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‘Desperate Housewives’ creator says character was killed off for lack of love interests

“Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry testified Wednesday that he killed off Wisteria Lane seductress Edie Britt in the fifth season because there were simply no more male characters for her to bed.

“We had played out as many romantic complications with each of the women’s husbands” as possible, Cherry told a Los Angeles jury in a wrongful-termination suit brought by Nicollette Sheridan, the actress who played Edie.

The character had dalliances with the spouses or former spouses of three of the main housewives — played by Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria and Marcia Cross — and the husband of the fourth — played by Felicity Huffman — “would never cheat,” Cherry said.

Sheridan contends she was written out of the show in retaliation for complaining that Cherry had struck her in the head during an on-set dispute over dialogue. She was earning about $4 million a year as Edie Britt, and her lawyer has said the departure cost her $6 million in economic damages.

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In his testimony, Cherry said he had toyed with plotting Edie’s demise for years, even going so far as to seek approval from the show’s studio, Touchstone, and its network, ABC, in the third season. That request was denied by executives who worried she was too important to the show, he said.

He proposed her death again two years later as a way to spice up a show with declining ratings, he said.

“I thought it could be an exciting moment and a shocking moment for the fans,” Cherry said. That time, the executives agreed, he said.

Sheridan previously testified that there had been no discussion about Edie’s dying until after the September 2008 incident in which Cherry struck her. But Cherry, who has said he only tapped her head as a stage direction, said the decision was a closely guarded secret.

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When the writers plotted out the season’s story lines on note cards in May 2008, they used code words “Steve drinks the OJ” for a scene in which Edie’s husband tried to strangle her, she was hurt in a car crash and was finally electrocuted.

“That refers to the famous O.J. Simpson case where he was accused of murdering his wife,” Cherry told jurors.

As Sheridan looked on from the defense table, Cherry said unprofessional behavior by Sheridan was a secondary consideration in writing her off the show. Asked for examples, Cherry paused and frowned before answering.

Referring to Sheridan as “the actress” he said that during read-throughs of the script, she sometimes made insulting comments which he found “hugely rude and hugely upsetting to the writers.”

He said she often forgot her lines, even in episodes where she had little to memorize.

“She only had five or six lines…and she didn’t know any of them,” Cherry said. He recalled one rehearsal in the first season when he had to be summoned to the set because Hatcher was furious with Sheridan’s lack of preparation.

Cherry’s timeline was called into question by another witness, Lori Kirkland Baker, a former co-executive producer on the show. Baker testified it was well into the season and several months after the incident with Sheridan that Cherry told the other writers that he was killing off Edie. She said the “OJ” card wasn’t tacked to a cork board of plot lines in the writer’s room until January 2009.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com


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