Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE, 4 PM: Mark Pedowitz says Marc Cherry never discussed financial ramifications or Nicollette Sheridan’s alleged “unprofessional behavior” when the Desperate Housewives executive producer asked the then-ABC Studios president for permission to kill off the Edie Britt character in May 2008.
Contradicting testimony from Cherry that money and Sheridan’s professionalism were reasons for getting rid of the Britt character, Pedowitz did confirm today that he gave Cherry studio permission in a small meeting on May 22, 2008, to get rid of the character. “They were seeking permission from the studio to kill off the character,” Pedowitz said. Pedowitz, who left ABC Studios in January 2009, said Cherry told him the character was to be killed off because “there were no more stories to tell.” Later, Pedowitz told the jury, under questioning from defense attorney Adam Levin, that he had rejected an earlier attempt by Cherry to kill off the Britt character in season 3 of the series but he approved killing her off in season 5 because “the character in my mind had run its course.”
Pedowitz also testified this afternoon that in a later meeting that same day, then-ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson “blessed” the decision to kill off the Britt character. Pedowitz said that in the meeting with McPherson, Cherry and others, there were “ongoing conversations” about if the Britt character was to leave the series, “sooner or later.” Pedowitz said that both he and McPherson wanted it to happen “later, “preferably in May,” around the time of the season finale.
Pedowitz acknowledged that Sheridan was not informed of the decision for many months. “The delay in telling her was because we hadn’t determined when we were” going to kill off the Britt character. “By the time they did,” Pedowitz, who is currently the president of the CW, said “I was no longer in that position.” Sheridan was informed on February 10, 2009 that her character was to be written off of the show.
Earlier in his testimony, Pedowitz emphasized his anger that he only found out about the alleged Sept. 24, 2008, hand-hitting incident between Cherry and Sheridan a month after it occurred from a story in the National Enquirer. Pedowitz declined, citing attorney-client privilege, to reveal what he discussed on the phone with ABC Studios business affairs lawyer Howard Davine about the incident shortly after reading the Enquirer story. However, the former ABC Studios president did say he ordered a meeting and an HR investigation into the matter the next day. Pedowitz added that he received “an oral report” in early November 2009 from human resources executive Lynne Volk about the investigation ABC HR subsequently conducted on the incident. Volk told Pedowitz that allegations that Sheridan was hit hard on the head were “baseless.” Volk, who is scheduled as a witness in the trial, never informed Pedowitz the former ABC Studios exec says, of an email she received on Sept. 24, 2008 about an incident from Desperate Housewives line producer George Perkins. Pedowitz concluded his testimony this afternoon and Cherry resumed his testimony at 4 PM today and will be on the stand first thing tomorrow morning.
UPDATE, 3 PM: Pedowitz said he “was not pleased” to first hear about the alleged on-set incident between Cherry and Sheridan from the National Enquirer. “That would be an understatement,” testified the former ABC Studios president and current president at The CW, who took the stand this afternoon in Sheridan’s $6 million wrongful termination and battery case. Pedowitz, who said his role on Desperate Housewives during his time at ABC was to “oversee the creative, the business and the production for the studio,” is a pivotal witness as his testimony is expected to confirm Cherry’s contention that the decision was made in May 2008 to kill off Sheridan’s character on the hit series. Sheridan claims she was forced off the show because of the September 2008 altercation. Pedowitz, who answered plaintiffs lawyers’ questions in a concise, clipped manner, was seen earlier in the day in the halls shaking hands and laughing with Cherry and his lawyers. His testimony is expected to take the rest of today, with Cherry expected to take the stand afterward.
PREVIOUS, 11:49 AM: Nicollette Sheridan‘s longtime entertainment lawyer Neil Meyer testified this morning that the actress “was afraid she’d lose her job” the day after Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer Marc Cherry allegedly struck her in the head on set in September 2008 because Cherry “was a vindictive man”. Meyer said today on the stand in Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial that the actress “was extremely upset” by the incident, and that Meyer told ABC business affairs executive Howard Davine soon after that “he needed to know” what had happened between Cherry and Sheridan. Davine told Meyer he would look into it, the lawyer testified. “Nicollette was concerned about this behavior,” he said he told Davine in a phone conversation, “and if this could happen to her, it could happen to other people.” Judge Elizabeth Allen White ruled last year that examples of other alleged abusive behavior by Cherry can’t be brought up in court by Sheridan or her co-counsels. “We weren’t looking to ABC/Disney to do anything,” Meyer also told the court, “because Nicollette was concerned about retaliation. Marc Cherry had apologized, and she was prepared to put her head down and go back to work”. An official ABC human resources investigation into the incident was launched after a story in the National Enquirer was published in early October 2008. The investigation, which never questioned Sheridan or Cherry directly, concluded in early December of that year stating Sheridan “was not mistreated”.
During his testimony today, Meyer said he had not been successful in finding Sheridan either an agent or a job in the past two years; Sheridan was informed by Cherry on February 10, 2009, that her character was being eliminated. Earlier in the trial, Sheridan testified that she worked recently on a Hallmark movie and a CBS pilot.
Former ABC executive Mark Pedowitz, now president at The CW, is expected to take the stand later today, with Cherry to continue his testimony after Pedowitz.
(Photo: Getty Images)