The Affair Showrunner Addresses Ruth Wilson's Exit and Accusations of 'Very Toxic' Environment
In a recent Hollywood Reporter article, insiders detailed the alleged reasons behind the star's abrupt exit
In a guest column written for Deadline on Friday, Treem responded to allegations made in a recent Hollywood Reporter article, in which insiders claimed Wilson, 37, objected to filming some of the nude scenes on the show, especially when it seemed unnecessary for her to be unclothed. The outlet reported that the environment on the show was “very toxic” and that Treem would “try to cajole actors to get naked.”
“A little less than two weeks ago, writers from The Hollywood Reporter reached out to say they would be publishing an article about how I created a hostile work environment and asked for a response,” Treem, 39, began her column for Deadline. “Unfortunately, not much of my perspective made it into the story, nor the perspectives of many of the half dozen senior level producers, director and other key crew members who spoke up.”
Treem went on to explain that she began writing The Affair about nine years ago, just after getting out of a “very bad relationship,” adding that Wilson’s character of Alison was “forged in grief and pain, whose sexual relationships had a violent, transgressive element from the beginning, as she was using them to escape an amorphous, emotional pain that is harder to tolerate.”
The showrunner also addressed a sex scene that was filmed in the second season of the show. THR reported that Wilson refused to shoot the “rapey” scene, and a body double filmed it instead.
“Did I know that scene reads as a male fantasy? Of course,” Treem wrote of the scene, which involved Wilson’s character being pushed up against a tree, according to THR. “That was the whole point. The Affair was about perspective. And specifically, about subverting the male narrative.”
Treem added that it “wasn’t a surprise” that Wilson “didn’t approve of the scene” because they “had been disagreeing on the character’s choices since the second episode.”
“So that day, as in most cases, we had a lengthy discussion about the scene, notes went back and forth, changes were made, and then Ruth played the scene the way she felt her character would,” Treem explained. “Which did alter the intent of the scene to something that seemed non-consensual. But we had discussed the scene and Ruth made her choices as an artist. Then we brought in a body double to do any nudity. And that was the scene we aired.”
Treem wrote: “On a continuous basis throughout Ruth’s time on the show, I tried to protect her and shoot sex scenes safely and respectfully … We didn’t agree on the choices of the character or whether or not a sex scene was necessary to advance the plot, but that is not the same thing as not respecting or supporting an actress’s need to feel safe in her work environment, which is something I always take incredibly seriously.”
The THR report also detailed a group dinner attended by Girls creator Lena Dunham, The Affair executive producer Jeffrey Reiner and others. Reiner allegedly showed Dunham a graphic image and tried to persuade her to get Wilson to “show her tits, or at least some vag” on the show.
Representatives for Wilson and Dunham did not immediately return PEOPLE’s requests for comment earlier this week, and Cleta Ellington, who is a longtime associate of Reiner’s and an assistant director on the show, recalled the conversation to be different than what was described in the THR report.
“When I heard about the incident, I came back to New York and tried to figure out what actually happened,” Treem wrote, adding, “I repeatedly urged Showtime to do something. I wanted to shut down production, do sensitivity training, address the cast and crew and apologize for what had occurred. But instead, I was told to stick to certain talking points and let the network handle the response. By the time the third season was over, Showtime executives told me to write Ruth out of the show.”
Wilson indeed did not return for season 5 of The Affair and was killed off from the show in a violent murder, although THR claimed she successfully shot down the concept of a sexual assault in her final episode.
Treem confirmed in the Deadline column that her original script did include a sexual assault, but maintained that she believed it was a crucial part of Wilson’s character’s arc.
“Alison needed to go,” Treem explained. “But for a character to disappear, on a show like this, she needed to die. She couldn’t just walk away into the sunset because we followed our characters wherever they went. I could have written that she got hit by a bus in the first episode, but I loved her character and wanted to finish her story meaningfully.”
Treem concluded her column: “As in many things, it is very tough to be a woman and do this job. I did not always agree with Ruth Wilson, but I did always have respect for her craft, her ability and her process and I tried to write her a character deserving of her immense talent. I know she’ll continue to tell the story of complex, multi-faceted, remarkable female characters for the rest of her long career.”
In a statement to PEOPLE earlier this week, Showtime claimed to have “a safe environment for [actors] to do their best work.”
“When confronted with a report of inappropriate behavior involving anyone within our offices or productions, we immediately initiate a process overseen by our compliance team in the case of our own shows, or in the case of series we license from others, we collaborate closely with the relevant production studio. In the instances that THR is referencing, appropriate and decisive action was taken,” the Showtime rep said.