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Buffy 's Charisma Carpenter Accuses Joss Whedon of Misconduct and Verbal Abuse

Corinne Heller
·6 min read
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Charisma Carpenter is accusing director Joss Whedon of on-set misconduct, saying that he "abused his power" while working with her on his hit shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

The filmmaker, also known for his work on films The Avengers and Justice League, has not commented on the actress' remarks, which she posted on Instagram on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Carpenter, 50, played Cordelia Chase on Buffy between its 1997 debut and 1999, after which she moved onto a more prominent role on the spinoff Angel, which ended its five-season run in 2004.

"Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel," the actress wrote. "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."

In her post, Charisma said Whedon, 56, body-shamed her while she was pregnant, asked her if she planned on keeping her baby, and fired her after she gave birth.

The actress accused the series creator of making "ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire" her and said he called her "fat" to "colleagues when I was 4 months pregnant." Carpenter's character slipped into a coma in season four of Angel. Cordelia was killed off in the fifth and final season of the show, which premiered in October 2003, several months after the actress gave birth to her and then-husband's Damian Hardy's first child, son Donovan.

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"Joss intentionally refused multiple calls from my agents making it impossible to connect with him to tell him the news that I was pregnant," Carpenter wrote on Instagram. "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' 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."

Whedon had no immediate comment on Carpenter's remarks when reached by E! News. In 2003, he spoke about the actress' absence from the show during her coma storyline.

"But obviously, we had to have her out of a bunch of episodes toward the end of the year because she was having a baby," he told TV Guide. "So what we had [leading] up to it wasn't a dynamic I wanted to play out that much. The fact is, this is not the end—unless Charisma herself says, 'You know what? I don't feel like doing any recurring episodes.' But when you have an increasingly large ensemble week-by-week, and you come in in your [fifth] year kind of having to revamp the show and trim the budget and also think creatively, 'How am I going to service all of these people?,' sometimes the people who have been around the longest, you've done the most with them."

Charisma Carpenter, Joss Whedon
Charisma Carpenter, Joss Whedon

Carpenter said in her Instagram post she carried on despite her "mistreatment" because she was pregnant and her family's breadwinner. She said that she "made excuses" for Whedon's behavior and even stated publicly at conventions that she would work with him again.

At the DragonCon 2009 convention, the actress said at a panel event, "I think what happened, you know, my relationship with Joss became strained...I was going through my stuff and then I became pregnant and you know, I guess in his mind, he had had a different way of seeing the season go."

Carpenter said at the event that she and Whedon eventually worked out their differences. "It was a great moment for us to have a dialogue about, 'Would you really work with me again?'" she said. "And he's like, 'Well would you work with me?' And I'm like, 'Yeah.' He goes, 'Yeah.' So I felt better about it. But at the time it was a very strained experience."

In her Instagram post, Carpenter said that only recently, following "years of therapy and a wake up call from the Time's Up movement," did she "understand the complexities" of her "demoralized thinking."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Following Carpenter's post, Buffy's main star Sarah Michelle Gellar 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."

"Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top," Amber Benson, who played Tara Maclay on Buffy, tweeted. "@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."

Carpenter's comments also come seven months after Justice League actor Ray Fisher publicly condemned Whedon, saying his "on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable." Last August, Variety reported that the company carried out an investigation into the DC Comics movie following Fisher's accusations. In December, the outlet quoted WarnerMedia as saying in a statement, "WarnerMedia's investigation into the Justice League movie has concluded and remedial action has been taken."

"Recently, I participated in WarnerMedia's Justice League investigation because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth," Carpenter wrote on Instagram. WarnerMedia has not commented on her remarks.

"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," the actress said in her post. "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 praised the actress, tweeting on Wednesday, "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. Read her truth. Share her truth. Protect her at all costs. 'It is time.' A>E [Accountability>Entertainment] #IStandWithCharisma."