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Buffy, Angel Crew Reveal Joss Whedon’s Toxic Behavior on Set

Employees recount "a pattern of inappropriate, imperious and disparaging behavior" from Whedon.

joss whedon

A new exposé in Variety features interviews with 11 former Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel crew members discussing Joss Whedon’s toxic behavior behind the scenes. The employees, who remained anonymous, detailed a work environment rife with favoritism, casual cruelty, and inappropriate behavior.

Whedon’s behavior, long an open secret in Hollywood, took center stage when actor Ray Fisher accused the director of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior on the set of 2017’s Justice League. Fisher, who played Cyborg in the film, also accused producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg of enabling Whedon’s behavior.

In light of the accusations, Warner Bros. launched a third-party investigation, which included testimony from Buffy and Angel actress Charisma Carpenter. Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase on both series, posted a statement to her social media saying “Joss has a history of being casually cruel. He has created hostile and toxic work environments since his early career, … I know because I experienced it first-hand. Repeatedly.”

Carpenter’s public statement was met with messages of support from cast members, including Amber Benson, Michelle Trachtenberg, Clare Kramer, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who wrote on Instagram, “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don’t want to be forever associated with Joss Whedon.”

The stories from Variety corroborate what Fisher, Carpenter, and others experienced. “Whedon created a ‘cult of personality’ around himself, according to these sources. Those on the inside of Whedon’s circle basked in his attention, praise and friendship; those on the outside got the opposite: scorn, derision and callousness.”

The article describes a set that functioned much like Sunnydale High itself: a high school-like atmosphere peppered with malevolent behavior. One source that worked closely with Carpenter characterized Whedon’s behavior as “very, very bad,” “mean-spirited” and “verbal abuse.” Whedon was described as playing favorites, “He’d frequently pick on her, and the source says some writers on the show, following Whedon’s lead, were openly dismissive of Carpenter’s acting skills.”

Another source described an “improper verbal exchange between Whedon and [Michelle] Trachtenberg”, who was a teenager at the time. They also confirmed that efforts were made to make sure Trachtenberg was never alone with Whedon.

The article details a scenario that is all too common on film and television sets in Hollywood. An egomaniacal creator who abuses his cast and crew, but who remains employed because he delivers content on time and under/at budget. For too long, the industry has been a haven for men who behave badly, whose “artistic genius” is an excuse for treating employees horribly. It’s an issue that is compounded by success and positions of power, which Whedon experienced as he left television to direct The Avengers and Age of Ultron. With great power comes less accountability.

The article also discussed Whedon’s rumored affairs with his employees and the inherent power imbalance:

“Stories of Whedon engaging in affairs with women working on the show quickly spread, according to three independent sources. As the executive producer and showrunner, Whedon was the boss, including of the women with whom he engaged in relationships. The alleged behavior contributed to a toxic workplace and heightened competition on set, blurring the lines between personal and professional demeanor for the cast — dynamics that continued long after Whedon’s purported affairs ended.”

Joss Whedon and the stars of Angel and Buffy declined to be interviewed for the article.

(via Variety, featured image: Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.