Charisma Carpenter Accuses Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon of 'Abusing His Power' on Set
In a lengthy, emotional statement posted on social media Wednesday, the actress accused Whedon of abusing his power during their time working together on the supernatural series, including making repeated threats to fire her and efforts to "alienate" her from her peers, as well as placing added work stress on her while she was pregnant — leaving her with what she called a "chronic physical condition" triggered by the trauma.
When contacted by PEOPLE, reps for Whedon did not have a comment at this time.
"For nearly two decades, I have held my tongue and made excuses for certain events that traumatize me to this day," began Carpenter. "Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working together 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. The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively."
Carpenter starred as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer from 1997–1999 and its spin-off series Angel until 2004.
The actress, 50, claimed Whedon, 56, would regularly issue "passive-aggressive threats to fire" her and would make public, disparaging comments about her weight in front of fellow coworkers.
"He was mean and biting, disparaging about other openly, and often played favorites, pitting people against one another to compete and vie for his attention and approval," she alleged.
During one alleged instance, Carpenter claimed Whedon asked her if she planned to "keep" her baby after learning she was pregnant — and ultimately fired her shortly after she gave birth.
"He proceeded to attack my character, mock my religious beliefs, accuse me of sabotaging the show, and then unceremoniously fired me the following season once I gave birth," she claimed.
She also claimed Whedon "callously" called her "fat" to colleagues during her pregnancy and accused him of scheduling late shoots with her at the same time, which she said took a toll on her health. "It was clear to me the 1:00 am call was retaliatory, " she wrote.
"Back then, I felt powerless and alone," she continued. "With no other option, I swallowed the mistreatment and carried on."
Carpenter said she felt empowered to speak out after actor Ray Fisher came forward with allegations against Whedon last year, claiming the director "was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" while they worked together on Justice League in 2017. Fisher's claims prompted an internal investigation, which concluded in December 2020. WarnerMedia said at the time that "remedial action has been taken."
"With tears welling, I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to Ray and others for remaining private about my experience with Joss and the suffering it has caused me," Carpenter wrote, adding that she participated in the investigation into the filmmaker. "It is abundantly evident that Joss has persisted in his harmful actions, continuing to create wreckage in his wake."
The actress said that she hopes to "create a space for healing" by coming forward with her own story.
"It has taken so long to muster the courage to make this statement publicly," she wrote. "The gravity of it is not lost on me. As a single mother whose family's livelihood is dependent on my craft, I'm scared."
"I can no longer remain silent," she added. "This is overdue and necessary. It is time."
Fisher, 33, responded on Twitter, calling Carpenter "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."
And another Buffy star, Amber Benson, also spoke out in support of Carpenter.
"Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top," tweeted the actress, 44, who played Tara Maclay on the show. "@AllCharisma 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. #IStandWithRayFisher#IStandWithCharismaCarpenter."