Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE 6:30 PM: Turns out Teri Hatcher’s Desperate Housewives job was on the chopping block too. George Perkins, the show’s long time line producer, testified this afternoon that Hatcher, the best known of the leads when the series debuted back in 2004, was under consideration to be let go to save money back in 2008. Also under discussion in an effort to cut costs as the series entered its fifth season were James Denton, who has played Hatcher’s love interest on the show from season one, Kyle MacLachlan, who played Marcia Cross’ second husband and Nicollette Sheridan, Perkins said.
Perkins said he was not privy to Cherry’s alleged meetings in May 2008 with then ABC Studios president Pedowitz and then-ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson, expected to testify Friday, about the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character. Perkins, who stressed he was not good with dates and had a bad memory, told the court he first heard of the decision to cut Sheridan in early June or July of 2008 as production on Desperate Housewives fifth season was gearing up. As for the alleged head hitting incident between Cherry and Sheridan on Sept. 24, 2008 that is at the center of the battery case, Perkins’ testimony focused on his efforts to properly manage the fallout from it. Perkins sent an email to ABC Human Resources exec Lynne Volk and the show’s publicists later that day, in which he called what happened a “very minor incident.”
ABC Human Resources didn’t launch a formal investigation until over a month later when Pedowitz saw an article in the National Enquirer about what had happened and ordered Volk, who is expected to testify Friday morning, to look into it. Pedowitz told the court earlier this week that he knew nothing about HR being previously informed of what had happened.
Earlier in the afternoon Larry Shaw, the director of the episode being shot on Sept. 24, 2008 and witness of the incident, demonstrated for the court what he saw from a mere “three or four feet away.” Playing Cherry, Shaw landed an open palm left hand on the left side of the head of defense lawyer Adam Levin, playing the Sheridan role. The hair on the well coiffed Levin’s head shook. While it was nowhere as hard or as dramatic as when Sheridan had demonstrated the incident on her lawyer Patrick Maloney earlier in the trial, Shaw’s example was certainly seemed more aggressive that the “light tap” Cherry has said he delivered.
At the end of the day Thursday, with more testimony from Perkins coming Friday, Judge Elizabeth Allen White told the defense that she thought it was “not appropriate” for them to call Longoria, Cross or Huffman to demonstrate how Cherry frequently gave physical direction. However, the Judge’s statement does not prevent the defense from bring the stars in under other pretense Friday.
PREVIOUS: Money was cast in the the lead role today in Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial against Desperate Housewives creator and executive producer Marc Cherry, ABC Studios and ABC. Housewives producer Sabrina Wind told the jury that then-ABC Studios boss Mark Pedowitz and ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson agreed with Wind’s suggestion on May 22, 2008 to keep Sheridan in the dark about plans to kill off her character Edie Britt because the actress could “put a gun to our head” and open up potentially costly re-negotiations over her then-$4.2 million seasonal salary. Wind testified that the ABC executives decided during that meeting to exercise Sheridan’s contract for Season 5 of the show, and the option was picked up on June 3 of that year. The actress wasn’t informed Britt was being eliminated until nine months later on February 10, 2009 — one day before shooting commenced on what was to be her last episode.
Meanwhile, if the royalty fee for using a lyric of a Beatles song wasn’t so cost-prohibitive, Cherry might not have cut a line of dialogue that sparked the alleged September 2008 head-hitting incident between Cherry and Sheridan that is at the heart of the lawsuit. “I couldn’t use the joke,” Cherry told the jury this morning after resuming his testimony. “I know she (Sheridan) was unhappy about that.” In earlier drafts of the script shot that day, a line from the Beatles’ “She Loves You” was included to accentuate an interaction between Sheridan and the actor, Neal McDonough, playing her husband. But costs forced Cherry to cut the line from the script, leaving Sheridan frustrated with no lines to say. “I understood her point,” Cherry said, “but I thought we could give her a funny exit with a bit of business.”
Cherry said he thought physical comedy would work well in the scene with McDonough. Giving the actress direction, he testified, “I said give him … you know, a pinch or a tap.” Cherry told the jury he delivered this direction in front of Sheridan and that episode’s director Larry Shaw, and Jason Ganzel, Cherry’s assistant. Cherry then said he “lightly tapped” Sheridan on the head. “She got this odd look on her face,” Cherry continued, “like she was thinking, and then she started yelling at me ‘You hit me, you can’t hit me,’ and she left.” Cherry, who has told his version of the incident on the stand under questioning from the plaintiff’s lawyer, said he was stunned and turned to Shaw and Ganzel and said, “What the heck just happened”? The producer says Shaw replied, “Yep, directing’s hard”. Ganzel wrote a statement later that day confirming Cherry’s version of events and added that Sheridan “asked him not to touch her”. Ganzel and Shaw are both scheduled as witnesses in the case.
Cherry then told the jury he later went to Sheridan’s trailer, and though he was “nervous” to go inside, he explained to her from the steps what his intention was in the incident and apologized. “It was a sincere apology for inadvertently upsetting her, but it was not an apology for hitting her because I didn’t do that”. Cherry then said he returned to the writers’ room to come up with a new line of dialogue for Sheridan and told “everyone” in the room what happened and how he had “smoothed everything over” with Sheridan.
James Denton, who plays Teri Hatcher’s love interest on the series and was on set the day of the incident, is in court and will take the stand this afternoon. He will be followed by Shaw and Housewives line producer George Perkins.