A $9.5 million settlement between Eliza Dushku and CBS came to light when the network hired a team of investigators to look into any overarching culture issues at the company, according to a new report from the New York Times. The settlement, according to the investigators’ notes, which the Times states it reviewed, points to a tendency at the company to ignore signs of harassment and fail to seek justice on behalf of victims, choosing instead to “protect itself.”
In 2017, Dushku was brought on the CBS procedural Bull, starring NCIS’s Michael Weatherly, for a three-episode arc. Writer and producer Glenn Gordon Caron told Dushku he wanted her character to be “more than a love interest,” according to the Times, and had plans for her become a full-time cast member. But what Dushku quickly found was an environment where rape and sex jokes and comments about her appearance from Weatherly were allowed to fly, and sometimes encouraged other members of the cast and crew to join in.
Notes from the investigators’ interview with Dushku (who did not comment for the Times’ story and is prohibited from talking about her time at CBS as a result of her settlement agreement) reveal that Weatherly made comments that made Dushku uncomfortable on set. Once he “said in front of the cast and crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her.”
He also joked about having a threesome with Dushku, after she made a gesture that involved holding up three fingers. That comment, in particular, opened the door to others making similar comments:
Because of his status on the show, his behavior was contagious, in Ms. Dushku’s view. She told investigators that a crew member approached her at one point and said with a chuckle, “I’m with Bull,” before suggesting that he, too, wanted to take part in a threesome with her.
Weatherly claims both comments were the result of ad-libbing and not meant to be taken seriously.
Dushku raised concerns about Weatherly’s behavior with Caron, and eventually confronted Weatherly, who asked her which cast member “made the remark [about having a threesome] and why she did not report it.” Afterwards, Weatherly spoke to the president of CBS Television Studios about Dushku’s “sense of humor,” and days later, Dushku was written off the show; although Caron and Weatherly deny such a thing, Dushku believed it was retaliation for speaking up about Weatherly’s behavior.
Dushku eventually entered mediation with the company, whose lawyer presented footage of Dushku on the set of Bull, hoping to build a case that it was her behavior and not Weatherly’s that led to her dismissal. But the tapes actually had instances of the harassment Dushku described.
Investigators write that: “the company’s failure to recognize the instances of harassment caught on tape was a symptom of larger problems at CBS, according to the draft of their report.”
Speaking to investigators about her experience, Dushku said, “You’re all I have at this point.” She went on, “My story is true and it’s really affected me, and I can’t talk about it.”