In 1998, Georgina, a 27-year-old college student, was enjoying a drink outside The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Studio City when a tall man approached her. Introducing himself as Eric Weinberg, he complimented her looks and asked if she was a model. He offered to do headshots for her free of charge — a tantalizing proposition for the aspiring actor — and told her that he wrote for the NBC sitcom Veronica’s Closet.
“I was kind of skeptical,” says Georgina, who requested The Hollywood Reporter use only her first name to protect her identity. Weinberg gave her the number of the writers room. “I called because I wanted to protect myself.” The receptionist vouched for him as “a nice guy.” Days later, Georgina arrived at his home, and, she recalls, “that’s when my whole world just blew up.”
After giving her a glass of water, Weinberg took off his clothing and told Georgina to do the same, she says. “I was so scared that he was going to hurt me,” she recalls, “I just felt trapped.” After the assault, in which she says Weinberg took a pair of scissors and a razor to her pubic hair and raped her, she says he photographed her. “I remember he was telling me to smile,” she says. “I couldn’t smile.”
The incident illustrates how Weinberg, who on Oct. 25 pled not guilty to 18 counts of sexual assault including rape, was able to use his credentials as writer and producer on such sitcoms as Veronica’s Closet and Scrubs over the course of years to entice women to photoshoots where they allegedly were violated. Weinberg approached dozens of women — including at least one underage high school girl — at coffee shops and grocery stores. After his arrest in July, Georgina took her own account to the police, though it is not part of the 18 charges.
Weinberg is now in custody awaiting trial after a Los Angeles judge, describing him as a potential “serial rapist” and a danger to society, denied him bail. His lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
While there is no reason to think that any of Weinberg’s many associates over his two decades in the industry had cause to suspect him of criminal conduct, many say he displayed egregiously misogynistic and inappropriate behavior in writers rooms and on sets, leading to multiple complaints over the course of years. Beginning in 2001, Weinberg worked on more than 90 episodes of Scrubs as a writer, a supervising producer and a co-executive producer. His conduct finally got him fired in 2006, midway through the show’s fifth season, but thanks to his credit on the hit series and a boys’-club network of comedy writers that continued to hire him, Weinberg worked in the business for another 10 years. Despite subsequent complaints and firings, he was staffed again and again — even after a 2014 arrest for rape. (The district attorney’s office declined to file charges at the time, citing a lack of evidence.)
The saga shines a spotlight on a permissive culture that allowed Weinberg to keep working despite mounting signs of trouble. In at least one case, he was hired by producers who had previously been involved with Scrubs and knew that he had been let go for misconduct. His agency, ICM, also continued to work with him for years, even after primary agent Chris Silbermann — now at CAA — stepped away from him after learning that his client had been fired for his behavior. Even after his conduct led to his dismissal in 2007 from his job on Showtime’s Californication after a single season, junior ICM agents landed him gigs. Through CAA, which acquired the agency in June, ICM declined to comment.
Weinberg’s longevity raises questions about what kind of behavior was accepted not only by his agency but in certain writers rooms. Though it was a different time, legislation barring sexual harassment — including conduct that creates a hostile work environment — had long been on the books. The definition of harassment in a writers room, however, has never been clear. Entertainment is a creative business, and it is accepted that writers must have the freedom to express raunchy or off-color ideas — a principle reinforced by the dismissal of a 2004 sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by an assistant in the Friends writers room. Several women who worked with Weinberg after that decision say they believe that the ruling emboldened men who were inclined to harass women.
However murky the definition of harassment, Weinberg’s conduct was enough to get him fired from Scrubs more than a decade before reporting on Harvey Weinstein launched the #MeToo movement. When news broke of Weinberg’s arrest, many former colleagues expressed horror, but not surprise. One female writer says that of all the men she’s worked with, “he was the shittiest and he was the most brazen. When I found out, I was disgusted, and it explained so much.”
Says Michael Poryes, who worked in the Veronica’s Closet writers room in the late ’90s and went on to co-create That’s So Raven and Hannah Montana, “I thought he was a misogynistic asshole. I didn’t like him at all. Did I ever think it would go to this? My God, no. But he was incredibly misogynistic, very un-shy of talking about his friends who were women in the pornography industry. I never knew he had the evil side to him, but when I saw it, I was like, ‘All right, I’m not surprised one bit.’ “
Amy Sherman-Palladino, the showrunner on Veronica’s Closet for season two, calls the writers room on that show “the worst of the worst rooms I’ve worked in in terms of flat-out misogyny.”
Weinberg got his first regular TV gig in 1995 on Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher, where he would work for eight seasons in New York. Eventually he began to shuttle between New York and Los Angeles. It was around this time that then-20-year-old Kate, a waitress at the Improv Comedy Club on Melrose who requested use of only her first name, met and befriended Weinberg. “He was intelligent and funny as I recall, but also really weird,” she says. Weinberg would frequent the Improv while in L.A., sometimes with Maher, she says. She describes Weinberg as sexually aggressive over the phone, but much more timid face-to-face. When she visited New York, the two met up at a hip Upper West Side bar and Weinberg seemed “awkward and out of place.” A New York bartender at the time recalls Maher frequenting her bar with Weinberg, noting the duo’s “creepy” behavior toward women. Foreshadowing the pattern that would land Weinberg in jail decades later, the bartender says Weinberg “did try to pressure me into a photoshoot a few times.”
“Like many people, Bill was friendly with [Weinberg] — they sometimes played basketball with a group and were at the same industry events,” a spokesperson for Maher wrote THR. “But like others, Bill was shocked and of course had no idea [Weinberg] was doing what he’s been accused of doing.”
Weinberg was hired as a writer-producer on Veronica’s Closet, a Kirstie Alley sitcom from Friends co-creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman that ran on NBC from 1997 to 2000. Poryes joined the show about a third of the way into its second season and says he found himself in a dysfunctional environment. “I felt that room, especially the men in the room, were very sophomoric, and Eric fit,” he says.
Other Veronica’s Closet writers describe an environment where male writers watched porn, with an inflatable sex doll hanging in the room. One writer says Weinberg would leave the room and visit the set “anytime there were extras,” often young women in their 20s. Others recall that Weinberg’s nickname in the writers room was Weinperv.
One memory stands out for Poryes: a situation in which Weinberg played what apparently was intended as a prank on a female writer. “From behind, he put his hand under her crotch,” he says. The woman laughed it off, Poryes says, but Sherman-Palladino “blew up” at Weinberg.
Sherman-Palladino — who came onto the series with a writers room already in place — confirms the incident. She says Weinberg was funny and sharp but notes that his “dark energy” was a powerful negative influence on younger men in the room. “There’s a lot of forgiveness that goes on in rooms, and I support that,” she says. “Unless you’re able to speak your mind, you’re not going to get the gold.” But the environment on Veronica’s Closet was such that it was difficult to get good material for a show with two female leads (Kathy Najimy co-starred). “It was an ugly room,” she says. “It was a room that made me reevaluate whether I wanted to be in comedy at all.” In fact, she did step away from sitcoms; she’d next create Gilmore Girls and later The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
After Sherman-Palladino left the show, another Veronica’s Closet writer, Monica Piper, stood up to Weinberg as he made sexual jokes about a female colleague. Piper, whose credits include Roseanne and Mad About You, was sent home afterward and fired days later. Showrunner and Friends alum Jeff Astrof told the writers he fired her because Piper “reminded [him] of his mother,” according to two Veronica’s Closet writers. Astrof did not respond to requests for comment.
Veterans of writers rooms of the era have varying reactions when asked what sort of conduct was accepted 15 or 20 years ago. Comedy was particularly raunchy and rough, and there were many rooms where extremely off-color or offensive joking was common and even encouraged. “This is going to sound so naive and dumb, but in the late ’90s, the 2000s, it was, ‘How outrageous can you be in a room?’ ” says Daisy Gardner, who wrote on The Goldbergs and Silicon Valley and with Weinberg for a season on Californication. “Writers rooms were the Wild West.”
Gardner is among several writers who say that the intense weekly shooting schedules and long hours that are routine on multicamera sitcoms such as Veronica’s Closet were more likely to lead to egregious conduct than single-camera shows. Even though the subject matter on the single-camera Californication was highly sexual, she says, “the room wasn’t as badly behaved as your standard network sitcom. There were outrageous things said, but we went home earlier. If we had been there 16 hours a day, that’s where realness comes out.” Says another veteran comedy writer who also worked briefly with Weinberg: “The multicamera environment — it gets very bawdy because the writers are working really late hours. Sometimes things go badly during the [network] run-through and you have to write a script overnight. When you get to 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, it gets a little nuts.”
Scrubs was a single-camera show, but according to the accounts of multiple sources who worked on the series, it had long hours and a frenetic, sometimes chaotic vibe. One Scrubs writer says Weinberg “would come in and say, ‘I was watching something last night and there was a joke and it was so horrible, it had to be written by a woman.’ ” Another writer on the show remembers “a boys’ room” in which male writers talked graphically about their sexual conquests and — as happened on Veronica’s Closet — “would stop work to go watch porn on the computer.” This person says Weinberg would talk about porn stars he knew and “brag about being able to get any woman. He really believed it. He was so sure of his sexual prowess, and very explicit.”
Multiple writers say that during the show’s second season, Weinberg took part in a room bit about a “national rape day” where men could rape whoever they wanted. One writer says other writers joined in, “and so everyone’s talking about who they’d rape, for like 30 minutes.” When Weinberg brought up the idea again the next day, a woman writer in the room snapped and pushed back, only to be told by another writer that “everything in a comedy room was funny, and if I didn’t like that, I could walk out the door.” The source declined to identify the writer.
Another writer says Weinberg would wrap his arms around a female colleague, pull her onto his lap and “fondle” her. His conduct in this respect appears to have gone beyond the room when he lurked among actors who came to work on the set. Scrubs would reuse the same background talent, sometimes over multiple seasons, populating the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital with familiar faces. The job offered unknown actors both a regular paycheck and a chance at union membership. “It was steady work. We were making good money,” says one background actor. “You didn’t want to rock the boat.” While many of the men on set were flirtatious and inappropriate — as was par for the course in Hollywood, especially at the time, this actor says — “Eric was different. He was like a predator.” She and other background actors describe Weinberg waiting until they were alone before approaching them. In her case, Weinberg invited her to do a “fitness” or “swimsuit” photoshoot at his house. Another time, he propositioned her for anal sex.
Multiple sources say Scrubs creator and showrunner Bill Lawrence — who would go on to co-create Apple’s Ted Lasso — was no great fan of Weinberg personally. Yet one staffer recalls Lawrence did not intervene although he witnessed Weinberg engaging in behavior that this person considered inappropriate: Weinberg mimicking a female writer masturbating and having an orgasm in front of her. Through a spokesperson, Lawrence says he does not recall the incident and denies he was present when Weinberg fondled anyone or bragged about sexual conquests.
In 2004 and 2005, Lawrence co-wrote and executive produced a pilot of Weinberg’s titled Confessions of a Dog, a sitcom about a self-identified “dog” in his 30s who sleeps with lots of women. It did not get picked up.
There is no dispute among many sources that Weinberg was fired from Scrubs, but the exact cause has been muddled — perhaps deliberately in light of the subsequent revelations about his alleged crimes. It seems there were a number of red flags regarding conduct that went beyond tasteless jokes and hostility to women. A writer recalls Lawrence having “a serious conversation” with “all of us” where he explained that the dismissal was due partly to an incident involving a specific episode that aired in early 2005, “My Life in Four Cameras.” For this episode, models were hired as background players. According to this account, one model appeared in a shot filmed in the morning but left without completing her work. When an assistant director told her she had to stay or the entire sequence would have to be redone, costing the studio a lot of money, she responded that she could do as she pleased because Weinberg had been harassing her and requesting nude photos. In this version of the story, Lawrence reported the conduct to Disney HR and was told to dismiss Weinberg immediately. But that alleged incident occurred two years before Weinberg was fired from Scrubs in 2006. If a model reported Weinberg’s behavior, as Lawrence told some colleagues, it appears that no disciplinary action was taken. A spokesperson for Lawrence now denies the model story ever happened.
Several individuals who worked on Scrubs remember hearing another story that circulated at the time about the reason for Weinberg’s departure. In the basement of the building where Scrubs was shot, there was a workout room. According to these individuals, Weinberg was alleged to have behaved inappropriately toward an extra there, which led to a complaint and an HR inquiry. Disney declined to comment. Lawrence’s spokesperson says that if this incident occurred, it never came to the attention of the creative team.
“Bill fired Weinberg 16 years ago after learning that Weinberg had referenced his position on Scrubs while inappropriately propositioning a woman off set,” says Lawrence’s spokesperson. “Bill requested Disney’s permission to terminate Weinberg even though his actions were not on set.”
Whatever led to the dismissal, Weinberg moved on to other writing jobs at outlets, including a pilot at the Disney Channel. (Disney is the parent company of what was then Touchstone Television, the studio that produced Scrubs.)
After Weinberg was fired from Scrubs, his next stop was Californication. Once again he made extreme sexual comments, but given the subject matter of the show, writer Gardner says, she didn’t take his conduct that seriously. “I was like, ‘This guy says outrageous things. I think it’s a bit.’ When he would say something, I felt like I could tell him to fuck off.” Weinberg was dropped in 2007 after one season; one source says he had been approaching extras and day players, and another notes he tried to enter a closed set, which involves filming of intimate scenes with limited crew. Tom Kapinos, the creator of the series, declined multiple requests for comment.
At that point, Weinberg’s career began to move in starts and generally quick stops. A former ICM agent remembers Weinberg calling multiple times a day, badgering him to find him new jobs. Weinberg was hired as showrunner on a short-lived Comedy Central series called Secret Girlfriend — another program with raunchy content. A Comedy Central exec at the time remembers being pleasantly surprised that a former Scrubs writer would work on the project, and apparently no questions were asked. Weinberg was fired a few weeks before the show went into production; sources attributed that to creative differences.
Around 2010, Weinberg — still represented by ICM — was brought on as a potential showrunner for a project at a production company represented by ICM’s Silbermann. There, he met Sarah, a production assistant and aspiring writer. Sarah, who declined to use her real name, says Weinberg expressed an interest in her career and suggested the two meet for coffee. As Sarah drove to the café on the day of the meeting, Weinberg texted her to come to his apartment instead, she says. Rather than serving coffee, Weinberg had poured a glass of wine by the time she arrived.
“And then he was like, ‘I want to show you this breathing exercise that I do when I’m writing,’ ” she says. “He had me lie down and laid down directly behind me. I could feel his erect penis, and he was hugging me.” Feeling misled and violated, Sarah says she made an excuse to leave. But at work after the encounter, her boss soon noticed her discomfort with Weinberg. When Sarah relayed the incident, she says her boss “called his agent and they kicked him off the project.” The production company did not respond to a request for comment.
Weinberg’s behavior appeared to escalate. Three women who worked on the 2011 MTV supernatural comedy Death Valley tell The Hollywood Reporter that he harassed them for nude photoshoots, calling and messaging them for months. One actress says Weinberg called her repeatedly over the show’s one-season run and masturbated over the phone. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she says that Weinberg tried to coax her to his house for nude photoshoots. When she pushed back, she says, Weinberg threatened her career. “There were times where he basically just came right out and said, ‘I have the power, you need to do what I want you to do or you’re not going to be back on the show and I’m going to make sure that you’re going to get blacklisted,’ ” she says. “I felt trapped with Eric Weinberg. I felt completely trapped.” She says he went on stalking her for years.
Weinberg spent months messaging another actress on the show to do a nude photoshoot, according to transcripts viewed by THR. He asked for details of her sex life, described sexual acts in graphic detail and pushed for a sexual relationship. The actress was then in her early 20s and playing a 15-year-old. “I guess all I selfishly want is to not be ‘platonic’ as in ‘nothing would ever, ever happen between us’ … but rather platonic as in ‘we’re friends and, oh, who fucking knows what might ever happen?’ ” Weinberg messaged her that August. Later, Weinberg seemed to acknowledge the bad optics. “I stand to gain nothing and lose TONS if there were ever weirdness between us that your dad, or MTV, or even anyone in the cast, got the slightest inkling of,” he wrote. “I’d just look like a GIANT scumbag.”
One source recalls receiving a phone call at the show’s office from a woman asking for Weinberg. The woman said that Weinberg had found her daughter online and told her he was casting for a new show he had sold to MTV. “He asked [my daughter] to meet at this hotel and so we drove by the hotel and it really made us uncomfortable, so we didn’t stop,” this source recalls her saying.
MTV eventually learned of this and other incidents and interviewed three of the actors, after which the women say the calls and texts declined in frequency. One of the actresses says that MTV seemed focused only on whether something physical happened and never followed up. MTV declined to comment.
In 2011, Weinberg was brought on as executive producer of the Disney Channel pilot Zombies and Cheerleaders. An assistant on the show says Weinberg told her in an interview for a position as a writers assistant that her employment was conditional on doing sexual favors for him. She told a supervisor on the show and was assigned to a different job, she says. Weinberg remained on the show. Disney declined to comment.
Around the same time, two veterans who had been involved with Scrubs hired Weinberg as a writing co-executive producer for the Danny Masterson show Men at Work. Executive producer Julia Franz had not only been an executive at Touchstone Studios overseeing Scrubs, but she is married to Silbermann. Matt Tarses, the showrunner, had worked on Scrubs for several seasons. (Masterson faces multiple allegations of rape and is currently on trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.) An assistant on Men at Work who told her boss that Weinberg was “aggressively flirtatious” with her says she was told to avoid him. She did not identify the individual who gave her that advice. Tarses and Franz declined to comment.
With time, Weinberg’s comedy skills seemingly diminished. A female writer who worked with him in 2011 on a TV Land comedy called Retired at 35 described him as “cocky” but “useless.” His career drew closer to its nadir by 2013-14, when he worked as a co-executive producer and writer on the Charlie Sheen vehicle Anger Management. It was during this time that the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Weinberg for the alleged rape of then-22-year-old Kayra Raecke, an incident she detailed for a previous report in THR. Weinberg’s brief disappearance did not go entirely unnoticed by his colleagues. “There was a day when he basically went missing,” one writer recalls. “No calls, no anything.” When Weinberg showed up in the same clothes from the day before, rumors circulated about a possible DUI, but his colleagues treated the episode with a “hush-hush” attitude. Weinberg remained on staff until the show wrapped. Anger Management creator Bruce Helford says that he was unaware of any reports of negative behavior during his time on the show.
Weinberg has no further credits listed on IMDb after a stint as an executive producer and writer on the Nick Nolte comedy Graves, which ran for two seasons on Epix from 2016 to 2017. Weinberg by then had become “un-recommendable,” says one producer who worked with him. He seems to have been represented for a time by Michael Pelmont, a onetime ICM employee turned manager, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The agency Verve confirms that it took Weinberg on as a client in August 2018 and dropped him in December 2019, but declined further comment.
Even so, Weinberg continued to use credits he had amassed over his career to convince women that it was safe to come to his Los Feliz home for photoshoots. It would take six years from his last job in television before a team of LAPD officers in tactical gear served him with a warrant for his arrest in July, alleging a pattern of serial abuse going back decades.
Looking back, some writers say they wonder to what degree the loose standards of the industry enabled Weinberg for years. After he was arrested, says Gardner, “I felt guilty for not seeing the signs” on Californication. She feels that Weinberg was “hiding in plain sight” — blending in with other writers who were making outrageous, often sexual jokes. “We had to assume they were not sociopaths or you’d lose your mind,” she says.
Sherman-Palladino is among those who say they see some progress in Hollywood — at least enough to make them believe that Weinberg’s behavior would be disqualifying today. “I don’t think he would have had the same success now,” she says. “I think the world has matured a little.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.