Charisma Carpenter details director Joss Whedon's alleged abuse of power, 'Buffy' co-stars share support

Charisma Carpenter is speaking out about the abuse she alleges she suffered while working with "Avengers" director Joss Whedon.

On Wednesday, the actress, who starred in WB's Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spin-off, "Angel," which Whedon created, shared a lengthy statement on Twitter about "certain events that traumatize me to this day." She accused Whedon of emotional abuse and misconduct. 

"Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Angel.' While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers," Carpenter wrote.

Carpenter, 50, played Cordelia Chase on "Buffy" and "Angel" from 1997-2004.

'I wish I said something sooner': Carpenter alleges abuse

The actress leveled claims several months after "Justice League" actor Ray Fisher made similar accusations about Whedon last July that resulted in an internal investigation at WarnerMedia, which produces the DC Comics films, including "Justice League."  Whedon was brought in at a late stage of production to help finish filming after director Zack Snyder had to step aside for personal reasons. 

"Last summer, when Ray Fisher publicly accused Joss of abusive and unprofessional behavior toward the cast and crew during reshoots on the Justice League set in 2017, it gutted me. 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."

USA TODAY reached out to representatives for Carpenter, Whedon and Fisher for comment.

Carpenter went on to describe the alleged incidents of abuse and unprofessional conduct, including "passive-aggressive" threats to fire her and calling her "fat" when she was four months pregnant. 

"Joss intentionally refused multiple calls form my agents making it impossible to connect with him to tell him the news that I was pregnant. Finally, once Joss was apprised of the situation, he requested a meeting with me. In that closed-door meeting, he asked me if I was ‘going to keep it’ and manipulatively weaponized my womanhood and faith against me."

She also alleged that Whedon "proceeded to attack my character, mock my beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show" and ultimately he fired her from "Angel" after she had given birth. (Her character was killed off at the beginning of the fifth and final season of "Angel.") 

"At six months pregnant, I was asked to report to work at 1:00 a.m. after my doctor recommended shortening my work hours. Due to long and physically demanding days and the emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. It was clear to me that 1:00 a.m. call was retaliatory."

Whedon has been one of the more successful writer and directors in Hollywood in recent years, on Marvel's first "Avengers" film in 2012 and its sequel "Age of Ultron." He created "Buffy" in 1997 and "Angel" in 1999. His latest series "The Nevers," is set to debut on HBO in April, although Variety reported in November that he had exited the project. 

Hours after Carpenter's statement, "Buffy" star Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played the title role, released a statement on Instagram.

"While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don't want to forever be associated with the name Joss Whedon. I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out," she wrote Wednesday.

David Boreanaz, who played Angel on "Buffy" from 1997-2003 and on "Angel" from 1999-2004, also shared his support.

"I am here for you to listen and support you. Proud of your strength," he replied to Carpenter's tweet

Carpenter responded to Boreanaz to thank him and added "I appreciate all you’ve done to demonstrate that support privately as well."

Although Carpenter says she experienced the abuse two decades ago, she's speaking up now to spread awareness. It was only recently, after years of therapy as well as "a wake-up call from the Time's Up" movement that she says she realized the severity of abuse.

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"With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on. After all, I had a baby on the way, and I was the primary breadwinner of my growing family. Unfortunately, all this was happening during one of the most wonderful time in new motherhood. All that promise and joy sucked right out. And Joss was the vampire."

She continued: "It is impossible to understand the psyche without enduring the abuse. Our society and industry vilify the victims and glorify the abusers for their accomplishments. The onus is on the abused with an expectation to accept and adapt to be employable. No accountability on the transgressor who sails on unscathed. Unrepentant. Remorseless."

"These memories and more have weighed on my soul like bricks for nearly half of my life. I wish I said something sooner. I wish I had the composure and courage all those years ago. But I muted myself in shame and conditioned silence."

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By coming forward about her trauma, Carpenter says she intends to "create space for the healing of others" for those who have experienced abuse of power, including Fisher.

"Recently, I participated in WarnerMedia’s 'Justice League' investigation because I believe Ray to be a person of integrity who is telling the truth. His firing as Cyborg in 'The Flash' was the last straw for me. Although I am not shocked, I am deeply pained by it. It troubles and saddens me that in 2021 professionals STILL have to choose between whistleblowing in the workplace and job security."

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Fisher praised Carpenter for her bravery Wednesday.

"Charisma Carpenter is one of the bravest people I know. I am forever grateful for her courage and for her lending her voice to the Justice League investigation. Read her truth. Share her truth. Protect her at all costs. 'It is time,' " he wrote on Twitter.

Amber Benson, who played Tara on “Buffy” from 1999-2002, tweeted a statement of support. “Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top,” she wrote. “(Carpenter) is speaking truth and I support her 100%. There was a lot of damage done during that time and many of us are still processing it twenty plus years later.”

Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Dawn Summers, shared Gellar's statement on Instagram.

"Thank you @sarahmgellar for saying this. I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman.... To repost this. Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behavior," she wrote in the caption.

She updated her statement on Thursday, alleging that there is a rule that Whedon is "not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again."

Eliza Dushku, who played Faith, released a statement on Instagram to support her "Buffy" co-star and commend her for her bravery to speak out.

"CC, my heart aches for you and I am so sorry you have held this for so long. Your post was powerful, painful, and painted a picture we'll collectively never un-see or un-know. Thank you. I hadn't known it and I won't forget it," she wrote on Thursday.

"I frequently think of the saying 'We are as sick as our secrets.' Our secrets indeed make and keep us sick. What I am learning more and more — and I have personally found most valuable — is that profound healing can only come from naming and disclosing what actually happened, the necessary first step (once someone's ready) to freeing ourselves from our secrets, untold truths which have kept us isolated, ashamed, and held hostage."

She then praised Carpenter for her courage: "May you and countless others feel the solidarity and connection you have likely missed for too long. From courage, come change and hope. It starts and will end because of courageous truth-tellers like you. I admire, respect and love you."

"Buffy" alum Anthony Head, who played mentor Rupert Giles, said he felt "gutted" and shocked by the hostile and toxic workplace allegations against Whedon while appearing on ITV's This Morning on Thursday.

"I have been up most of the night just running through my memories thinking, 'What did I miss?'" Head said during his interview.

"This is not a man saying, 'I didn't see it so it didn't happen.' I am gutted. I'm seriously gutted because one of my memories — my fondest memory — was the fact that it was so empowering. Not just with the words in the script, but the family feel of the show. I'm really sad that if people went through these experiences."

Fisher, who played the young superhero Cyborg in 2017's "Justice League," described the director's on-set behavior as "abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable."

His ex-wife, Kai Cole, also spoke out against Whedon for his alleged serial cheating in a guest column for The Wrap in August 2017.

"I want to let women know that he is not who he pretends to be," Cole wrote, adding that saying behind closed doors, Whedon blamed his affairs on the pressures of the patriarchy. 

The couple separated in 2012 and divorced in 2016. They share two children.

Contributing: Andrea Mandell, Andrew Dalton, Associated Press