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.
There was no immediate 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 wrote.
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 Whdeon 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 spin-off 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.