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'Buffy' star Charisma Carpenter accuses show creator Joss Whedon of 'cruel' behavior

The "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" actor also alleged that she experienced verbally abusive and retaliatory behavior for getting pregnant.
2013 Summer TCA Tour - Day 2
Charisma Carpenter alleged that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon created a "toxic" work environment. Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Actor Charisma Carpenter is alleging that director Joss Whedon "abused his power" in a series of "disturbing incidents" during her time on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spin-off series, "Angel."

In a detailed statement posted to her social media accounts on Wednesday afternoon, Carpenter called Whedon's behavior "casually cruel," especially when she told him she was pregnant.

"For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day," the actor wrote. In another part of the statement, Carpenter alleged that Whedon made "passive-aggressive threats" to fire her and "created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career."

Whedon did not respond to a request for comment when TODAY reached out Wednesday afternoon.

Carpenter, 50, was in her early 30s when she worked on the shows, which both premiered in the late '90s. A 2002 pregnancy led to more negative behavior from Whedon, she wrote, such as him "refusing" to take calls from her agents to share the news and calling her "fat" despite her only weighing 126 pounds at the time.

"Once Joss was appraised of the (pregnancy), he requested a meeting with me," Carpenter wrote. "In that closed-door meeting, he asked 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 has spoken in the past about how her pregnancy affected her time on "Angel," saying at a 2009 convention that she thought Whedon was "mad at (her)" and suggesting to Complex in 2018 that the production did not account for her pregnancy when scheduling the show. In her statement, Carpenter said that when she was six months pregnant, she was "asked to report to work at 1:00 AM" despite her doctor "recommending (she) 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," Carpenter wrote. "It was clear to me the 1:00 AM call was retaliatory ... Back then, I felt powerless and alone. With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on."

Carpenter's allegations come as several other actors who have worked with Whedon have accused the director of mistreatment and inappropriate behavior. In July 2020, "Justice League" actor Ray Fisher, whom Carpenter referenced in her post, accused Whedon of "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" behavior toward the cast and crew of the 2017 Warner Bros. movie. Whedon was involved in reshoots for the movie after original director Zack Snyder stepped down.

Fisher said that he believed Whedon was enabled by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg, producers who were involved with the development of "Justice League." In July, Berg told Variety in a statement that it was "categorically untrue that (he and Johns) enabled any unprofessional behavior."

Fisher's claims led to an investigation by WarnerMedia. In September, Warner Bros. released a statement saying that Fisher had "declined to speak with the investigator" and "failed to provide" "any specific and credible allegation of misconduct." The next day, Fisher said on Twitter that he had spoken to the investigator several days before the statement was released and accused the studio of having "escalated" the situation. Fisher was publicly supported by fellow actor Jason Momoa, who wrote on Instagram that "serious stuff went down" and needed "to be investigated."

In December, WarnerMedia said that the investigation had "concluded" and said that "remedial action has been taken." No details were provided by the organization. On Twitter, Fisher wrote that "there are still conversations that need to be had and resolutions that need to be found."

Carpenter said in her statement that she felt "an overwhelming sense of responsibility to Ray (Fisher) and others for remaining private about my experience with Joss and the suffering it has caused me" and said that she had participated in the WarnerMedia investigation.

Since Carpenter published her statement, she and Fisher have witnessed an outpouring of support from fans. Amber Benson, who played Tara on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," wrote on Twitter that she stood with both actors and said that the hit show's set was a "toxic environment" starting "at the top."

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy, wrote on Instagram that while she was proud to be associated with the landmark character, she doesn't "want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon."

"I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out," wrote Gellar, who said she would not be releasing any further statements.

In November, Whedon announced that he was exiting the upcoming HBO series "The Nevers," according to Variety. Whedon was described as the "creative force behind the show" and had multiple roles in its development and production; he said at the time that he left the show because "the level of commitment required moving forward, combined with the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic, is more than I can handle without the work beginning to suffer."

The show is expected to premiere on HBO in April.

In the final words of her statement, Carpenter said she feared the impact her allegations may have on her career.

"It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security," she wrote. "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 fear about its impact on my future, I can no longer remain silent. This is overdue and necessary. It is time."

CORRECTION (Feb. 12, 2021, 12:58 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misspelled director Zack Snyder's name. It is Zack Snyder, not Zach Snyder.