'Buffy' and 'Angel' star Charisma Carpenter speaks out on Joss Whedon's alleged 'toxic' behavior: 'I can no longer remain silent'
Months after Ray Fisher accused Joss Whedon of "unacceptable" on-set behavior during the turbulent production of 2017's Justice League, Charisma Carpenter is speaking out about her own experience working with the writer and director on his signature TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. In a two-part Twitter post that was hashtagged #IStandwithRayFisher, the actress reveals that she participated in WarnerMedia's investigation into Whedon's conduct in the wake of Fisher's claims — an investigation that officially concluded in December following Whedon's November announcement that he was stepping away from his HBO series, The Nevers. "I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth," writes Carpenter, adding that Fisher's firing from Warner's upcoming The Flash feature was the "last straw" that encouraged her to speak up.
My truth. #IStandWithRayFisher pic.twitter.com/eNjYcJ6zwP
— charisma carpenter (@AllCharisma) February 10, 2021
— charisma carpenter (@AllCharisma) February 10, 2021
There was no immedate comment from Whedon, but eponymous Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar posted a statement distancing herself from the show's creator 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," Gellar writes. "I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out." Gellar's onscreen sister, Michelle Trachtenberg, reposted the statement on her own Instagram, writing that she also had negative experiences with Whedon during her time on the show. "I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman to repost this. Because this must be known. As a teenager, with his not appropriate behavior — very not appropriate."
Carpenter writes that Whedon's behavior troubled her from the beginning of their working relationship on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which debuted on The WB network in 1997. The actress played Sunnydale High snob-turned-Scooby Gang member, Cordelia Chase, on the critically-accliamed series, which transformed the cast, and its creator, into fan favorites within the genre community. Behind the scenes, though, Carpenter says that Whedon frequently "abused his power" on set. "While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performace anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers. The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer."
After three seasons on Buffy, Carpenter joined fellow cast member, David Boreanaz, on the spinoff series Angel, which premiered in 1999. During the show's fourth season, Carpenter became pregnant with her son, Donovan, and the writers wrote her pregnancy into the show in a divisive storyline. Describing a closed-door meeting with Whedon after he first learned of her pregnancy, Carpenter says that he asked if he was going to keep her child, and then "manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and my faith against me. He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabatoging the show and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth."
According to the actress, Whedon's behavior continued to grow increasingly hostile, writing that he called her "fat" in front of the cast and crew and forced her to work long days despite her doctor's recommendation that she limit her time on set. At the end of the season, Carpenter was written off the series, although she returned for one episode in the fifth and final season where Cordelia was officially killed off.
Reflecting on why she didn't feel able to speak up sooner, Carpenter notes that "a part of me still sought his validation," adding that she would make excuses for Whedon's behavior and expressed her desire to work with him again at fan conventions. "Only recently... do I understand the complexities of this demoralized thinking," she writes. "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 accountablity on the transgressor who sails on unscathed."
After posting her statement, Carpenter received an outpouring of support from fans and colleagues, including Fisher and fellow Buffy cast member Amber Benson.
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.”
— 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
Cordy has long been my favorite character in the Buffyverse, and I can hardly watch season four of Angel because of Charisma Carpenter’s mistreatment. We love you @AllCharisma and thank you for speaking out. https://t.co/tjHm65LRDf
— 𝒥𝑒 𝓈𝓊𝒾𝓈 𝑔𝒶𝓇𝒷𝒶𝑔𝑒 (@RblSpaceOddity) February 10, 2021
This is absolutely damning. I remember at the time kinda feeling, from Buffy S3/4(?) on that Whedon's female characters got short shrift in ways that felt far from feminist, and *particularly* with Charisma Carpenter's last season on Angel. With all that's come out since? Aye. https://t.co/gkE2C5bjFX
— Hal Duncan (@Hal_Duncan) February 10, 2021
I still remember how the story was spun by Joss Whedon at that time to frame Charisma Carpenter as "difficult" on set. Never sat right with me. Proud of & happy for her for finally speaking her truth. I can't imagine how horrible it was to experience & hold onto for so long https://t.co/p0SQ0gzVUe
— Kayla Hom (@mohalyak) February 10, 2021
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