Charisma Carpenter, known for playing Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its Angel spinoff, has accused director Joss Whedon of abusive on-set misconduct.
Carpenter revealed her experiences with Whedon in an Instagram post, which she preceded with a series of quotes about speaking up. Preempting any criticisms about waiting over two decades to raise her allegations, one of the quotes read, “Don’t ask why victims wait so long to speak up. Ask what systems were in place to keep them quiet.”
Stating that she feels traumatized by Whedon’s behavior to this day, Carpenter said “Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions” during both Buffy and Angel. “While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers,” she wrote. “The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively.”
In particular, Carpenter claimed Whedon would frequently and passive-aggressively threaten to fire her, especially while she was pregnant during shooting of Angel. “Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in new motherhood,” she wrote. “All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire.” She added he would “callously [call] me ‘fat’ to colleagues when I was 4 months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs. He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favorites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
She said it took “multiple calls from my agents” to connect with Whedon and inform him of Carpenter’s pregnancy. Once he found out, he brought her in for a closed-door meeting where “he asked me if I was ‘going to keep it’ and manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and faith against me. He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth.”
Carpenter said she was once called to set at 1:00 a.m. while pregnant, despite a doctor’s recommendation to shorten her work hours. “Due to long and physically demanding days and the emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Brazton Hicks contractions,” she wrote. “It was clear to me the 1:00 a.m. call was retaliatory.”
Carpenter also recalled getting a rosary tattoo during her time on the shows “to help me feel more spiritually grounded in an increasingly volatile work climate that affected me physically.” This, too, became a point of contention with Whedon, who called her in “for a sit-down meeting to interrogate and berate” her.
As for why Carpenter is coming forward with these accusations now, she wrote,
“Despite the harassment, a part of me still sought his validation. I made excuses for his behavior and repressed my own pain. I have even stated publicly at conventions that I’d work with hima gain. Only recently, after years of therapy and a wake up call from the Time’s Up movement, do I understand the complexities of this demoralized thinking. It is impossible to understand the psyche without enduring the abuse. Our society and industry vilify the victims and glorify the abusers for their accomplishments. The onus is on the abused with an expectation to accept and adapt to be employable. No accountability on the transgressor who sails on unscathed. Unrepentant. Remorseless.”
Carpenter explicitly cited Ray Fisher’s treatment by Warner Bros. after he raised his own accusations of Whedon’s behavior on the set of Justice League. The actor, who played Cyborg in the DC superhero film, has long been vocal about Whedon’s alleged racist and abusive actions while working on Justice League. The allegations led to an investigation by WarnerMedia, but Fisher argued DC Films President Walter Hamada conducted it improperly, choosing to protect Whedon and executives Jon Berg and Geoff Johns rather than actually addressing the core issues.
In the end, “remedial action” was taken against Whedon. Whedon departed the upcoming HBO series he created, The Nevers, though the public story was that it was due to emotional strain caused by the pandemic. However, Fisher implied his departure was part of the disciplinary actions resulting from the investigation. Unfortunately, it appears the ongoing battle also cost Fisher his role as Cybrog in the upcoming Flash movie.
In her statement, Carpenter stood in solidarity with Fisher. She revealed she had participated in WarnerMedia’s Justice League investigation “because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth.” She added that it was his apparent firing as Cybrog that proved to be “the last straw.” “Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it,” she wrote. “It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security.”
Carpenter also added,
“With tears welling, I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to Ray and others for remaining private about my experience with Joss and the suffering it has caused me. It is abundantly evident that Joss has persisted in his harmful actions, continuing to create wreckage in his wake. My hope now, by finally coming forward about these experiences, is to create space for the healing of others who I know have experienced similar serialized abuses of power.”
Fisher has since responded in his own tweet. “Charisma Carpenter is one of the bravest people I know,” he wrote. “I am forever grateful for her courage and for her lending her voice to the Justice League investigation. Read her truth. Share her truth. Protect her at all costs. ‘It is time.'”
Update 3:00 p.m. ET: Buffy stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Amber Benson have each commented on the new accusations. Gellar, who played the title heroine on the long-running series, wrote on Instagram,
“While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon. I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so I will not be making any further statements at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”
Reposting Gellar’s statement, Trachtenberg said she was only “brave enough now as a 35 year old woman… to repost this.” “As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior….very. Not. Appropriate […] There was a rule. Saying. He’s not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again.”
Meanwhile, Benson never appeared on Buffy at the same time as Carpenter, but they’ve become close over years on the convention circuit. Benson tweeted, “Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top. @AllCharisma is speaking truth and I support her 100%. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later.”
Read Carpenter’s full statement and her fellow actors’ responses below.
Charisma Carpenter is one of the bravest people I know.
I am forever grateful for her courage and for her lending her voice to the Justice League investigation.Advertisement
Read her truth.
Share her truth.
Protect her at all costs.
“It is time.”
— Ray Fisher (@ray8fisher) February 10, 2021
Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top. @AllCharisma is speaking truth and I support her 100%. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later. #IStandWithRayFisher #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter https://t.co/WJAmDGm76C
— Amber Benson (@amber_benson) February 10, 2021