Former "Desperate Housewives" actress Nicollette Sheridan has taken the witness stand in the trial over her claim that she was fired by ABC after complaining about being hit by series creator Marc Cherry.
"That was embarrassing," Sheridan said in Los Angeles Superior Court after a jury had been shown a montage of clips of her sexiest scenes from the hit ABC dramedy.
After describing her character as "sexy, overt, audacious," she looked at the jury of eight women and four men and began her testimony by describing her original audition for a guest role and how she became a regular. She said after season one, producers doubled her salary and gave her a $125,000 bonus.
Sheridan continued testifying that she received raises in a new contract (in the third year she got $125,000 per episode and in the fourth year she would get $150,000, then $175,000 in fifth year and $200,000 for the sixth year and $250,000 for seventh episode). At end of season three, Cherry allegedly told Sheridan that the show would end with Sheridan's character hanging in a noose but that she would "definitely" be back, and she was.
Sheridan’s testimony is continuing Thursday (THR will provide updates).
Her appearance marked the beginning of testimony in the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks. At the heart of the case is Sheridan’s contention that she was wrongly terminated from the ABC series by producer-writer Marc Cherry after she complained that he had lost his temper and hit her on the side of the head.
In opening arguments on Wednesday, Sheridan’s attorney Mark Baute said that Cherry had smacked his client on the side of the head “hard.” Cherry's lawyer Adam Levin described the incident in his opening statement as “a light tap on the head," which was simply meant to demonstrate "a piece of physical humor" from the scene.
Jurors will be asked to determine if Cherry committed battery on Sept. 24, 2008, during that rehearsal and whether his decision to terminate her from the show several months and 11 episodes later was retaliation for her complaints against him.
Much of the case will hang on whether Cherry in fact decided in May 2008 that Sheridan’s character was to die. That was four months before he struck Sheridan. ABC is a defendant in the suit because it approved Cherry’s plan to kill off the character at the end of the season.
Two of the show’s former writers are expected to testify for Sheridan that they never heard Cherry say he would kill off the character in advance of the incident. Another network executive will testify that it is unusual to kill off a lead character like the one Sheridan played.
Cherry’s side will say that Sheridan’s character was originally only supposed to be in the pilot episode, but they later decided to make her a "blond bombshell who would have sex with the husbands of all of the housewives." Cherry will say that after five seasons, according to his lawyer, the "writers could only do so much with the character," because there were only so many husbands for her to sleep with.
Sheridan’s lawyer will point out that the network and producers picked up Sheridan's option for a new season, guaranteeing her $4 million for the year, only two weeks after they claim they decided to eliminate her character from the show.
Among those expected to testify on Cherry’s behalf are Sheridan's fellow actors Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, James Denton, Felicity Huffman and Neal McDonough, among others.
As part of ABC's case, jurors will be shown an index card created at a writer's meeting in May 2008 that reads "Steve drinks OJ," which was code for the plan to have Sheridan's husband cause her death. Levin said it was a reference to O.J. Simpson.
In earlier rulings, the judge limited how much Sheridan can win to a little more than $4 million, which represents her salary for one season. She had been seeking millions more to cover all the seasons she would have been on the show if she remained.