Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
2ND UPDATE, 5 PM: Marc Cherry told the court that Nicollette Sheridan’s Desperate Housewives co-stars Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman were “relieved” to hear that Sheridan’s character would be killed off the hit ABC series. They were, he testified, concerned that their deals might be affected by salary demands Sheridan might have been considering at the time. The show’s creator/executive producer testified that on or around the series’ 100th episode party on December 10, 2008 — more than two months before Cherry said he told Sheridan that she would be leaving the show – he told Longoria and Huffman that Sheridan’s character was being killed off to “calm them down”. Longoria and Huffman, both on the witness list for the trial along with fellow Housewives co-star Marcia Cross, were in Cherry’s office that December day to discuss conversations they had with Sheridan about all five stars renegotiating their contracts together to get a better deal out of the network. All five primary actresses on the hit series, along with Cherry, benefited from profit-sharing deals that grew the longer the series was on the air.
Meanwhile, over a month after the meeting with Longoria and Huffman, a January 27, 2009 email went out from Housewives producer George Perkins, quoting Cherry, that said “any attempts to diminish” Sheridan’s Edie Britt character’s role “is false”. Cherry confirmed that that the quote came from him.
Earlier in the afternoon, Cherry’s testimony followed the sequence of events on September 24, 2008, when Cherry allegedly hit Sheridan upside the head. Cherry, who has always contended that he “lightly tapped” Sheridan, said that he had been given implicit “permission” to touch Sheridan’s head accordingly while giving her direction for a scene that day. Cherry admitted that he “monitored every syllable he uttered around Sheridan afterwards.”
Testimony concluded today with a much more relaxed Cherry answering questions from his defense lawyer Adam Levin about his background, how he came up with the concept for Housewives and about how Sheridan was so great in the show’s pilot that Cherry decided to make her a series regular. His testimony continues tomorrow. Former ABC executive Mark Pedowitz, now entertainment president of The CW, is expected to testify next.
UPDATE, 12:30 PM: “I tapped her head, yes.” That’s what Cherry, on the stand this morning, insisted had occurred between him and Sheridan on the Desperate Housewives set on September 24, 2008. Cherry has been consistent on his version of events regarding the alleged incident, which differ from Sheridan’s claim that he hit her “hard”. Under questioning from plaintiff’s lawyer Mark Baute, Cherry wasn’t so consistent today about why Sheridan was let go from the show, though he said any reasons were secondary to “creative desires” to improve the series’ arc for the following season.
Cherry had claimed that the decision was relayed to kill off Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in Season 5 during a private five-minute meeting May 22, 2008 with then-ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz in a studio hallway. During today’s testimony, though, he couldn’t recall what Pedowitz said on the matter except that he agreed to the move. Cherry has said and repeated today that eliminating Britt was an issue of “cost-saving” on Sheridan’s multimillion-dollar salary. But he testified that the series’ finances were not something in which he was directly involved. When questioned by plaintiff’s lawyers, Cherry said he had no idea how much revenue Housewives had generated over its lifespan — Cherry’s profit participation in the hit ABC series has made him millions. Cherry also didn’t recall further conversations or documentation about killing off Sheridan’s character. “I didn’t send any emails,” he said. “I just walked over” to talk to Pedowitz. Cherry added that later that day, then-ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson chimed in and agreed with the decision. In subsequent months, however, there were no emails on the issue from any of the parties involved that Cherry “was aware of”. He did tell the court that he informed the writing staff of that season’s Housewives “almost immediately” regarding the decision, but he swore them to secrecy. Various producers and writers from that season of the series are expected to testify later in the trial.
Cherry said another reason for letting Sheridan go was her “unprofessional behavior”. “It wasn’t the primary reason for my decision,” the chipper and clipped Cherry told the court early in his testimony, “but it was something I was aware of … it was on my mind.” Under questioning from Sheridan’s lawyers, Cherry cited an incident of Sheridan supposedly being rude to the series’ prop man, an incident that occurred in late 2008 — months after the supposed decision was made to let Sheridan go.
PREVIOUS, 11:24 AM: Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer Marc Cherry is set to testify next in Nicollette Sheridan‘s wrongful termination and battery lawsuit against Cherry, ABC Studios and ABC. Sheridan concluded her testimony about 30 minutes ago. The main focus of questioning this morning centered on a December 5, 2008 letter from ABC’s human resources department that concluded its investigation into an alleged September 24, 2008 on-set incident in which Cherry allegedly struck Sheridan on the head. In the letter, the network found that the producer’s apology over the incident had effectively ended the matter and no further action would be taken for “inadvertently upsetting [Sheridan].” Sheridan, who first took the stand Thursday morning, expressed “outrage” over the letter. However, she later admitted to defense lawyer Adam Levin that she didn’t actually see the letter at the time it was sent to her then-lawyer, nor did she contact the studio to disagree with its assertions. Sheridan later broke down in tears while reading a hand-written letter from Housewives producer George Perkins. The note was penned in early 2009 after the actress’ final table read for the series and complimented her for her “class” and “grace”.