“I was made to feel dread nearly all the time I was in his presence,” says Eliza Dushku of former co-star Michael Weatherly.
Eliza Dushku made a name for herself as Faith Lehane in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; just like Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller), she was a teenage girl endowed with supernatural powers and destined to battle demons, vampires, and other evil creatures from the underworld.
And it seems as if the actress is determined to continue her quest for justice in the real world, too, as she’s spoken out following a $9.5 million settlement she received from network CBS over an on-set dispute with former Bull co-star Michael Weatherly.
In a powerful op-ed for the Boston Globe, Dushku – who did not initially respond when news of the settlement broke last week – says she refrained from commenting because she’d signed a non-disclosure agreement along with Weatherly.
However, she is now speaking out since Weatherly has done the same.
Referring to his comments in The New York Times (which can be viewed at the end of this article), she highlights that “in no way was [what I experienced] playful, nor was it joking with two willing participants.
“It was not ‘Cary Grant ad-libbed lines’, an incredulous Weatherly excuse… This was classic workplace harassment that became workplace bullying. I was made to feel dread nearly all the time I was in his presence.”
In the op-ed, Dushku goes on to describe Weatherly’s abusive behaviour in detail, stating that he “harassed me from early on,” subjecting her to “constant name-calling”, often playing “provocative songs (like Barracuda)” when she arrived on set, and threatening to take her to his “rape van, filled with all sorts of lubricants and long phallic things”.
On one occasion, Dushku says Weatherly mentioned that he would like to have a threesome with her in front of a “room full of people”.
“Minutes later, a crew member sidled up next to me and, with a smirk, said in a low voice, ‘I’m with Bull. I wanna have a threesome with you too,’” she recalls.
For weeks, says Dushku, Weatherly was recorded making sexual comments. He was also recorded mimicking penis jousting with a male co-star (directly on the heels of the “threesome” proposal) and repeatedly referred to her as “legs”.
“He regularly commented on my ‘ravishing’ beauty, following up with audible groans, oohing and aahing. As the tapes show, he liked to boast about his sperm and vasectomy reversals (‘I want you to know, Eliza, I have powerful swimmers’),” continues the actress.
“Weatherly had a habit of exaggerated eye-balling and leering at me; once, he leaned into my body and inhaled, smelling me in a dramatic swoon. As was caught on tape, after I flubbed a line, he shouted in my face, ‘I will take you over my knee and spank you like a little girl’.”
Dushku alleges that this “undeniably demeaning conduct” was a daily occurrence during her guest appearances on Bull. And, when she confronted Weatherly about his conduct, she says her time on the show was cut short.
“According to what top production brass at CBS told my agent, [showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron] had gotten rid of me without the knowledge or consent of that CBS team,” writes Dushku.
“Caron personally fired me as I was filming on set one afternoon. It is highly unusual to get fired in the middle of a shooting.”
While negotiating her departure from the show, Dushku says she included a clause asking Bull to hire “an individual trained in sexual harassment compliance to monitor Weatherly and the show in general” and also asked to speak directly with executive producer Steven Spielberg.
“In the end, I found uneasy solace in the important conditions I imposed on CBS, and that I would get paid for at least some of my contract,” Dushku acknowledges. “I am still trying to make sense of how this could happen, especially in these times.”
In a statement to the New York Times, CBS confirmed the settlement with Dushku and pledged to improve working conditions going forward.
“The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done,” the statement said. “The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.”
In an emailed statement to The New York Times (which, as mentioned above, Dushku references in her op-ed) Weatherly apologised for his behaviour with Dushku.
“During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script,” he said. “When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humour, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologised. After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza.”
Neither CBS or Weatherly have responded to Dushku’s op-ed. At this time, Bull is scheduled to resume its third season on CBS on 14 January 2019.