Eliza Dushku has broken her silence about her run on CBS’ Bull, a job she says featured “one of the most cruel, most aggressive humiliations I have ever experienced” and from which she was fired after speaking up about lewd comments made by her co-star, Michael Weatherly.
In an op-ed published in Wednesday’s Boston Globe, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum outlines in great detail the atmosphere on the CBS procedural that led to her lodging a formal complaint — and then being fired not long afterward. Dushku, who says she was brought onto the show to become a series regular, later was awarded a $9.5 million settlement by the network.
News of the settlement broke in a New York Times article earlier in December. Dushku declined to be interviewed for that piece, she writes, “because I wanted to honor the terms of my settlement with the network. I was under the impression that Weatherly and [Bull showrunner Glen Gordon] Caron would also not respond per our settlement. Instead, all commented to the Times in what amounted to more deflection, denial, and spin.”
Last week, Weatherly’s former NCIS colleagues Pauley Perrette and Sasha Alexander jumped to defend him, pledging their support for him on social media. “This man… I love, respect, trust, and I KNOW. TWO decades of friendship and respect,” Perrette tweeted with a photo of her and Weatherly. “The best. I love you @M_Weatherly. Always and forever.”
Per the Times story, Weatherly would say things like, “Here comes legs” when Dushku arrived on set for a scene, that he joked about having a threesome with her and that he once responded to her flubbing a line by saying he’d bend her over his knee and spank her. Dushku adds that her former co-star also routinely mocked previous sexual harassment training and rallied the crew against her, humiliating her publicly during an end-of-season wrap party.
Dushku writes that, after she approached Weatherly directly and asked for his help in de-sexualizing the atmosphere on set, he texted Caron and asked that she be written off the show, adding that she had a “humor deficit.”
About that, she writes:
For the record, I grew up in Boston with three older brothers and have generally been considered a tomboy. I made a name for myself playing a badass vampire slayer turned tough LA cheerleader; I have worked with numerous leading men, including Robert DeNiro, Leonardo DiCaprio, even CBS’s own David Boreanaz. I can handle a locker room. I have been on Howard Stern and was hired by Kevin Smith for a film where I wore a black leather cat suit and played a member of an international diamond-thief-gang-ring. I do not want to hear that I have a “humor deficit” or can’t take a joke. I did not over-react. I took a job and, because I did not want to be harassed, I was fired.
Dushku adds that top CBS executives had no idea that she would be fired and were shocked when they heard about the move from her management team. (Ahead of Season 3, Caron told TVLine: “I think what we all realized was… the only way to have kept her character in the show, because she is a lawyer, was if her law firm bought Bull’s company, and then you’re really changing the DNA of the whole show… There was no way to keep that sort of ‘duet’ working.”)
“I think what we all realized was… the only way to have kept her character in the show, because she is a lawyer, was if her law firm bought Bull’s company, and then you’re really changing the DNA of the whole show,” Caron answered. “There was no way to keep that sort of ‘duet’ working.”
She goes on to say that in addition to the settlement, “I wanted a culture change” at the network. To that end, a condition of her agreement was that CBS assign someone trained in sexual harassment compliance to oversee Weatherly and the show; she also required a meeting with Steven Spielberg, head of Amblin Television, which co-produces the drama.