Why Ruth Wilson Left 'The Affair'
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Actress Ruth Wilson starred in the Emmy-winning series "The Affair." The role earned her a Golden Globe and legions of fans. So it came as a shock when she abruptly left the show in its fourth season. Wilson hinted in The New York Times that it wasn't about compensation or other job offers. She simply was not allowed to talk about it. But this past week, the Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters, along with Bryn Sandberg, broke the news that the reason involved a toxic work environment, one in which Wilson was pressured by showrunners to do more nude sex scenes.
Kim Masters joins us now from member station KCRW. Welcome.
KIM MASTERS: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the show "The Affair" is not for your average viewer. I think the name says it all. There's a lot of sex. There's a lot of nudity. What pushed it too far?
MASTERS: Of course, they knew there would be sexual situations and nudity. Now, we didn't interview Ruth Wilson 'cause at that point, she was restrained by a nondisclosure agreement, we're told. But what we were told by multiple sources was that she felt that these scenes were gratuitous, that she was being asked to do things purely for titillation value as opposed to, how does this advance the show? I mean, she wanted it to be substantive. She also questioned, at one point, according to one of our sources - heard her say, why are you showing me and not more of him? - referring to the male actors on the show.
On the other hand, you know, Sarah Treem, the showrunner, has said they got her a body double and she didn't have to necessarily do all of the stuff that she didn't want to do. But at the same time, just the consensus of the sources that we talked to is that it was pushed and pushed too far.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to talk about your sources. Many wouldn't go on the record, including Ruth. Initially, you mentioned that she was under an NDA. But why didn't the other people want to talk publicly?
MASTERS: Because it's Hollywood, and Hollywood is not a huge community, like real jobs at real places. And if you go on the record, then you might not work. So this is quite common for us. You know, on this beat, it's very difficult. Just as people are, you know, briefed by a senior official and federal agencies because people don't want to go on the record, people here don't want to go on the record and, I think, often for more compelling reasons, which is it would endanger their livelihood.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things that really interested me about this is that the showrunner here is a woman, Sarah Treem. How much responsibility does she bear for the environment on set, according to your reporting?
MASTERS: Well, the title is showrunner. You know, that means running the show. Now, she wasn't on set all the time where some of the behavior alleged took place. We were told, for example, that when there were nude scenes and sex scenes, there was, you know, supposed to be a closed set. It means that only very few people are in - present. There's no monitors on so that outside people don't just see whatever is being performed. This is something to protect the actors that make them feel comfortable. We were told by sources that this was just not really well-enforced.
Nowadays, in the #MeToo era, there are intimacy coordinators who come on and are sort of cops of this kind of thing - try to negotiate and make sure that the actors are comfortable. That ultimately happened late in the game on "The Affair," but a lot of this stuff happened before #MeToo became a thing. And there was no intimacy coordinator, and this clearly led to a lot of conflict.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Generally speaking, how has Showtime handled these allegations, writ large?
MASTERS: Well, really, what got me interested in the story at this point a couple of years after it happened was that I have reported on two other stories where there were serious allegations of misconduct, one of them being "SMILF," which was a Frankie Shaw show that was actually canceled in the aftermath. And the other was "The Chi," where Jason Mitchell, the star of that show, was ultimately dropped after allegations of misconduct.
Now, those two shows were produced by other entities, but they are Showtime shows. And in all three of these instances, it just feels to people who were involved who were bringing us these allegations that Showtime was extremely slow and reluctant to address them.
And Showtime - you know, their parent company is CBS. CBS has had nothing but a series of allegations of either tone-deafness or misconduct, starting at the top - Leslie Moonves, who was pushed out of the job as chairman of CBS. This has been a litany of problems. And I think CBS has some work to do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, speaking of that, you've done a lot of reporting, as you mentioned, on these issues in Hollywood, not just about CBS and Showtime, but elsewhere. And I wonder - do you think that sets have changed since the #MeToo era, generally, particularly noting that environments can be toxic whether they're run by men or, as in this case, by women?
MASTERS: I think it's very hit and miss. You know, there are all kinds of things that go on. And in many cases with these companies where we are seeing problems like CBS, the problem is, many times at the corporate level, there's a sort of tone-deafness where an incident can be right before their eyes, and they don't see it as a cultural problem. They see it in isolation - one thing happened. But it's not in isolation. It's not one thing. So I feel like there's a very steep learning curve and resistance at the corporate level because it's been a boys club for so long, and it still is.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Kim Masters from the Hollywood Reporter. Thank you very much.
MASTERS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.