said in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last week that she had engaged in a decade-long sexual relationship with Akil, during which time he abused her on multiple occasions.
In the suit, Brenner accused Akil of committing physical abuse, verbally threatening her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
“In the early summer of 2017, which was the last time defendant Akil and [Brenner] had sexual relations, he backhanded her in the face during sex with a closed hand,” the complaint reads. “These acts were all committed without the consent of [Brenner].”
Brenner said the relationship ended in 2017, approximately 10 years after she first began “dating” Akil, who has been married to “Love Is” co-creator and “Black Lighting” executive producer Mara Brock Akil for nearly 20 years.
“The reasons why [Brenner] did not leave Akil after the very first of these instances occurred are complicated and the subject of significant resulting therapy for [Brenner]. [She] believed she loved Akil,” the complaint states, also citing Akil’s position as a powerful television producer.
Also named in the lawsuit are Brock Akil and OWN, which airs “Love Is.” Brenner said that she allowed Akil to read her screenplay titled “Luv & Perversity in the East Village,” which he then used as the basis for “Love Is.”
“After years of being involved in this abusive boyfriend/girlfriend dating sexual relationship, [Brenner] wrote about loving a person who is detrimental to her own life and takes the readers on a journey that explores love in the context of such an abusive relationship, as told from the perspective of the young female protagonist,” the complaint reads.
Brenner gave Akil the script to gauge his interest in potentially collaborating on the project, to which she said he replied that he was “really enjoying” reading it. The complaint says that Akil then began work on a project “based upon many of the same characters, themes, etc … that existed in LPEV,” which eventually became “Love Is” on OWN.
The accusation is mirrored in a separate copyright infringement lawsuit Brenner filed in U.S. District Court last month.
Brenner is suing for unspecified damages for emotional distress and to cover lost profits from the use of her ideas.
A spokesperson for OWN did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment Thursday.
Tony Maglio contributed to this story.