Film and TV

Every Buffy the Vampire Slayer star who’s come out against ‘toxic abuser’ Joss Whedon

Emma Powys Maurice February 11, 2021
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Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield Ford, Anthony Head, James Marsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (2000 Twentieth Century Fox/IMDb)

Buffy stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Nicholas Brendon, Emma Caulfield Ford, Anthony Head, James Marsters. (2000 Twentieth Century Fox/IMDb)

As Charisma Carpenter shares explosive allegations of Joss Whedon’s “toxic” abuse on the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s far from the first to denounce the disgraced director.

Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in Buffy and its spin-off Angel, posted a lengthy statement on Wednesday (10 February) detailing years of alleged hostilities from Whedon.

She accused him of “abusing his power” by frequently undermining her with “mean and biting” behaviour, stoking the actor’s performance anxiety while disempowering her and “alienating” her from her peers.

“The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively,” the star said.

The toxic atmosphere worsened after Carpenter fell pregnant in 2002 while working on Angel, she said. At four months through her pregnancy Whedon reportedly called her “fat”, and after learning of her condition he allegedly called her into a meeting where he demanded to know if she was “going to keep it”.

“[Whedon] manipulatively weaponised my womanhood and faith against me,” she claimed, describing another occasion where the director called a meeting to “interrogate and berate me regarding a rosary tattoo”.

Carpenter said the appalling treatment continued until the birth of her child, when she was “unceremoniously fired” from the hit show.

Yet the shocking and extensive allegations came as little surprise to several of her Buffy co-stars, many of whom had complaints of their own against Joss Whedon.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

The shining star of Whedon’s cult classic sought to distance herself from the director on Wednesday.

In a subtle yet significant statement on Instagram, she gave her full support to those who spoke out while seemingly alluding to her own discontent with the director.

“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 said.

“I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so will not be making further comments at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out.”

David Boreanaz

Headshot of David Boreanaz in a black shirt and grey waistcoat
David Boreanaz. (Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

David Boreanaz, who played 241-year-old vampire heartthrob Angel on both Buffy and the eponymous spin-off show, faced fan ire for his days-long silence on the accusations.

But when he broke it, he commended Charisma Carpenter for her “strength” in speaking out against the show runner.

“I am here for you to listen and support you. Proud of your strength,” he wrote in response to her original tweet against Joss Whedon.

Carpenter thanked Boreneaz on Twitter for supporting her “privately” before making the public show of encouragement.

Carpenter replied: “I know you’re there for me, David.

“I appreciate all you’ve done to demonstrate that support privately as well. Especially since Wednesday [10 February]. Thank you so much.”

Michelle Trachtenberg

Michelle Trachtenberg in a yellow dress looks away from the camera on the red carpet
Michelle Trachtenberg. ( Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s younger sister Dawn on the show, reposted Gellar’s statement and accused Whedon of “very not appropriate behaviour”.

‘Thank you, Sarah Michelle Gellar, for saying this,” Trachtenberg said. “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 behaviour…. Very. Not. Appropriate.”

She added in a later comment: “What he did was very bad. But we win. By surviving.”

Trachtenberg also shared Gellar’s statement on her Instagram story, writing cryptically: “We know what he did. Behind. The. Scenes.”

Amber Benson

Amber Benson, who played the lesbian witch Tara Maclay on Buffy, also threw her support behind Carpenter and corroborated her claims of Whedon’s hostile behaviour.

Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top,” she tweeted, sharing her co-star’s statement.

“Charisma Carpenter is speaking truth and I support her 100 per cent. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it 20-plus years later.”

Amy Acker 

Headshot of Amy Acker smiling
Amy Acker. (John Lamparski/WireImage)

Angel star Amy Acker, loved by fans for her portrayal of studious and kind-hearted Winnifred ‘Fred’ Birkle, was much like her character when she replied to Carpenter’s allegations – showing warmth and empathy.

“I will always be proud of the work we all did on Angel,” the 44-year-old said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“While I personally had a good and professional experience, it is heartbreaking to hear 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.”

Clare Kramer

Actor Clare Kramer played Glory, a god from the hell dimension who was the main antagonist of Buffy‘s fifth season.

She also expressed solidarity with Carpenter and hinted that Whedon wasn’t the only one behaving badly in the industry.

“For what it’s worth, I believe and stand with Charisma Carpenter, Ray Fisher, Amber Benson and others who have the strength to come forward with their truth,” she wrote on Twitter, adding: “A lot of this industry needs a reset…..”

“It’s worth a lot,” replied Charisma Carpenter in thanks.

Emma Caulfield

Although Emma Caulfield recently achieved gay icon status from her role on WandaVision, before this she was best known as the thousand-year-old ex-demon, Anya Jenkins.

She hasn’t yet shared any of her own experiences of abuse on Buffy, but appeared to agree with Sarah Michelle Gellar as she shared her post on Instagram.

“In the wise words of my friend @sarahmgellar,” she wrote, suggesting that the actor’s statement rang true for her too.

James Marsters

James Marsters as Spike (Online USA/Getty)

One of the few male Buffy stars to raise issue with Joss Whedon’s conduct is James Marsters, who played fan-favourite Spike in Buffy and the eponymous spinoff Angel.

Speaking last year on Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast Inside of You, he detailed an allegedly aggressive interaction he had with Whedon over his character’s popularity.

“I came along, and I wasn’t designed to be a romantic character. But then the audience reacted that way to it,” he said. “And I remember [Whedon] backed me up against a wall one day, and he was just like, ‘I don’t care how popular you are, kid, you’re dead. You hear me? Dead. Dead!’

“And I was just like, ‘Uh, you know, it’s your football, man. OK,'” he recalled.

Marsters went on to say that Whedon wasn’t kidding and didn’t apologise for the shocking incident.

After Carpenter’s statement he expressed solidarity with his co-stars and acknowledged that there were difficulties on set.

“While I will always be honoured to have played the character of Spike, the Buffy set was not without challenges,”” the actor wrote on Twitter on 12 February.

Eliza Dushku

The actress who played Faith Lehane on the show stepped into the controversy with an Instagram post using the hashtag #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter.

She continued: “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. From courage, come change and hope. It starts and will end because of courageous truth-tellers like you.”

Sophia Crawford and Jeff Pruitt

The now-married couple met while working on Buffy’s stunt team, where they say they were forced to face Whedon’s whims.

In a July interview with Metro, Crawford and Pruitt claimed that Whedon demanded they break up if Crawford wanting to continue working on the show. After they refused, they said other directors were reluctant to work with them.

Pruitt has also claimed that his home computer had been “keylogged”, with one producer allegedly confirming that they had “had copies of every email he’d ever sent since he started the show”.

He says his relationship with Whedon changed as the show took off. “He went from the humble writer who used to turn to me for ways to shoot fight scenes into a real egomaniac who believed his own hype,” he revealed.

“Then again, maybe he was always that way and I was simply too naive to see it as he never showed that side to me before,” he added.

“Sophia and I kept going for as long as we could but tensions grew and certain members of the crew began to plot against each other – including shady things directed at me behind my back.”

The couple eventually stopped working on the show after season four.

Anthony Head

Anthony Head played Giles on the show (Jason Kempin/Getty)

Anthony Head said he was “gutted” to learn of his co-stars’ alleged experiences under Joss Whedon, admitting he wasn’t aware of any of it at the time.

“I have been up most of the night just running through my memories thinking, ‘What did I miss?'” he said in an interview with This Morning on 11 February. “This is not a man saying ‘I didn’t see it so it didn’t happen’.

“I am gutted, I’m seriously gutted because one of my memories, my fondest memory, was the fact that [Buffy] was so empowering. Not just with the words in the script, but the family feel of the show.”

The actor, who played the beloved Rupert Giles, added that he feels he “let down” his castmates.

“I was a sort of father figure. I would hope that someone would come to me and say, ‘I’m struggling, I just had a horrible conversation,'” he said.

Marti Noxon

Marti Noxon, who joined Buffy as co-producer in season three and became showrunner for its final two years, also backed the claims of abuse from Joss Whedon.

She wrote on Twitter: “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 [Charisma Carpenter], Amber, Michelle and all the women who have spoken out are coming from.”

She notably shared an article cowritten by her and her colleague, Mad Men‘s Kate Gordon, about some of their “toxic” experiences in the business – which included sexual harassment, gender discrimination and hostile work environments.

Joss Whedon is so far silent on toxic workplace claims

Whedon, 56, has yet to comment to the recent allegations of misconduct.

However, he previously responded to the actor Ray Fisher, who last year accused him of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behaviour while on the set of Justice League in 2017.

The claims included allegations that Whedon had attempted to digitally alter the complexion of an actor in post-production.

Joss Whedon. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

“What set my soul on fire and forced me to speak out about Joss Whedon this summer was my becoming informed that Joss had ordered that the complexion of an actor of colour be changed in post-production because he didn’t like the colour of their skin tone,” Fisher told Forbes at the time.

Whedon denied this specific claim in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.

“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,” he began.

Whedon explained that there were numerous people involved in post production, “as is standard on almost all films,” and that the senior colourist was responsible for the final version. He added that the process was complicated by the fact that the movie had two different directors with contrasting methods of shooting.

His statement did not touch on the allegations of his abusive behaviour on set.

Related topics: Amber Benson, Angel, buffy, buffy the vampire slayer, Joss Whedon, Sarah Michelle Gellar

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