In March 2017, Eliza Dushku, an actress known for her work on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” signed on to play a major role in three episodes of the CBS prime-time drama “Bull,” and there were plans to make her a full-time cast member.
Her time on the set began promisingly. The show’s star, Michael Weatherly — a mainstay of CBS’s prime-time lineup for 15 years — seemed friendly. And a producer and writer on “Bull,” Glenn Gordon Caron, told Ms. Dushku she would be more than a love interest.
Then came a series of comments that made Ms. Dushku uncomfortable. In front of the cast and crew, Mr. Weatherly remarked on her appearance, and made a rape joke and a comment about a threesome. Shortly after Ms. Dushku confronted the star about his behavior, she was written off the show. She believed her time on “Bull” came to a sudden end as a result of retaliation.
After she went through mediation with CBS, the company agreed to a confidential settlement that would pay her $9.5 million, roughly the equivalent of what Ms. Dushku would have earned if she had stayed on as a cast member for four seasons.
Details of Ms. Dushku’s experiences on “Bull” and the confidential settlement she reached with the company emerged during the course of an investigation that began in August, when the CBS Corporation board hired the law firms Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton to examine accusations of sexual misconduct made by multiple women against Leslie Moonves, the company’s former chief executive. The board also instructed the outside lawyers to investigate “cultural issues at all levels of CBS.”
In a draft of the investigation report, which was reviewed by The New York Times, the lawyers said the company’s handling of Ms. Dushku’s complaints was not only misguided, but emblematic of larger problems at CBS. When faced with instances of wrongdoing, the company had a tendency to protect itself, at the expense of victims, the investigators wrote.
Ms. Dushku declined to comment for this article. In a statement on Wednesday, CBS confirmed the settlement and pledged to improve working conditions.
“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,” the statement said. “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.”
In an emailed statement to The Times, Mr. Weatherly apologized for his behavior with Ms. Dushku.
“During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script,” Mr. Weatherly said in the statement. “When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humor, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologized. After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Rachel Abrams and John Koblin