For over a year, fans of The Affair have wondered why star Ruth Wilson abruptly left the award-winning Showtime series. Wilson herself has been tight-lipped about it all, declining potential theories about pay gaps and offers of other, more alluring acting gigs. But in a disturbing report from the Hollywood Reporter, insiders involved with the show claim that Wilson’s departure was spurred by a toxic work environment, excessive requests for onscreen nudity, and inappropriate remarks by Jeffrey Reiner, an executive producer and frequent director on the series, the latter of which reportedly became the crux of Wilson’s exit strategy and earned her a substantial payout.
Per THR, insiders paint a portrait of a toxic, inappropriate set, led by showrunner Sarah Treem. They claim Wilson, specifically, was frequently asked to do nude scenes that she felt did not serve her character, and was pressured by Treem to perform them. “Why do you need to see me and not more of him?” Wilson reportedly once asked, referring to a male costar. One insider claims Treem would “try to cajole actors to get naked even if they were uncomfortable or not contractually obligated to,” making remarks like “Everyone is waiting for you” or “You look beautiful.”
“It’s things you would think would be coming out of a man's mouth from the 1950s,” the source said. “The environment was very toxic.”
Treem vehemently denied the claims, telling THR she would “never say those things to an actor. That's not who I am. I am not a manipulative person, and I've always been a feminist.” She also said she “did everything I could think of to make [Wilson] feel comfortable with these scenes.”
“The idea that I would ever cultivate an unsafe environment or harass a woman on one of my shows is utterly ridiculous and lacks a grounding in reality,” she added.
THR also reports that an off-set incident served as a major catalyst for Wilson’s exit. On September 20, 2016, both The Affair and Girls were shooting in Montauk, New York, and cast and crewmembers for both shows happened to collide at a restaurant. Reiner, who allegedly “seemed very drunk” got into conversation with Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham, among others, and made inappropriate remarks to Dunham about the level of nudity she displayed on Girls. “You would show anything. Even your asshole,” he reportedly said, later asking her if she would meet with Wilson to get her to “show her tits, or at least some vag.” Reiner also showed Dunham an explicit photo of Affair star Maura Tierney, according to sources, and a nude male actor who worked as a body double for costar Josh Stamberg. Konner wrote about the alleged incident in an essay for the now-defunct newsletter Lenny.
Reiner declined to comment to THR However, Cleta Ellington, an assistant director on The Affair, told THR that she was also part of the conversation that night, and that it did not transpire the way Konner described it. “While this quick, funny conversation took a few explicit twists and turns, Lena was the provocateur in the conversation,” Ellington told THR. “Yes, we did discuss nudity, body doubles, the ins and outs of filming sex scenes, what the various networks expected, and even shared a nude picture of male genitalia after Lena accused The Affair of not showing equal male nudity. But our candid conversation did not once ever pause in discomfort. I feel the Lenny Letter, which inexplicably erased me from the conversation, was a clickbait smear against a trusted colleague." Dunham and Konner did not respond to requests for comment.”
As THR reports, the incident did not lead to any repercussions for Reiner. Months later, Wilson complained to Showtime about the alleged hostile work environment, so parent company CBS opened an internal investigation. Reps for Showtime declined to comment to THR about how the situation was handled. Per the outlet’s sources, Reiner was allowed to stay on the show but was no longer allowed to direct episodes featuring Wilson. He ultimately left the show after the third season and has since worked on shows like Dirty John and the upcoming High Fidelity. Treem said she asked Showtime to shut down production and host sensitivity training in the wake of the Reiner debacle, but “was told that Showtime had to be the one to handle it."
A rep for Showtime told THR the following: “When confronted with a report of inappropriate behavior involving anyone within our offices or productions, we immediately initiate a process overseen by our compliance team in the case of our own shows, or in the case of series we license from others, we collaborate closely with the relevant production studio. In the instances that THR is referencing, appropriate and decisive action was taken."
Wilson reportedly used the Reiner incident as leverage to negotiate her departure from the show, earning a substantial payout in the process. She wrapped the fourth and her final season of the show with the stipulation that Treem was not allowed on set with her during that time.
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