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‘Buffy’ stars back Charisma Carpenter for speaking up about ‘toxic’ Joss Whedon

Charisma Carpenter
Charisma Carpenter, a cast member in “The Expendables,” poses at the film’s premiere in 2010.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” alum Charisma Carpenter is the latest actress to publicly accuse director Joss Whedon of abusing his power, among other allegations, and she’s standing with embattled “Justice League” actor Ray Fisher. Some of her former costars, in turn, are now standing with Carpenter.

For the record:

1:19 p.m. Feb. 13, 2021An earlier version of this article included a correction that was incorrect. The original correction said Ray Fisher declined to reprise his role as Cyborg in “The Flash.” In January, WarnerMedia announced “The Flash” would be “moving on” without Fisher after the actor said he would not participate in any projects associated with Walter Hamada, the president of DC Films.

1:53 p.m. Feb. 10, 2021A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Ray Fisher was fired from “The Flash.” Fisher declined to reprise his role as Cyborg.

Carpenter, 50, who played high-school mean girl turned ally Cordelia Chase in Whedon’s two TV series, detailed her alleged experiences in a Twitter thread Wednesday. She said that “Joss was the vampire” and accused him of retaliatory behavior and firing her from the “Buffy” spin-off “Angel” after she became pregnant.

“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel,” she wrote. “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.”

The actress said she’s coming forward now — after years of holding her tongue and making excuses for Whedon — to show her support for “Justice League” star Fisher, who last summer accused Whedon of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior on the set of the 2017 film that he took over from director Zack Snyder.

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Fisher played Cyborg in the “Justice League” franchise and, last month, chose not to reprise the role in the DC Universe spin-off film “The Flash” — a move that Carpenter said “was the last straw” for her and prompted her to make her allegations public.

Reps for Whedon did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment Wednesday. WarnerMedia did not further comment beyond its January statement regarding the investigation prompted by Fisher and his departure from the franchise. (Warner Bros. does not own either of Whedon’s TV series. “Buffy” and “Angel” were owned and distributed by 20th Century Fox Television, now Disney.)

Carpenter accused Whedon of being “casually cruel” and creating “hostile and toxic work environments” that she experienced first-hand repeatedly. She said she swallowed the mistreatment and still sought validation from the creator, even when he allegedly made passive-aggressive threats to fire her and called her fat to colleagues when she was four months pregnant (and 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,” she wrote.

Angel
Charisma Carpenter, left, as Cordelia Chase, David Boreanaz as Angel and Glenn Quinn as Doyle in “Angel.”
(Frank Ockenfels / The WB)

The “Veronica Mars” and “Expendables” star alleged that Whedon stonewalled her after she became pregnant and when he finally agreed to a closed-door meeting, asked her if she was “going to keep” the baby.

He “manipulatively weaponized by womanhood and faith against me,” she wrote. “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.”

“Angel,” which ran on the WB (now the CW) starting in the late ‘90s, incorporated her pregnancy into Cordelia’s storyline before she gave birth in March 2003. However, the trajectory strangely vilified her and was considered by fans to be an off-brand developmental turn for the ambitious and evolving character on the show.

In Wednesday’s statement, Carpenter wrote: “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,” she added. “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.”

Actor Ray Fisher has accused director Joss Whedon of “gross, abusive, unprofessional” behavior on the “Justice League” set.

Carpenter said she participated in WarnerMedia’s “Justice League” investigation of Whedon and producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg because she believes Fisher to be a “person of integrity who is telling the truth.”

The investigation concluded in December and the studio said that “remedial action has been taken.” Though Warner Bros. did not elaborate, in a Twitter thread, Fisher said that "[t]here are still conversations that need to be had and resolutions that need to be found” and thanked fans for support and encouragement along the way. He announced his departure in January.

“Aquaman” star Jason Momoa, “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot and actress Kiersey Clemons, who portrayed Iris West in Snyder’s “Justice League,” have also publicly supported Fisher. Gadot told The Times in December that she had her own “experience” with Whedon that “wasn’t the best one,” but it was resolved to her satisfaction. Last summer, actor James Marsters who played the vampire Spike on “Buffy,” also alleged that he had a violent confrontation with the showrunner.

Following Carpenter’s tweet Wednesday, Sarah Michelle Gellar, the titular star of “Buffy,” attempted to distance herself from Whedon and show her support for abuse survivors.

“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 on 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.”

“Buffy” actresses Michelle Trachtenberg and Amber Benson also weighed in. Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s younger sister Dawn in later seasons, reposted Gellar’s statement and thanked her for addressing the allegations.

“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.” She also said, “What he did was very bad. But we win. By surviving!” On Instagram Stories, she was even more cryptic, writing: “We know what he did. Behind. The. Scenes.”

Benson, who played Tara, responded to Carpenter’s tweet and went even further to say that working on “Buffy” negatively impacted several stars.

“Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top,” she tweeted. "@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”

Whedon, who directed “The Avengers” and its first sequel for Marvel in addition to creating TV series including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” was tapped to take over for Snyder when he left “Justice League” due to a family tragedy. The film was critically panned but grossed $658 million worldwide.

Times staff writer Tracy Brown contributed to this report.


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