Actress Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination lawsuit is now in the hands of a jury. Jurors will have to determine what Hollywood actresses often see when trying out a new role: motivation.
Sheridan says “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry smacked her on the head during a rehearsal in 2008. He was angry, her attorney Marc Baute said, and had a reputation as a taskmaster on the set.
But Sheridan reported him anyway, setting in motion a human resources investigation and ultimately her $5.7 million lawsuit.
"That’s why she got written off the show. No other reason," Baute said, adding that he suspected studio bosses were motivated to kill off Sheridan’s character on the show because they did not want their star producer tarnished.
He said they can get away with such things in this town because they have the power to create or destroy careers.
"A lot of her case depends on you believing her when she says ‘I feared retaliation. I feared I would never work in this town again,'" said Alex Ben Block, senior editor of the Hollywood Reporter.
ABC attorneys called the claims "desperate," repeatedly showing the jury writers’ notes from several meetings dating back months before the head slap.
The notes speak about the storyline where Edie Britt gets murdered. Those discussions, said defense attorney Adam Levin, are never discussed in emails or memos because they’re considered show secrets.
Baute said it’s a lie.
"They don’t have a single email, document, letter anywhere explaining how or when they terminated a $4 million a year actress," Baute said.
The judge did hand a small victory to Cherry Tuesday. Sheridan’s battery allegation against him was dropped. It was just part of a day full of surprises in the trial, which included testimony from a set construction supervisor.
Michael Reinhart told the court he received an email nearly two years ago that indicated ABC execs wanted to delete all emails that involved plans for killing off Sheridan's character, Edie Britt, during the show's fifth season.
Reinhart testified that he probably received the emails by mistake. He could not remember the exact text of the message, but testified that it included the words "hard drive," "IT" and "delete."
He added that he might have "misunderstood" the content of the email.
"Reinhart was a very strong witness, and I'm really pleased that he was willing to come forward," Baute said. "It's very rare for someone to come forward and say, 'I'm having a crisis of conscience.'"
The email was sent to Reinhart's work email address after the lawsuit was filed, Baute said.
Jurors are schedule to return to court Thursday to continue deliberations