Charisma Carpenter explains the 'big risk' she took by speaking out against Joss Whedon
Since publishing a powerful statement outlining Joss Whedon's alleged "toxic" behavior on her social media channels in February, Charisma Carpenter has largely allowed that letter to speak for itself. But the former Buffy and Angel star revisits the subject in a new interview with fellow veteran of The WB, Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum. Appearing on the actor's podcast, Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum, Carpenter says that she has declined multiple interview requests with outlets like the Today show and The View to avoid giving the impression of being on a "publicity tour to air my grievances."
"People … are cynical of that kind of stuff," Carpenter adds about her choice to stand with Ray Fisher, the Justice League star who was the first to speak out about Whedon last summer. "They think that's why you're saying it. They think that that's what's happening. It's disappointing to hear that's where the head goes. I'm sure in some cases that has happened, so it's fair. … It took me two weeks to write that letter. … I worked so hard editing it, crafting it, saying this, not saying that, what do I want to say and what instances I chose to [share]. I really said everything I could have possibly wanted to say on the subject [in that letter]."
My truth. #IStandWithRayFisherpic.twitter.com/eNjYcJ6zwP
— charisma carpenter (@AllCharisma) February 10, 2021
— charisma carpenter (@AllCharisma) February 10, 2021
Published on Feb. 10, Carpenter's two-part letter outlines multiple instances where Whedon "abused his power" on the Buffy and Angel sets, including a closed-door meeting she had with him after she disclosed that she was pregnant. "He asked me, 'if I was going to keep it' and manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and my faith against me," Carpenter wrote. "He 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's character, Cordelia Chase, was dropped from the Angel cast at the end of Season 4, and returned for a one-episode guest spot in the show's fifth and final season where she was officially killed off.)
Speaking with Rosenbaum, Carpenter recalls that she spent much of that intensive two-week writing process worried about what the fallout from speaking her truth might be. Specifically, she saw a future where the fanbase for Whedon's generation-defining genre shows rejected her presence on the lucrative convention circuit. "I was taking a really big risk by saying this," Carpenter tells the host, who also makes regular appearances at many of the major comic book and sci-fi conventions. "I go to cons all the time, and it's a great deal of my income these days."
"I was really putting myself in a position to alienate my fandom by speaking out," Carpenter continues. "I go to these conventions where people walk with T-shirts on their back saying 'Joss Whedon is my God.' I was really afraid of insulting them, offending them, alienating them."
Ultimately, it was her friendship with Fisher — whom she met at a convention — that convinced her to share her story. The actor, who played Cyborg in the Justice League film that Whedon completed after Zack Snyder parted ways with the production, called the director's behavior "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable," in a July 2020 Twitter post that launched an internal investigation at Warner Bros. That investigation ultimately ended with Whedon leaving his HBO series, The Nevers, and Fisher being written out of the upcoming Flash movie, starring his Justice League teammate Ezra Miller.
"It’s easier to advocate for other people than for yourself, and I knew certainly twenty years ago that wasn't an option," Carpenter tells Rosenbaum. "When I saw twenty years later that the same person was doing the same things … that's how it all happened. … When [Fisher] was let go from the Cyborg role, that was it."
At the time, Carpenter didn't alert her former Buffy and Angel co-stars that she was going public with her experiences, and didn't have any idea how they'd react. To her surprise and gratitude, many came forward to support her, including Amber Benson, Michelle Trachtenberg and Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. "I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon," the actress wrote on Instagram. "I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out."
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"I really never imagined Sarah saying anything," Carpenter says now. "I was really just as shocked as everybody. When your co-workers are saying s***, you're like 'Wow.' I did not see that. … I had no idea."
During her hour-long conversation with Rosenbaum, Carpenter also revealed that Buffy wasn't her first encounter with toxic masculinity. Her very first TV role was on a 1994 episode of Baywatch where she played a love interest for David Hasselhoff's on-screen teenage son, Hobie, played by Jeremy Jackson. Despite being cast as a 13-year-old, Carpenter was actually 24 at the time, and her co-star was 14. "It made everybody nervous because of the age disparity," Carpenter says, adding that Jackson was "a little too forward" in their scenes together.
"They needed to have an advocate on the set, and I felt like I needed the advocate and not him," she explains. "He was a little bit forward, more than I would have liked at the time." Unlike Whedon, though, Carpenter says that Jackson has apparently changed since they worked together. "He's nice now," she says. "He's grown as a person."
Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum is available on all podcast platforms and on YouTube
Watch Charisma Carpenter's full Inside of You interview below
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