This "Buffy" Star Just Accused the Show's Creator of "Abuses of Power"
Charisma Carpenter says Joss Whedon created "toxic work environments," and other stars are speaking out, too.
Charisma Carpenter isn't staying silent any longer. In a lengthy statement posted on her social media accounts, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor accused the show's creator, Joss Whedon, of "abuses of power" during the years she worked with him in the late '90s and early 2000s. Carpenter said she decided to speak up now after hearing similar allegations against Whedon from Justice League actor Ray Fisher, because of the "wake up call from the Time's Up movement," and since she's finally coming to terms with her experiences on her own.
Since Carpenter released her statement on Feb. 10, fellow Buffy universe stars like Amber Benson, who played Tara Maclay, are backing up her claims, with Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, now saying she wishes to distance herself from Whedon.
Keep reading to see what Carpenter said in her statement about her time working with Whedon on both Buffy and its spinoff Angel, and to learn more about the situation surrounding Whedon. And for another actor who made claims of toxicity about a series, read ABC Sitcom Star Quits, Calling Show a "Toxic Environment."
Carpenter claims Whedon created "hostile and toxic work environments."
Carpenter starred on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Cordelia Chase from 1997 until 1999. Then, she continued the role on the spinoff series Angel, which premiered in 1999. In her post, she claims that during her time working with Whedon, he "abused his power on numerous occasions." According to Carpenter, the director and producer "has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career." She claims he "was mean and biting” and “played favorites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
Cordelia was written off of Angel in the fourth season in 2003 after Carpenter had her first child, which led to speculation about the reason she was let go. Whedon said at the time that the decision was merely because of the series' plot. "We felt like we had taken that story…about as far as it could go. The Angel/Cordelia [love story] had gone pretty much as far as we wanted to take it," he told TV Guide in 2003.
However, according to The Telegraph, in 2009 at DragonCon, Carpenter told fans, "I think Joss was, honestly, mad. I think he was mad at me and I say that in a loving way, which is—it’s a very complicated dynamic working for somebody so many years, and expectations, and also being on a show for eight years, you gotta live your life. And sometimes living your life gets in the way of maybe the creator’s vision for the future. And that becomes a conflict, and that was my experience."
She's also alleging Whedon mistreated her while she was pregnant.
Carpenter said that Whedon made repeated "passive-aggressive threats to fire" her and berated her regarding her rosary tattoo. When she was pregnant, she said he called her "fat" and asked her if she was "going to keep it" during a meeting.
She then shared one incident in particular that stuck with her from the set of Angel. "At six months pregnant, I was asked to report to work at 1:00 AM after my doctor recommended shortening my work hours," Carpenter wrote. "Due 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 the 1:00 AM call was retaliatory."
Carpenter added that she’s "scared" of what will happen now that she’s spoken up, because she’s "a single mother whose family’s livelihood is dependent on my craft." She added, "It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security." But ultimately, she said, "I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time."
Best Life has reached out to Whedon's representatives for a response to Carpenter's allegations, but has not yet received a response.
In response to Carpenter's statement, another Buffy star shared her support.
After Carpenter shared her story, another Buffy actor responded with her own claim about the "toxic environment" Whedon allegedly created, and showing her support for Carpenter. Amber Benson, who played Tara Maclay, who was also unceremoniously killed off of Buffy, retweeted Carpenter's post and added, "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."
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And Sarah Michelle Gellar also released a statement about Whedon.
Shortly after Carpenter posted her statement on social media, Gellar, the star of Buffy, posted a message on her Instagram and Instagram Story that she does not want to be associated with Whedon's name forever. "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," she wrote. "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."
Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy's sister Dawn on the series, reposted Gellar's statement on her Instagram with a prayer hands emoji and added the caption: "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….. You. Are my rock!! What he did was very bad. But we win. By surviving!"
Carpenter follows others who have made claims against Whedon.
As reported by Screen Rant, Buffy actor James Marsters, who played Spike on the series, and two of the stunt employees on the show have also made accusations that Whedon was responsible for a work environment they found uncomfortable. Most recently, in July 2020, Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg in the Whedon-directed Justice League movie, came forward about his experience with Whedon.
"Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable," he tweeted. He also posted a video of himself saying, "Joss is a great guy" at San Diego Comic Con and wrote, "I’d like to take a moment to forcefully retract every bit of this statement."
Whedon did not respond to all of Fisher's claims, but did respond to something Fisher told Forbes about Whedon allegedly wanting the skin color of a character to be altered. A representative for Whedon said in a response, "The individual who offered this statement acknowledged that this was just something that he had heard from someone else and accepted as truth, when in fact simple research would prove that it was false." Forbes later removed the mention from the article.
In response to Fisher's claims, WarnerMedia launched an investigation into Justice League, which Carpenter said she was a part of "because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth." The investigation ended in December. WarnerMedia said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, "WarnerMedia’s investigation into the Justice League movie has concluded and remedial action has been taken."
Here is Carpenter's statement in full:
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 4 months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs. He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favorites, pitting 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 form 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. Due 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. (1 of 2)
Back then, I felt powerless and alone. With norther 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. (2 of 2)