Last week, the New York Times reported that Eliza Dushku and CBS reached a “secret” $9.5 million settlement to quietly resolve the tumult that had occurred on set in 2017, when she joined Bull in a new major role. According to the story, Eliza had experienced a great deal of sexual harassment from her costar Michael Weatherly, and had left the show as a result. Michael gave the NYT an official statement for their story, one that chalked the whole situation up to her not understanding his sense of humor. He copped that he had made some jokes, perhaps off-color, that she took the wrong way. However, thanks to a new op-ed from Eliza herself, it seems there’s a lot more to the story than what we’ve been told.
On Dec. 19, The Boston Globe published a startling account by Eliza, outlining in great detail the exact nature of Michael’s alleged sexual harassment and how the mediation proceeded from her abrupt firing. Eliza’s entire account is upsetting for a host of reasons: because it alleges that a lot happened repeatedly in rooms filled with other people who didn’t speak up, because some of her descriptions are truly ghastly, and because it’s almost immediately clear that Michael and CBS attempted to spin the story in their quotes to perhaps dull the reality of what actually went down. But there are so many horrors contained within the article, and they’re reflective of a Hollywood that’s not all that different, even in the #MeToo era.
- Much of the reported harassment happened in front of the entire cast and crew. Eliza wrote that much of Michael’s behavior was caught on camera, in rooms full of people. In one instance, he made a comment about having a threesome with her, which emboldened a crew member to sidle up next to her and say he’d want the same thing. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Michael’s reported behavior.
- The harassment Eliza described is really, really repugnant. In her rebuttal piece, Eliza went into great detail describing the nature of Michael’s harassment, much of which was caught on tape in outtakes and unused footage. He joked about his “rape van, filled with all sorts of lubricants and long phallic things.” He joked about reversing his vasectomy, saying he has “powerful swimmers.” He mimicked “penis jousting” with a costar and, when Eliza flubbed a line, he said he’d take her over his knee and spank her “like a little girl.”
- Michael allegedly made fun of in-place sexual harassment precautions. Eliza wrote that routinely Michael often “exclaimed ‘yellow card’ after distasteful remarks. I learned from crew members that, because there had been previous harassment training on Bull, Weatherly’s delight in yelling ‘yellow card’ was his way of mocking the very harassment training that was meant to keep him in line.”
- Eliza said when she tried to speak about her experiences, she was fired. The tragedy is that Eliza seems to have done as much as she could to keep things copacetic on set, including a direct conversation with Michael. “I aimed to be my diplomatic best. This was not easy for me, since there were plenty of other things I would like to have said to him,” Eliza wrote. “Framing my request as a plea for ‘help’ in setting a different tone on the set, I asked him to ‘be my ally’ and to ‘help ease the sexualized set comments.'” Eliza said she was written off the show by the end of the season, despite the fact that she was more or less locked in for the next season as a recurring star.
- CBS submitted footage as evidence . . . to prove she overreacted. Once Eliza made it known she was considering a lawsuit, she entered into mediation with CBS. According to the original story — this is the one Eliza specifically addressed with her own op-ed — CBS handed over “outtakes from Bull in the belief that they would help the network’s cause, because they showed Dushku cursing on the set.” That’s right, the initial objective was to discredit Eliza rather than support her.
- The eventual settlement meant CBS could spin it in their favor. The original story states that Eliza’s $9.5 million settlement would prohibit her from speaking out about the experiences. This meant CBS and the other parties involved would have full control of the outward narrative.
- Those involved attempted to soften the situation publicly. Prior to Eliza’s op-ed, the original report severely lessened how things looked for Michael. “During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script,” Michael reportedly said in the statement. “When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humor, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologized. After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza.” From Eliza’s side, it’s hard to see where Michael was mortified, since he reacted by having her fired from the show, then iced her out during her remaining weeks on set. But I digress.
- Eliza said she agreed to the settlement under certain conditions, which may not have even been honored. Eliza wrote that she wanted a “culture change,” and she used her settlement as an opportunity to enact it. “A significant settlement condition was my requirement that CBS designate an individual trained in sexual harassment compliance to monitor Weatherly and the show in general,” she wrote. “CBS did not want to do this, but I wouldn’t settle without this condition.” She also wanted to meet with Steven Spielberg, whose production company helps create Bull. At the time of the publication, she said she hadn’t yet had her meeting, which, by that extension, could mean the other stipulation isn’t being honored either.