Months after Ray Fisher accused Joss Whedon of abusive on-set behavior during Justice League reshoots, another actor has spoken out against the director: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel alum Charisma Carpenter.
Carpenter starred as the popular Sunnydale teen Cordelia Chase for three seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer before moving to its spin-off, Angel, for an even more robust arc that came to an awkward, disastrously executed halt when her character became possessed before lapsing into a coma.
“For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day,” Carpenter wrote in a statement on Twitter Wednesday. “Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together 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.”
Whedon’s public image has faced several blows in recent years. In 2017, his ex-wife Kai Cole wrote that the director is a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals” to mask his own infidelities. There was also that time when his not-so-feminist script for Wonder Woman leaked. In her statement, Carpenter claims the director “has a history of being casually cruel.”
“[Whedon] has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career,” Carpenter continued. Some examples: “his ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire me, which wreaks havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem. And callously calling me ‘fat’ to my colleagues when I was 4 months pregnant, weighing 126 pounds. 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.”
In addition to his comments about her weight, Carpenter alleged in her Twitter statement that Whedon once called her into a meeting to “interrogate and berate” her for a rosary tattoo she’d recently gotten.
Fans have long speculated that Whedon fired Carpenter from Angel’s fourth season because she was pregnant. Whedon, meanwhile, simply told TVGuide at the time that the writers had taken Cordelia’s story “about as far as it could go.” When asked whether he and Carpenter were on good terms, he replied, “Yeah, but that's also stuff between us and not stuff that I would talk about in an interview.”
In 2009, however, Carpenter reportedly told fans at DragonCon that she and Whedon’s relationship had become “strained” ahead of Season 4. Per the Telegraph, she said, “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 for 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 conflict, and that was my experience.”
In her Twitter statement, Carpenter was less diplomatic, stating that Whedon intentionally avoided calls from her agents—which made it impossible for them to inform him of her pregnancy.
“Finally, once Joss was apprised of the situation, he requested a meeting with me,” Carpenter wrote. “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.”
Carpenter goes on to say that she was asked, while six months pregnant, to come to work at 1 a.m.—against the recommendation of her doctor to shorten her 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,” she wrote. “It was clear to me the 1:00 AM call was retaliatory.”
Last August, in the wake of Ray Fisher’s allegations about Whedon’s conduct during Justice League, WarnerMedia launched an investigation that concluded in December with a vague statement claiming “remedial action has been taken.” Carpenter, whose statement came with the hashtag #IStandWithRayFisher, said that she participated in the probe “because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth.” She added that Fisher being written out of The Flash, a decision made after he’d spoken out, was the last straw for her.
“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,” Carpenter wrote. “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 abuses of power.”
Fisher, meanwhile, has already responded to Carpenter’s statement. “Charisma Carpenter is one of the bravest people I know,” he wrote, retweeting her message. “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.”
Carpenter’s former co-star, Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar, has also spoken out. “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with Joss Whedon,” she said in a statement posted to Instagram. “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.”
WarnerMedia provided The Daily Beast the following statement: “As has been previously stated, an extensive investigation was conducted by an outside law firm, led by a former federal judge who has assured WarnerMedia that there were no impediments to the investigation. Last summer, Mr. Fisher was offered the opportunity to reprise his role as Cyborg in The Flash. Given his statement that he will not participate in any film associated with Mr. Hamada, our production is now moving on.”
A representative for Joss Whedon did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.