Charisma Carpenter, who starred as Cordelia Chase in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel, is speaking out against the series' creator, Joss Whedon, accusing him of abusive behavior on set. "Joss was the vampire," Carpenter wrote Wednesday, Feb. 10 on Twitter and Instagram in posts that accuse Whedon of "traumatizing behavior," "being casually cruel," berating her about her pregnancy, and ultimately firing her as a result.
In the following hours and days, Carpenter's posts were met with support from many fellow Buffy alumni, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Amber Benson, Michelle Trachtenberg, David Boreanaz, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head, Eliza Dushku, Amy Acker, J. August Richards, Emma Caulfield, Nicholas Brendon, and Clare Kramer. Several former writers on the show also weighed in.
Benson corroborated Carpenter's account and described a "toxic" set. Trachtenberg, who was 14 when she joined the show, accused Whedon of inappropriate behavior, alleging there was a rule on set that Whedon was not allowed to be alone with her. Many more Buffy and Angel stars did not echo Carpenter's accusations but expressed their belief and support.
A CAA representative for Whedon did not return TV Guide's repeated requests for comment. (Whedon recently exited as showrunner of the forthcoming supernatural HBO drama The Nevers, writing that the commitment of making the show was "more than he can handle" during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
In her social media posts, Carpenter describes Whedon's sets as a "hostile and toxic work environment," in which Whedon played favorites with cast members and made "biting, disparaging" comments, including "callously calling me 'fat' to colleagues when I was four months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs." Carpenter, who became pregnant during her time on Angel, said that when she disclosed her pregnancy to Whedon, he asked her if she "was going to keep it."
"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," she wrote.
Here's how Carpenter's Buffy and Angel co-stars, as well as Justice League actor Ray Fisher (who also accused Whedon of misconduct on that set), have responded to her allegations.
Soon after Carpenter posted her comments, Amber Benson, who played Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tweeted that Carpenter "is speaking truth and I support her 100%."
"Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top," Benson wrote. "There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later."
Sarah Michelle Gellar, who starred as Buffy in the franchise, referenced Carpenter's statement in an Instagram post, writing, "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 the 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."
Michelle Trachtenberg, who in later seasons played Buffy's younger sister, Dawn Summers, shared Gellar's Instagram post, writing, "Thank you @sarahmgellar for saying this. 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." Trachtenberg later added to her Instagram post to expand on her accusation, implying that management was aware of Whedon's alleged misconduct: "The last. Comment I will make on this. Was. There was a rule. Saying. He's not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again."
Emma Caulfield, who played reformed vengeance demon Anya Jenkins on Buffy, reposted Gellar's Instagram statement, adding her own comment, "In the wise words of my friend @sarahmgellar."
Anthony Head played Buffy's dedicated Watcher and Sunnydale High School librarian Rupert Giles for the entirety of the show's seven seasons, and, in his 40s at the time, was one of the oldest actors in the cast. Head was asked about Carpenter's allegations about Whedon during a Feb. 11 appearance on the British talk show This Morning, where he expressed his sadness that his younger co-stars hadn't come to him with their experiences.
"You can probably see that I've been up most of the night, just running through my memories, thinking, 'What did I miss?'" he told the show's hosts. "This is not a man saying, 'I didn't see it so it didn't happen.' It's just...I can't...I am gutted. I'm seriously gutted. Because, one of my memories -- my fondest memory, in fact -- was the fact that it was so empowering, not just in the words of the script but in the family feel of the show. I'm really sad that if people went through these experiences— I was sort of like a father figure... I would hope that someone would come to me and say, 'I'm struggling, I just had a horrible conversation.' Admittedly, the first post by Charisma was when she was working on Angel, and I was long gone, but there are other posts subsequently that are making me think, 'How on earth did I not know this was going on?'"
Eliza Dushku, who played the vampire slayer Faith and then went on to anchor Whedon's later series Dollhouse, shared an Instagram post stating she was unaware of Carpenter's experience but called her a "courageous truth-teller."
"CC, my heart aches for you & I'm so sorry you have held this for so long," Dushku wrote in part. "Your post was powerful, painful, and painted a picture we'll collectively never un-see or un-know. Thank you. I hadn't known it and I won't forget it. ... Neglecting to 'name' the power/gender/sexual/racial abuse epidemic in the entertainment industry (and for that matter society in general) enables the abusers and only emboldens and ultimately fortifies abusive systems. May you and countless others feel the solidarity and connection you have likely missed for too long."
Dushku has previously spoken out against sexual misconduct in Hollywood, alleging in 2018 she was molested at the age of 12 by a stunt coordinator on the set of True Lies. (Two more women came forward with similar claims. Joel Kramer, the accused, denied the accusations.) Dushku also received a $9.5 million settlement from CBS when an internal investigation found she was written off popular procedural drama Bull after she accused star Michael Weatherly of sexual harassment. Some of Weatherly's comments were caught on tape. The actor apologized, and CBS has repeatedly defended its decision to renew Bull, citing the show's popularity.
James Marsters, who played fan-favorite vampire Spike in both series, tweeted his support.
"While I will always be honored to have played the character of Spike, the Buffy set was not without challenges," Marsters wrote. "I do not support abuse of any kind, and am heartbroken to learn of the experiences of some of the cast. I send my love and support to all involved."
David Boreanaz played the titular star of Angel, acting opposite Carpenter's female lead, Cordelia Chase. Several days after Carpenter posted her allegations, Boreanaz replied on Twitter, writing, "I am here for you to listen and support you. Proud of your strength." Carpenter responded, "I know you're there for me, David. I appreciate all you've done to demonstrate that support privately as well. Especially since Wednesday. -Thank you so much."
J. August Richards, who played vampire hunter Charles Gunn in Angel, expressed his support in a reply to Carpenter's tweet, writing, "Sending you my love, @allcharisma. I know the feelings of vulnerability and fear that come with speaking your truth. As I said to you yesterday, I am here for you, however you need me."
Carpenter responded, "As I said on our call, many people are watching how my truth statement is received. When they see a positive, loving embrace from ppl like you, it creates space for their own stories to be heard. Thank you. Plz know I am inspired by you for speaking your heart too. Love you."
Carpenter, who included a rainbow emoji in her tweet, was referencing Richards' decision last year to announce that he is gay; the actor shared a clip from an interview explaining his decision to come out.
Amy Acker, who played physicist Winifred "Fred" Burkle on Angel, weighed in on Twitter, writing, "I will always be proud of the work we all did on Angel. While I personally had a good and professional experience, it is heartbreaking to hear that not everyone did. I do not condone any actions that made anyone feel hurt or uncomfortable, and I offer love and support to everyone who is speaking out to tell their truths."
Nicholas Brendon, who played Buffy's best friend and fellow vampire hunter Xander Harris, addressed Carpenter's allegations in a video posted to his Facebook page, filmed from his hospital room where he was waiting to undergo back surgery.
"You know, I mean, unless you know Joss, it's a situation where it's just kinda, like... out of this, I just hope that growth comes, and healing, and then being a better person and better people. 'Cause I think that's what every day is about. You know what I mean? Not beating somebody up," Brendon can be heard saying toward the end of the video. "Were there transgressions? Yeah, there were. And to me as well, you know what I mean? It's like, I had my relationship with Joss as well. And I love him. ... I mean for me, I took the good, I took the bad, but that's not everybody."
Brendon went on to imply his relationship with Whedon is complicated. "Like I said, I love and support CC [Carpenter] very much, and I know that story, and it's not a kind story. I know my relationship with Joss, and it... there's a lot of kindness, but also not, you know?" he said, choking up. "So it's kinda hard to give a statement when things are like that. It's like, 'Oh, hey, make a statement: My thoughts and prayers are with the victim's families' -- I don't do that sh--."
Danny Strong played Buffy's Jonathan Levinson, a side character-turned-reluctant villain. Strong tweeted, "Sending love and support to @AllCharisma @amber_benson @RealMichelleT @SarahMGellar and all who have gone public about their toxic experiences on @BuffyTVS. I truly admire your bravery in speaking out."
Clare Kramer, who played hell god Glory, the major villain in the show's fifth season, also tweeted her support, saying she believes the actors who are speaking out: "For what it's worth, I believe and stand with @allcharisma, @ray8fisher, @amber_benson, and others who have the strength to come forward with their truth. A lot of this industry needs a reset."
Marti Noxon, a writer and executive producer on Buffy who took over as showrunner in Season 6, shared her support for Carpenter and her castmates in a tweet, writing, "I would like to validate what the women of Buffy are saying and support them in telling their story. They deserve to be heard. I understand where @AllCharisma, Amber, Michelle and all the women who have spoken out are coming from."
Noxon also posted a link to an article she co-wrote with former Mad Men staff writer Kater Gordon (who has publicly criticized Whedon) about their own experiences with toxic showrunners. In the article, Noxon described how women in Hollywood are pressured to remain quiet about sexual harassment and hostile work environments.
Jose Molina, a writer on Whedon's sci-fi series Firefly, quoted Carpenter in a tweet of his own and backed up her characterization of Whedon, writing, "'Casually cruel' is a perfect way of describing Joss. He thought being mean was funny. Making female writers cry during a notes session was especially hysterical. He actually liked to boast about the time he made one writer cry twice in one meeting."
Carpenter responded, "I'm sorry to hear this about your colleagues' experience. Hopefully, these stories will not be in vain. Hopefully, we can institute systems in the workplace to protect employees from being subjected to sexual misconduct, cruel, demeaning, and humiliating behaviors by superiors."
In Carpenter's social media posts about Whedon, she said she stands with Ray Fisher, the Justice League actor who seven months ago accused Whedon of "gross, abusive, unprofessional" behavior toward the movie's cast and crew while he was directing reshoots for the film in 2017. Fisher's comment led Warner Bros. to launch an internal investigation, in which Carpenter said she participated.
"Recently, I participated in WarnerMedia's Justice League investigation because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth," she wrote. "His firing as Cyborg in The Flash was the last straw for me. Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it."
She said she feels partly responsible due to her silence about her own experience.
"It is abundantly evident that Joss has persisted in his harmful actions, continuing to create wreckage in his wake," she wrote. "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 thanked Carpenter on Twitter, writing, "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."
Read Carpenter's full statement below:
For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day.
Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. 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.
Last summer, when Ray Fisher publicly accused Joss of abusive and unprofessional behavior toward the cast and crew during reshoots on the Justice League set in 2017, it gutted me. Joss has a history of being casually cruel. He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career. I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.
Like his ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire me, which wreaks havoc on a young actor's self-esteem. And callously calling me 'fat' to colleagues when I was four months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs. He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favorites, putting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.
He called me in for a sit-down meeting to interrogate and berate me regarding a rosary tattoo I got to help me feel more spiritually grounded in an increasingly volatile work climate that affected me physically.
Joss intentionally refused multiple calls from my agents making it impossible to connect with him to tell him the news that I was pregnant. 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.
At six months pregnant, I was asked to report to work at 1:00 AM after my doctor recommended shortening my work hours. Our to long and physically demanding days and the emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. It was clear to me that 1:00 AM call was retaliatory.
Back then, I felt powerless and alone. With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on. After all, I had a baby on the way, and I was the primary breadwinner of my growing family. Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in new motherhood. All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire.
Despite the harassment, a part of me still sought his validation. I made excuses for his behavior and repressed my own pain. I have even stated publicly at conventions that I'd work with him again. Only recently, after years of therapy and a wake-up call from the Time's Up movement, do I understand the complexities of this demoralized thinking. It is impossible to understand the psyche without enduring the abuse. 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 accountability on the transgressor who sails on unscathed. Unrepentant. Remorseless.
These memories and more have weighed on my soul like bricks for nearly half of my life. I wish I said something sooner. I wish I had the composure and courage all those years ago. But I muted myself in shame and conditioned silence.
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. It is abundantly evident that Joss has persisted in his harmful actions, continuing to create wreckage in his wake. 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 abused of power.
Recently, I participated in WarnerMedia's Justice League investigation because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth. His firing as Cyborg in The Flash was the last straw for me. Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it. It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security.
It has taken me so long to muster the courage to make this statement publicly. The gravity of it is not lost on me. As a single mother whose family's livelihood is dependent on my craft, I'm scared. Despite my dear about its impact on my future, I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time.