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Joss Whedon reportedly operated the Buffy the Vampire Slayer set like a high school, creating a "cult of personality" around himself with actors who "feared and idolized" him

  • Following Charisma Carpenter's abuse allegations, Variety spoke with 11 people connected with Buffy or Angel, who say Whedon was “both feared and idolized” by the actors on his show. Reporters Adam B. Vary and Elizabeth Wagmeister say their interviews "painted a portrait of Whedon as a talented, collaborative writer-producer with a pattern of inappropriate, imperious and disparaging behavior toward those who worked for him. 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." Variety's interviews didn't include Whedon, who personally declined comment, and stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Eliza Dushku, David Boreanaz and Alyson Hannigan. "Multiple high-placed sources say if there were any complaints about Whedon on the sets of Buffy or Angel, they never rose to the studio level or became an official matter with human resources. Nor did those who spoke with Variety have knowledge of any payouts or settlements regarding Whedon’s alleged behavior while Buffy was in production," report Vary and Wagmeister. "According to sources, after Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1997, he was largely left alone, operating on a tight budget with little oversight, thanks to a steady stream of strong media buzz and rich key-demo ratings. The show shot at a relatively remote location on soundstages in Santa Monica where executives were not regularly roaming around, and the production operated much like an indie film. Insiders say the combination of Whedon’s lack of experience running a television show, the financial pressures of delivering an action-and-effects-heavy hourlong dramedy, a cast largely populated with young and eager actors, and the absence of regular supervision contributed to an environment ripe for a chaotic, highly competitive, toxic workplace. Many people who spoke with Variety described the set as operating like high school, with Whedon making everyone aware of who was in and who was out. Another major factor contributing to the messy nature of the Buffy set: 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." Variety points out Buffy and Angel had "grueling schedules, shooting 22 episodes a season, often at night. Actors requiring elaborate makeup could end up clocking 21-hour days, and shoots sometimes did not wrap until 4 a.m. It was common for production on a Friday to bleed into Saturday morning, wiping out any chance for the cast and crew to enjoy a full weekend off. The practice even had a name: Fraterdays. In that high-pressure production environment, the Buffy set was often aggressively adult, with inappropriate and cutting jokes flying behind the scenes. One source with detailed knowledge of the production recalls Trachtenberg’s mother expressing frustration because the set atmosphere was inappropriate for a young teenager. Whedon was 'both feared and idolized' by the actors on the show, says a person who was part of the team overseeing Buffy during its run. He could be fulsome with his attention with one of his favorites, and 'sharp-tongued' when he was displeased."

    TOPICS: Joss Whedon, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charisma Carpenter, Michelle Trachtenberg, Retro TV