Actress Eliza Dushku, best-known for her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Lies and Bring It On, published an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Wednesday detailing her account of harassment she faced on the set of the CBS series Bull by her co-star Michael Weatherly, and her firing when she complained.
The New York Times published an article last week about the $9.5 million settlement the network reached with Dushku, quoting Weatherly (who acted in the network’s most popular series, NCIS, before Bull). In the article, Weatherly said that his sexually inappropriate comments — including a comment about a rape van, saying that he wanted to have a threesome with Dushku, and that he would put her over his knee and spank her — were jokes, and in one case a poorly-executed Cary Grant reference.
Dushku did not comment for the article because she believed the confidentiality agreement she signed as part of her settlement with the network prohibited her from doing so. “I was under the impression that Weatherly and [Glenn Gordon] Caron [the show-runner] would also not respond per our settlement,” she wrote in her Boston Globe piece. “Instead, both commented to the Times in what amounted to more deflection, denial, and spin.” As a result, she wrote, she felt “compelled to chronicle what actually happened.”
“In explaining his bad behavior, Weatherly, who plays Dr. Bull, claimed I didn’t get his attempt at humor. That’s how a perpetrator rationalizes when he is caught,” Dushku wrote. “For the record, I grew up in Boston with three older brothers and have generally been considered a tomboy. […] I do not want to hear that I have a ‘humor deficit’ or can’t take a joke. I did not overreact. I took a job and, because I did not want to be harassed, I was fired.”
Dushku also noted that much of Weatherly’s behavior, since it happened on set, was captured on CBS’s own video recordings. “This is not a ‘he-said/she-said’ case,” she wrote. “Reflecting on the whole ordeal, it often makes me think with sadness of the majority of victims who do not have the benefit of the fortunate evidence — the tapes that I had.”
“Watching the recordings in the settlement process, it is easy to see how uncomfortable, speechless, and frozen he made me feel. For Weatherly’s part, it looks like a deeply insecure power play, about a need to dominate and demean. In no way was it playful, nor was it joking with two willing participants,” she wrote. “What is hardest to share is the way he made me feel for 10 to 12 hours per day for weeks. This was classic workplace harassment that became workplace bullying. I was made to feel dread nearly all the time I was in his presence. And this dread continues to come up whenever I think of him and that experience.” She also noted in the piece that Weatherly would often refer to his close friendship with CBS head Les Moonves, who was fired for sexual harassment earlier this year.
This is the second time this year Dushku has spoken up about abusive behavior she’s dealt with over the course of her career.
In January, amid an outpouring of accusations prompted by Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, Dushku came forward with allegations that stunt coordinator Joel Kramer molested her during the filming of True Lies, when she was 12 years old and he was 36. She wrote in a Facebook post that she told her parents, two adult friends, and her brother at the time, but that “No one seemed ready to confront this taboo subject then, nor was I.”
She also said that Kramer caused her to be injured during a stunt as retaliation for her telling people what he’d done. (He denied the allegations.)
When asked for comment on Dushku’s claims regarding Weatherly’s behavior, her firing and the settlement, CBS sent Rolling Stone a statement. “The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done,” it reads. “The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.” They issued the same statement for the Times piece, and declined to comment further when Rolling Stone reached out for a direct response to Dushku’s op-ed.