Published: Thu, July 20, 2017
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

Jim Henson's children speak out about fired Kermit puppeteer Steve Whitmire

Jim Henson's children speak out about fired Kermit puppeteer Steve Whitmire

Last week it was announced that newcomer Matt Vogel would replace Steve Whitmire, who was quietly fired by the company last fall.

The 57-year-old puppeteer inherited the iconic role in 1990 following the death of Jim Henson - who created "The Muppets" - but he will no longer lend his vocal talents to the comedic amphibian after The Muppets Studio made a decision to let him go last week.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Whitmire says, "Nobody likes having these sharp-pointed adjectives thrown at them".

In response to a blog post last week, in which Whitmire said he had been "devastated" by his termination, Cheryl Henson reportedly posted on Facebook saying his story was "ridiculously self serving [sic]".

"We raised concerns about Steve's repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years, and he consistently failed to address the feedback", Debbie McClellan, head of the Muppets Studio, was quoted as telling the Times. "The decision to part ways was a hard one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support".

Company chairman Brian Henson also told the paper that Whitmore often sent unacceptable emails attacking writers, directors and others involved in Muppets projects. In the Facebook post, Cheryl Henson said it was her brother, Brian, who asked Whitmire to take on the role of Kermit.

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Whitmire later revealed he was sacked over suggestions he gave during the short-lived ABC Muppets reboot as well as a union issue, saying he remained silent for the last nine months with the hopes that execs would change their mind and ask him back. The series Whitmire referred to in the interview with THR is "The Muppets", the critically-panned ABC show that was canceled after one season.

Whitmire could not immediately be reached for comment, but in an interview Monday with The Hollywood Reporter he said the studio felt he had been too outspoken in expressing how the Kermit character should be portrayed on the ABC primetime Muppets mockumentary series that aired in 2015-16. "It was totally an idea of trying to do what was best for the Muppets".

"In fact, we had be talking prior to that, for two years before that, about me being sort of a creative producer with them, working alongside the two executives whom I spoke with, where I would have been really part of the day to day decision making on the the Muppets", he continues.

He said one instance was over an episode in which Kermit lied to his nephew, Robin, about his break-up with Miss Piggy. "I think the character is better served to remove this destructive energy around it".

Still, Whitemire indicated that he wants calm the situation, and perhaps return to his role, but "I don't think that's gonna happen", he said. "So that's where I was headed, and I gave notes, but nobody was yelling and screaming", Whitmire said. In a statement given to The Associated Press, the studio says that the 57-year-old actor was sacked after "repeated unacceptable business conduct" that happened over "a period of many years".

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