Back in 2017, Eliza Dushku appeared on a few episodes of the CBS show Bull. She played J.P. Nunnelly, a criminal defense lawyer who developed a flirtatious repartee with its anti-hero, a roguish trial consultant played by NCIS veteran Michael Weatherly. Dushku’s appearance was short-lived, though a New York Times report reveals that Dushku was supposed to have remained on the show as a regular. Instead, as per the piece, she received a confidential $9.5 million settlement, intended to resolve claims that she was retaliated against after alleging she was sexually harassed on the set.
The Times piece claimed Weatherly had, on multiple occasions, made jokes about Dushku’s appearance, including one about a potential threesome, and even one about his “rape van.” The jokes were made in front of the cast and crew, creating, as Dushku said, an uncomfortable atmosphere, in which crew members started making comments to her as well, leaving her feeling “disgusted and violated.”
When Dushku raised complaints to the network, she soon found herself written off the show, after having been told she would remain a regular over multiple seasons. After considering a lawsuit, she instead entered talks with the network. During that time, Mark Engstrom, the chief compliance officer at CBS, attempted to play hard ball, as per the Times.
Mr. Engstrom handed over outtakes from “Bull” in the belief that they would help the company’s cause, because they showed Ms. Dushku cursing on the set, investigators wrote in the draft of their report.
The strategy backfired. The outtakes were a “gold mine” for Ms. Dushku, the lawyers wrote, because they “actually captured some of the harassment on film.”
Instead, they agreed to the aforementioned settlement.
That settlement came to light during the independent investigations into the accusations of sexual misconduct filed against former CBS CEO Les Moonves. According to The Times:
[T]he 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.
CBS released a statement in which they agreed with the investigation’s findings.
“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,” their statement read. “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.”
Dushku declined to comment for the Times piece. Weatherly, however, issued an e-mailed statement, in which he claims he apologized immediately after making his comments. He’s also denied that he had anything to do with Dushku’s removal from the show, as did current showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron.
This isn’t the first time a troubling incident involving Dushku has been made public. Last year, she joined the #MeToo movement, claiming that, when she was 12, she was molested by a stunt coordinator on the set of the James Cameron film True Lies. The coordinator denied her allegations.
(Via The New York Times)