Nicollette Sheridan breaks down in court over 'Desperate Housewives' lawsuit
Nicollette Sheridan broke down in court on Wednesday, during proceedings for her battery and wrongful termination lawsuit against ABC and "Desperate Housewives" series creator Marc Cherry.
Sheridan, 48, filed a $20 million lawsuit in April 2010, claiming that Cherry had hit her and fired her from the series because she is a woman. Her character, Edie Britt, was killed off of the series and the actress claims Cherry hit her in the head on the Wisteria Lane set in 2008 after she questioned him about a script and then fired her in retaliation for complaining.
The actress and Marc Cherry appeared in court on February 29, where their lawyers offered their opening statements.
Sheridan's attorney Mark Baute said that his client should receive $6 million in compensation for being killed off. The actress is scheduled to be the trials' first witness on Thursday, March 1 at approximately 9:15 a.m. PT.
"I represent a talented and very professional actress, Nicollette Sheridan," Baute said in his opening statement. "Ms. Sheridan is taking this on alone in a town where nobody takes on a television network."
Baute said that his client was "hit on the head hard. She was smacked up on the side of the head but defense is going to say it was a light tap... when you are humiliated on the set in front of everyone you know it was not a light tap."
Sheridan's lawyer went on to claim that his client spoke to a line producer and called her lawyer to report that she was hit, but it wasn't until the National Enquirer published a story about the incident that a "fake" investigation was done.
Baute went on to say that Sheridan lost "the most lucrative job of her career" and while 47 minor characters have been killed off of "Desperate Housewives," Sheridan was the only principal. He added that her final episode was "poorly written."
When he said that Marc Cherry was "making up the explanation for smacking someone on the head" by claiming it was for a scene on the series, Sheridan broke down and cried in court.
Baute said that after a five-year build-up, his client's character was killed off in episode 518 and later made to come back as a ghost as part of the "humiliation." Her lawyer claimed there was no paper trail proving her character was slated to be killed off months before the incident.
Sheridan broke down and cried on Baute's shoulder after the court paused for the afternoon break and the 15 jurors left the court room.
When court came back into session, defense attorney Adam Levin said in his opening statement on behalf of ABC and Cherry that "people die all the time in television" and it is the shock value that retains an audience. He also added that Sheridan's character was originally slated to only appear in the pilot episode as "the blonde bombshell that was brought in to sleep with the husbands of all housewives on Wisteria Lane."
Levin claimed that Marc Cherry created many characters who were killed off, far more than the plaintiff's estimate of 47. He also explained that while Sheridan's character was colorful, "There were only so many husbands she could sleep with."
Levin also noted that Cherry considered killing off Sheridan's character Edie in season three and that the alleged incident on September 24, 2008, "left no injury and no mark and she took no aspirin. In fact, her first call after the incident was to check her voicemail."
Levin went on to say that Sheridan was scheduled to be killed off on May 22, 2008 and the writers used the code "Steve drinks OJ" to indicate the storyline, keeping it a secret because they didn't want the plot to be revealed.
"Ms. Sheridan worked on Desperate Housewives for five seasons and then her character was killed off," Levin said. "Ms. Sheridan is obviously unhappy. But she was not wrongfully terminated, nor was she battered."
Cherry's attorney went on to say that following the incident, Sheridan told a line producer that his client had "hit her and that she wanted Mr. Cherry to send her flowers." He said that it was nearly a month later that Sheridan finally called her lawyer.
In May 2011, Levin told OnTheRedCarpet.com in a statement that the judge dismissed Sheridan's claims of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, gender violence, assault and retaliation and retained only her allegations of wrongful termination and a "fictitious battery claim" in the case.
In late April, a former producer of "Desperate Housewives," Lori Kirkland Baker, submitted a sworn declaration that supports the actress' timeline of events, asserting that the decision to kill-off Sheridan's character was first brought up in fall 2008 while Cherry's team claims that they made the decision to kill off Sheridan's character in May 2008 and told the actress in February 2009.
The validity of Sheridan's case depends on the timeline and Baker's statement could add significant weight to her case.
Sheridan was making $175,000 per episode by the show's fifth season.
"Desperate Housewives" actresses Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria-Parker, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross have so far remained neutral regarding the charges, adding that their work environment is not hostile.
"We have no first-hand knowledge of what Nicollette may or may not have experienced, but we would never characterize our set as a hostile environment," Hatcher, Longoria-Parker, Huffman and Cross said in a statement. "It is, in fact, the opposite. The friendships and support that Marc Cherry, the cast, the crew and the producers have shared for the past six years have made this a wonderful job that we are grateful for every day."