The catalyst for Ruth Wilson’s abrupt and mysterious exit from Showtime’s The Affair appears to be even more unseemly than you probably imagined.
Wilson, who to date has been cryptic if not entirely mum about why she parted ways with the drama at the end of Season 4, remains, as we all assumed, constrained by the terms of an NDA. But the Dec. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter has an exhaustive (and exhaustingly depressing), 3,000-word account featuring numerous unnamed sources, alleging that Wilson had taken issue with “the frequency and nature of certain nude scenes” — some of which she is said to have deemed purely “titillating.” Series creator Sarah Treem, meanwhile, allegedly did her best to cajole actors into dropping trou as often as scripted.
Wilson also reportedly refused to shoot an “aggressive sex scene” in which she was pushed up against a tree by leading man Dominic West, because the actress was said to have been “unamused” by its “rapey” tone.
Addressing the complaints, Treem told THR, “I am not a manipulative person, and I’ve always been a feminist…. [I] did everything I could think of to make [Wilson] feel comfortable with these scenes.”
“The reason I even created The Affair was to illuminate how the female experience of moving through the world is so different from the male one…,” Treem added. “The idea that I would ever cultivate an unsafe environment or harass a woman on one of my shows is utterly ridiculous and lacks a grounding in reality.”
THR’s investigation says that Wilson was eventually able to raise a complaint with Showtime about a “hostile work environment” when the misconduct of frequent director and EP Jeffrey Reiner came to light, first by way of a blind item on a website that Girls producer Jenni Konner once shared with Lena Dunham.
The blind item alleged that a “producer/director” on another TV series that films in the Montauk area had asked Dunham if she would persuade one of his stars (read: Wilson) to “show her t–s, or at least some vag[ina].” Said producer/director also allegedly showed Dunham an arguably improperly obtained/retained photo, on his iPhone, of a nude male actor, grabbed from a scene that was filmed on a closed set. Treem responded to that uproar by issuing to cast and crew an email stressing the production’s “zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and assault,” though not everyone came away feeling that the matter had been sufficiently addressed.
In a statement to THR, a Showtime rep said, “When confronted with a report of inappropriate behavior involving anyone within our offices or productions, we immediately initiate a process overseen by our compliance team in the case of our own shows, or in the case of series we license from others, we collaborate closely with the relevant production studio. In the instances that THR is referencing, appropriate and decisive action was taken.” Reiner parted ways with The Affair after Season 3, after reportedly being told he could not direct any episodes with Wilson in them; he also allegedly was instructed to take an online anti-harassment and management training course.
Wilson used the incident to negotiate her exit (and reportedly a sizable payout) from The Affair, then pre-filmed scenes for her final season — allegedly with the proviso that Treem was not allowed on set with her. What’s more, Wilson was able to “negotiate” Alison’s originally conceived death (violently murdered after fending off an attempted rape) down to “violently murdered by her married boyfriend,” but with no sexual assault.