The Noel Clarke sexual harassment controversy threatens to embroil the BBC after several sources came forward to allege they were sexually harassed or inappropriately touched by the actor on a flagship show, Doctor Who.
Another Doctor Who actor, John Barrowman, has also been accused of repeatedly exposing himself to coworkers on two BBC productions, prompting questions about whether the corporation allowed a lax culture on its sets during the mid-2000s.
The developments come a week after ITV, Sky and the BBC announced that they had cut ties with Clarke after the Guardian published testimony from 20 women who variously accused him of groping, sexual harassment and bullying.
Watch: Entertainment industry pens open letter calling for change following allegations against actor
Clarke, who vehemently denies any allegations of sexual misconduct, criminal wrongdoing or sexually inappropriate behaviour, including the latest accuations, was also stripped of a Bafta award he was given earlier this month.
Clarke’s new accusers allege sexual harassment on the set of Doctor Who or at a promotional event for the show. He played the vehicle technician Mickey Smith from 2005 to 2010 in Doctor Who, gaining household fame.
Barrowman, who played the character of Capt Jack Harkness in Doctor Whoand its spin-off show Torchwood, is accused of exposing himself repeatedly on both sets, although numerous witnesses described the incidents as inappropriate pranks rather than anything amounting to sexually predatory behaviour.
Contacted by the Guardian, Barrowman admitted to “tomfoolery” that he now understood upset colleagues, but stressed it was never intended or interpreted as sexual in nature.
The new allegations against the actors will intensify the ongoing debate in the British film and TV industry about the treatment of women and the behaviour of men on sets.
On Thursday, more than 900 members of the British entertainment industry, including the presenter Dermot O’Leary, the actor Jim Sturgess, and the former Channel 4 commissioner Kelly Webb-Lamb, signed an open letter calling for “an end to this culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight”.
The BBC said it would investigate any new allegations and urged witnesses to get in touch with the corporation about incidents on the set of Doctor Who, saying it stood “against all forms of inappropriate behaviour and we’re shocked to hear of these allegations”.
‘I like girls with long hair – it gives me something to hold on to’
Joanne Hayes was a costume assistant on series 1 of the revived Doctor Who, shot in 2004. She alleges that Clarke sexually harassed her in his trailer in August 2004 after she assisted him with his costume.
After a brief work-related conversation, she said, Clarke told her that he “liked girls with long hair, as it gave him something to hold on to when doing them from behind”. Hayes, who had very long hair that came to her mid-back, said she made to leave the trailer because she felt uncomfortable.
At this point, she alleges, Clarke repeated the comment, sucked his teeth, exhaled heavily, and laughed. Clarke’s lawyers said he strongly denies the allegation and said the incident described did not take place.
Hayes said she did not report the incident to her bosses because “at that time, the culture was very different”. However, she said the experience left her feeling “uneasy near him”, and she avoided him as best she could.
Another woman, Jenna (not her real name), was a runner and driver on the early seasons of the revived Doctor Who, shot in the mid-2000s. As part of her role, she was required to drive Clarke to and from set. During these car journeys, she alleges, Clarke touched her inappropriately. She said he would touch her hand when it was on the gear stick, and grabbed her leg when she was driving.
“Constantly the conversation was about sex,” Jenna said, adding that Clarke repeatedly asked her to go to his hotel room for sex, asked her sexually inappropriate questions and made sexually explicit and graphic remarks to her. She said she complained to an assistant director on the BBC show, and as a result was put on different duties.
She recalled telling the assistant director: “I can’t drive him any more … I don’t want to be on my own with him.” She said she did not know whether senior executives were at the time also aware of Clarke’s conduct.
After Clarke realised that Jenna was no longer his driver, she alleges, he turned nasty, telling her “you think you’re better than people” and becoming obstructive and difficult. A fellow crew member who witnessed Clarke’s behaviour towards Jenna described it as “bullying”.
Clarke strongly denied the allegations. His lawyers said any suggestion that he would be allowed to behave that way because of his perceived power was “entirely implausible” because he was near the start of his career.
They said if Jenna had reported such behaviour to an assistant director at the BBC, Clarke would have been spoken to or reprimanded. They said Clarke was not aware of any complaint in relation to his alleged behaviour being made against him at any time. They added it “beggars belief” that the corporation would have allowed Clarke to behave in the way that is alleged.
Monica (not her real name), another former runner on Doctor Who, alleges Clarke sexually harassed her and another female coworker in a bar at the Holland House Hotel in the mid-2000s in Cardiff, following a work event. When the women rejected Clarke’s advances, she alleges, he became “rude” and “aggressive”. The following day, she said Clarke spread false rumours about both women on set.
Clarke strongly denied the allegation. His lawyers said there would have been no real need or purpose for him to be in the hotel bar because he does not drink.
A Doctor Who actor, who asked to remain anonymous, has told the Guardian she was also sexually harassed by Clarke in the early seasons of the show. “He made advances on me,” she said, “regularly asking me if I wanted a ‘piece of his dark chocolate’.” When she rejected his advances, the actor said, Clarke badmouthed her to people in the industry.
Clarke denied this allegation. His lawyer said this and other accusations, which they said were vague, unsupported by any objective evidence, lacking in specificity or coming from anonymised sources, made it difficult for him to provide a response. They said he has never sought to coerce, encourage or pressurise any individual into non-consensual sexual activities and strongly rejects any suggestion he has been sexually inappropriate.
‘Barrowman would just have his willy out, standing in the doorway’
In a recently resurfaced video filmed at Chicago Tardis, a 2015 American sci-fi convention, Clarke talked about how his fellow Doctor Who star Barrowman would often expose his penis and “slap” it on colleagues.
The video went viral this week in the wake of the Clarke allegations. “Barrowman was there taking his dick out every five seconds,” Clarke says in the clip. Turning to his Doctor Whoco-star Camille Coduri, he asks: “Do you remember that time he put it on your shoulder in the makeup truck?” She responds: “Yes, I do.”
To laughter from the audience, Clarke then does a theatrical impression of Barrowman, using a microphone as a prop for his penis, thumping it against Coduri and their fellow co-star Annette Badland. Clarke’s lawyers described the incident as “a mere snippet of a much longer, good-humoured conversation”. Coduri declined to comment, and Badland did not respond to a request for comment.
Several sources told the Guardian that Barrowman did indeed repeatedly expose himself on set, although they stressed the context was different to the sexually predatory behaviour Clarke is accused of. Barrowman is gay, and his actions were described as misjudged “larking about” and “joking”.
However, some Doctor Who crew members described an overly relaxed, at times unprofessional culture on set in the early seasons of the show. “David [Tennant, who joined the show in season 2] behaved impeccably,” said Jenna, “and to a certain extent, I think that helped rein things in.”
Jenna said she frequently witnessed Barrowman expose himself on set. “He would get his genitals out on a regular basis … he’d just sort of have his balls hanging out his trousers or something, which he just thought was really funny,” she said. On one occasion, Jenna said that she witnessed Barrowman “slapping” his penis on the windscreen of one of the driver’s cars, “thinking it was really funny”.
Monica had similar recollections. “Sometimes he’d call me into his dressing room, and I would knock on the door and he’d say, ‘Oh, look at this’, and he’d just have his willy out, standing in the doorway,” she said. “It was kind of accepted that it was his thing,” she said.
Although she did not appreciate his behaviour, or find it particularly funny, Monica stressed she did not feel unsafe. “It just felt really uncomfortable,” she said.
Barrowman’s behaviour was even referenced in a lighthearted tribute song, called The Ballad of Russell and Julie and filmed to commemorate the end of Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor in 2008. The video is understood to have been filmed after cast and crew discovered Barrowman had been reprimanded for exposing himself on the set of Torchwood.
The tribute video was filmed for Doctor Whoexecutive producers Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies. “Can’t block out,” sang Tennant, “please lock out, images of Johnny B getting his cock out.” The camera cuts to Barrowman, delivering a wink to the camera.
Gardner confirmed that she received a complaint around 2008 about Barrowman’s conduct on the set of Torchwood. “I met with John and reprimanded him,” Gardner said, adding that she also spoke to other executive producers, Barrowman’s agent, and the head of BBC drama commissioning, to “make it clear to both John and his agent that behaviour of this kind would not be tolerated … To my knowledge, John’s inappropriate behaviour stopped thereafter,” she added.
She told the Guardian that she was not aware of any inappropriate behaviour by Clarke. “I am saddened and shocked by the accusations raised. If I had known of them there would have been prompt action taken,” she said. “I am grateful that people are coming forward to speak up and support them wholeheartedly.”
Russell T Davies also he never saw Barrowman expose himself, and was unaware of any complaints about Clarke’s behaviour towards female coworkers on set and never heard of or witnessed inappropriate behaviour by the actor. Had he received a complaint, Davies said he would have acted immediately.
“I apologise wholeheartedly to any cast or crew who went through this,” Davies said, adding: “all power to those coming forward now – we will listen to them, and learn”.
‘My understanding and behaviour have changed’
A BBC spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that Barrowman was reprimanded for this behaviour. “To be absolutely clear, we will investigate any specific allegations made by individuals to the BBC – and if anyone has been subjected to or witnessed inappropriate behaviour of any kind we would encourage them to raise it with us directly,” a BBC spokesperson said.
“We have a zero tolerance approach and robust processes are in place – which are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect best practice – to ensure any complaints or concerns are handled with the utmost seriousness and care.”
Lawyers for Barrowman said he did “not recall” the incidents recounted by Jenna and Monica. In 2008, Barrowman apologised for pulling down his trousers during a BBC Radio 1 interview. “I apologise for any offence I have caused,” he said at the time. “I was joining in the light-hearted and fun banter of the show, and went too far.”
In a statement in response to the latest allegations, Barrowman said at no point was he made aware of allegations against Clarke. As for his own actions, Barrowman said his “high-spirited behaviour” was “only ever intended in good humour to entertain colleagues on set and backstage”.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously,” he added. “Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.” Barrowman added that he was at no point made aware of any allegations against Noel Clarke.
‘He would literally lean in and grab my thigh’
Clarke also stands accused of behaving inappropriately at an external function related to his role inDoctor Who. In May 2016, Lisa Graham volunteered at Bournemouth Film and Comic Con, held at the Bournemouth International Centre. She was assigned to help Clarke sign autographs and take photographs with paying fans. At this event, Graham alleges that Clarke sexually harassed her and touched her inappropriately under the table they were both sitting at.
“He would literally lean in and grab the outside of my thigh,” Graham recalled. On one occasion, she said, Clarke attempted to touch her inner thigh. “It started out on the knee,” she said, “but there was a point where he tried to lean towards my inner thigh, and I physically moved my chair to get away.”
When women walked past their stand, Graham said, Clarke would rate them out of 10 in terms of sexual attractiveness, and make derogatory and disrespectful comments.
She also alleged that Clarke repeatedly asked her to have sex with him. Because they were both in public, Graham said she did not feel physically threatened by Clarke. However, she found his comments to be “disgusting”. At the end of the day, as they were packing away, Graham mentioned the harassment to her supervisor. The supervisor laughed away the remarks, Graham recalled, and did not appear to take it seriously.
Clarke’s lawyers said he never touched anyone inappropriately or in a sexual way, and pointed out that the convention was a public event, where there were always people present. They said Clarke had no specific recollections of discussions with Graham, but wholly denied he would have conducted himself in the way she alleged.
In the statement released the day after the Guardian published allegations from 20 women, Clarke said: “I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing. Recent reports however have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realise. To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.”
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