Buffy's Charisma Carpenter Accuses Joss Whedon of Abusive Behavior: 'I Can No Longer Remain Silent'

Illustration for article titled Buffy's Charisma Carpenter Accuses Joss Whedon of Abusive Behavior: 'I Can No Longer Remain Silent'
Image: John Sciulli (Getty Images)

In a gutting personal account shared on Twitter Wednesday, actress Charisma Carpenter, best known for her role as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, said that writer and director and Joss Whedon “abused his power” and “created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career.”

“For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day,” Carpenter wrote in her statement, which comes amid news that investigations into Whedon for allegedly abusive behavior on the set of 2017's Justice League had concluded in December. Previously, Whedon has similarly been accused of emotionally abusive behavior by his ex-wife Kai Cole, who detailed her experience in their marriage in a 2017 essay for The Wrap. “He never conceded the hypocrisy of being out in the world preaching feminist ideals, while at the same time, taking away my right to make choices for my life and my body based on the truth,” she wrote.

In the past, Carpenter has remained relatively silent about her working relationship with the director, despite rumors bubbling under that she had been fired for her pregnancy onset of Angel. On Tuesday, actor Ray Fisher tweeted that Walter Hamada, president of the studio, “still owes an apology to the participants of the Justice League investigation.” In June, Fisher alleged that Whedon’s behavior was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable. The studio then backed Whedon, and in a statement, claimed that Fisher “never alleged any actionable misconduct against” the director. In January, the studio claimed the investigation had ceased, “remedial action” was taken, and that Fisher needed to “move on.”

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Now, it appears Fisher’s tweet is what spurred Carpenter to share her own experience, writing alongside her statement, “#IStandWithRayFisher.” Actress Amber Benson, who played Buffy’s Tara Maclay, also 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.”

Carpenter’s entire statement on Twitter in full:

“For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day.

Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers. 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.

Last summer, when Ray Fisher publicly accused Joss of abusive and unprofessional behavior towards the cast and crew during reshoots on the Justice League set in 2017, it gutted me. Joss has a history of being casually cruel. He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career. I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.”

Like his ongoing passive aggressive threats to fire me, which wreaks havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem. And callously calling 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 approval.

He called me in for sit-down meeting to interrogate and berate me regarding a rosary tattoo I got to help me feel more spiritually grounded in an increasingly volatile work climate that affected me physically. Joss intentionally refused multiple calls from my agent making it impossible to connect with him to tell him the news I was pregnant. Finally, once Joss was apprised of the situation, he requested a meeting with me. In that closed-door meeting, he asked me if I was “going to keep it” to 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.

At six months pregnant, I was asked to report to work at 1:00 AM after my doctor recommended shortening my work hours. Due to long and physically demanding days and emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. It was clear to me the 1:00 AM call was retaliatory.

Back then, I felt powerless and alone. With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on. After all, I had a baby on the way, and I was the primary breadwinner of my growing family. Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in a new motherhood. All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire.

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 would work with him again. 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.

These memories and more have weighed on my soul like bricks for nearly half of my life. I wish I said something sooner. I wish I had the composure and courage all those years ago. But I muted myself in shame and conditioned silence.

With tears welling, I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to Ray and others for remaining private about my experiences with Joss and 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.

Recently, I participated in WarnerMedia’s Justice League Investigation because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth. His firing as Cyborg in The Flash was the last straw for me. Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it. It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security.

It has taken me so long to muster the courage to make this statement publicly. The gravity of it is not lost on me. As a single mother whose family’s livelihood is dependent on my craft, I’m scared. Despite my fear about its impact on my future, I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time.”

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DISCUSSION

brickhardmeat
Brick HardMeat

I feel bad for not believing Fisher’s initial claims. In my defense, he came off as unhinged. I still think he was, but being unhinged is probably what allowed him to not give a shit about what speaking out would mean to his future, his career, etc. I have to respect that.

As someone who was stuck with an abusive manager for a year - a manager who would be passive aggressive, would gaslight, would do everything possible to belittle me and make me question my self worth, but wouldn’t do anything that could be defined as one specific line-crossing act of abuse - reading Carpenter’s account I finally get it. Fisher’s claims lacked so many details but now I know why in that it wasn’t just one thing. It was everything.