Singer Brian McKnight's venture into talk shows ground to a halt due to lack of funds, a source close to the production told Access Hollywood – and the money woes left some members of the staff paid for only half their work.
"The production staff has only gotten checks for two weeks' work, even though we've worked about four weeks," the source told Access.
A spokesperson for the California Labor Board confirmed to Access on Wednesday that 20 employees have filed non-payment complaints against "The Brian McKnight Show," for a total cost of over $86,000, adding that the proceedings were, "at the very beginning of the process."
When reached by Access, a rep for McKnight said the show was "doing great" with the problems behind them.
"Yes, admittedly there were some missteps in the beginning," the rep said. "Brian and his former business partner always took a 'divide and conquer' approach to business. His partner handled financing, the books, etc. Brian handled the creative. Admittedly he should have been more aware of what was going on, but that partner has been removed and going forward Brian is keeping an eye on everything. A new financial situation is in play – and Brian's first priority is to make sure his wonderful team that worked tirelessly with him on this show is compensated as quickly as possible."
According to Access' source, the show's two production companies, Mutiny Circle and McKnight's Gemini 3, were thought to be relying on additional cash from AEG Live – who pulled out of production on the pricey show.
"We were shooting the show down at LA Live, which AEG had the facilities for," the source said. "We were shooting at spaces like the Conga Room and Club Nokia. But AEG treated us like redheaded stepchildren. They wanted us to walk on eggshells around there."
The source claimed that AEG never signed a contract to co-produce the show.
"The problem is that none of these people have ever done TV before," the source continued. "They hadn't thought about licensing costs on a show that was heavy with music. But it's likely that they were banking on AEG's money, and when they bailed out, the financial bottom fell out."
According to McKnight's rep, "he quickly pulled the plug on production" and "scaled down to a core crew" after the initial missteps by his business partner, Silas White.
"AEG was not at all the problem," the rep said, further stating that the company had never been a production partner and denying the allegations of AEG having "bailed out" — without explaining AEG's alleged relationship to the show.
The rep asserted that production continues on the show outside of LA as McKnight hits the road to promote his latest album.
"We shot an episode in NYC last week, and next week we shoot in Atlanta during the Soul Train Awards and in Boston at a charity event," the rep said, noting that six episodes have been completed and the seventh is currently in post-production.
According to Access' source, only two shows were completed and two were partially finished before production wrapped at the end of September — at which point, McKnight's rep claimed, a number of LA staff members were laid off after being given the option to stay on through the show's "funding issues."
The show began airing in syndication on September 25 in 250 markets, including New York and Los Angeles.
As for the staff of the first round of production getting paid, Access source continued, "Silas White, Brian's production partner and manager, was running the show, but their production money all ran out. Finally, one day there were just no checks. They kept saying, 'We have them for you,' but they were never delivered.
"And since production stopped, we haven't heard from Silas or Brian at all… Brian's a nice guy, but he's never once reached out to us to say anything," the source lamented. And the worst part of it all though was that most of the producers had left commitments at other jobs to work on this show, because they were offering really, really good money at Brian's show."
McKnight's rep stated that Mutiny Circle has sent out "weekly updates to the entire staff," though it was unclear if the current staff included those who have since filed complaints against the show.
Related Content from AccessHollywood.com:
PLAY IT NOW: 2009 Daytime Emmy Awards Backstage: Montel Williams Gives Back
PLAY IT NOW: 'Celebrity Apprentice' Season 2 Cast Revealed