Joss Whedon: who is the Buffy writer and why have Ray Fisher and Charisma Carpenter accused him of ‘cruel’ behaviour?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars Sarah Michelle Geller and Michelle Trachtenberg have also spoken out on Whedon

Several Hollywood actors have spoken out against writer and director Joss Whedon, claiming he displayed ‘toxic’ and ‘cruel’ and ‘not very appropriate’ behaviour.

Whedon is the director and writer behind many US hit shows, such as Justice League, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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So, what exactly is he accused of and how has Hollywood responded? This is what we know.

Ray Fisher (left) and Charisma Carpenter (right) have both accused Joss Whedon (centre) of being 'cruel' and inappropriate (Picture: Getty Images)

Who is Joss Whedon?

Joss Whedon - born Joseph Hill Whedon - is an American film director, writer, author and founder of Mutant Enemy Productions.

He has written several TV series - most notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel - as well as working on Disney’s Toy Story and horror comedy film The Cabin in the Woods.

Whedon spent three years at Winchester College, England, before going on to study and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1987.

The third-generation screenwriter was born and still lives in New York. His father, Tom Whedon, wrote The Golden Girls among others, and his grandfather John Whedon worked as a writer on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s.

He divorced his ex-wife, film producer Kai Cole, in 2016, and has two children with her.

The director has recently come under fire from actors who have starred in his productions, with Ray Fisher making complaints against him in 2020 and several others commenting on his behaviour in recent days.

The most notable comments have been made by Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter, who suggested he fired her after he made a series of passive aggressive comments and created a "toxic and hostile work environment".

What did Charisma Carpenter say?

Charisma Carpenter played the role of Cordelia Chase in supernatural dramas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel from 1997 to 2004, and worked closely with Whedon.

On 10 February, she released a statement on Twitter which accused Whedon of “ongoing, passive-aggressive threats" to fire her during her time on the show, as well as being “casually cruel” and abusing his power.

Carpenter also alleged Whedon called her fat when she was four months pregnant, asking her if she was going to keep the child.

She said this led to feelings of trauma and the need for therapy over a two-decade-long period, and added she was “unceremoniously fired” the following season.

The statement was released as a picture, captioned: “My Truth. #IStandWithRayFisher”

Commenting on the Ray Fisher allegations, she said it has spurred her on to speak out as it ‘gutted’ her that the actor had also been treated inappropriately by Whedon.

What did Ray Fisher accuse Whedon of?

Ray Fisher starred in Justice League, written and directed by Whedon in 2017.

The actor, who plays Cyborg in the film, accused Whedon in 2020 of "gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable" behaviour.

Fisher added that Geoff Johns, then president of DC Entertainment, and producer Jon Berg "enabled" such behavior.

Film production company Warner Bros. stated these were false allegations due to Fisher being unhappy with the direction his character was taking in the storyline, but Fisher then went further, claiming that Whedon altered an actor's skin tone post-production.

Fisher said: "What set my soul on fire and forced me to speak out about Joss Whedon this summer was my becoming informed that Joss had ordered that the complexion of an actor of color be changed in post-production because he didn’t like the colour of their skin tone.

"Man, with everything 2020's been, that was the tipping point for me."

In an interview with Forbes, he added: “Prior to Justice League's reshoot process, blatantly racist conversations were had and entertained — on multiple occasions — by former and current top level executives at Warner Bros. Pictures.

“Decision-makers that participated in those racist conversations were Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, and current Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich."

Whedon responded to the initial complaints of skin tone altering by suggesting this was because different cameras and software being used required special effects teams, directors and colourists.

He stated this was necessary to match up the different tones produced from various shots, to ensure cohesiveness in the film’s scenes.

Whedon had not worked with the actors on the original shooting of the superhero movie, only overseeing the reshoots editing and visual effects for director Zack Snyder when he stepped down after the death of his daughter.

Fisher has now responded to Carpenter’s claims against Whedon on 10 February, Tweeting: “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.”

Who else has supported Carpenter’s claims?

Following Carpenter’s Tweet that she was inappropriately treated during the production of Buffy, other leading actresses from the show have also spoken out.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy in the US series, shared a post on Instagram which read: “While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon.

"I am more focused on raising my family and surviving a pandemic currently, so I will not be making any further statements at this time.

"But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out."

This was reiterated by Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s sister Dawn. She said: "I am brave enough now as a 35 year old woman… to repost this.”

She also commented on "his not appropriate behaviour" which she experienced as a teenage actor.

Whedon has been approached for comment but his representatives stated he has nothing to say about the accusations.