Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Charisma Carpenter has accused series creator Joss Whedon of “serialised abuses of power” which left her feeling “powerless and alone” as well as with a “chronic physical condition from which I still suffer”.
The actress, 50, who played Cordelia Chase in the supernatural drama series and its spin-off Angel, accused Whedon of “hostile and toxic work environments”, as well as “ongoing, passive-aggressive threats” to fire her and calling her “fat” when she was four months pregnant.
Carpenter said she was prompted to speak out after actor Ray Fisher was removed from the cast of upcoming superhero film The Flash after he had publicly criticised Whedon, who had directed the reshoots of Justice League after original director Zack Snyder stepped down following a family tragedy.
A representative for Whedon said they had no comment when approached by the PA news agency.
Carpenter shared a lengthy statement on Twitter captioned “My truth. #IStandWithRayFisher.”
She wrote: “For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and even made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day.
“Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
“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.
“Last summer, when Ray Fisher publicly accused Joss of abusive and unprofessional behaviour toward the cast and crew during reshoots on the Justice League set in 2017, it gutted me.
“Joss has a history of being casually cruel. He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career. I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.
“Like his ongoing, passive-aggressive threats to fire me, which wreaks havoc on a young actor’s self-esteem. And callously calling me ‘fat’ to colleagues when I was 4 months pregnant, weighing 126 lbs.
“He was mean and biting, disparaging about others openly, and often played favourites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval.”
After learning she was pregnant, Carpenter claimed Whedon “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 said Whedon was a “vampire” who sucked the “promise and joy” out of her new motherhood.
She added: “Only recently, after years of therapy and a wake up call from the Time’s Up movement, do I understand the complexities of this demoralized thinking.
“It is impossible to understand the psyche without enduring the abuse. Our society and industry vilify the victims and glorify the abusers for their accomplishments.
“The onus is on the abused with an expectation to accept and adapt to be employable. No accountability on the transgressor who sails on unscathed. Unrepentant. Remorseless.
“These memories and more have weighed on my soul like bricks for nearly half of my life. I wish I said something sooner. I wish I had the composure and courage all those years ago. But I muted myself in shame and conditioned silence.
“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.
“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.”
Carpenter said Fisher’s firing was “the last straw” and added: “Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it. It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security.”
Fisher, who played Cyborg in Justice League, had accused Whedon of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” treatment of cast and crew on the set of the 2017 film.
Whedon is also known as the writer and director of two of the Avengers films as well as the creator of TV series Firefly.