Bryn Elise Sandberg and Kim Masters did some phenomenal reporting over on The Hollywood Reporter today in solving one of television’s biggest real-life mysteries: Why did Ruth Wilson abruptly leave The Affair back in 2018? The reason no one knew the real answer to that is because Ruth Wilson has been sworn to secrecy by an NDA she had to sign to get out of her contract. It is not, however, an issue of pay disparity, as many had speculated.
Rather, Ruth Wilson felt that the environment on the set of The Affair — particularly surrounding the issue of nudity — was toxic and unsafe. According to THR’s reporting, Wilson felt uncomfortable by the amount of nudity required of her, as well as the circumstances surrounding that nudity.
“Sources, many of whom declined to speak on the record, say Wilson was often asked to be unclothed in scenes where there seemed to be no clear creative rationale for the nudity other than for it to be ‘titillating,’ as one person involved with the production puts it. Another source overheard Wilson ask on set, referring to a male co-star, ‘Why do you need to see me and not more of him?’”
Reportedly, showrunners Sarah Treem pressured Wilson (and other cast members) to do nude scenes they were not comfortable with. Treem denies the allegations, but sources point to several examples in the piece, including one in which Wilson refused to do an aggressive sex scene, so her body double stepped in (that body double was later fired — and subsequently sued and settled — after she confronted a male assistant director “for describing her on a call sheet as ‘Alison Sexytime Double.’”)
The story goes from bad to worse when Lena Dunham, of all people, gets involved. Girls was shooting in the same area as The Affair at one point, and the two crews ended up hanging out, which is when an exec producer and frequent director on The Affair, Jeffrey Reiner, gave Wilson what she needed to extricate herself from her contract.
What happened next so disturbed Konner that she described the events in a detailed blind item on her and Dunham’s since-shuttered website Lenny Letter. As recounted in Konner’s post, “a producer/director” on “another TV show that shoots nearby” struck up a conversation with Dunham in which he praised her comfort with nudity in explicit terms. “You would show anything. Even your asshole,” he said, according to Konner’s piece. Lamenting how difficult it was to get some of the actors on The Affair to shoot nude scenes, Reiner — who “seemed very drunk,” according to Konner’s post and other sources who were there — then allegedly asked Dunham if she would have dinner alone with Wilson the next night to persuade her to “show her tits, or at least some vag,” before he went on to “critique and crudely evaluate the bodies of all the women on his show.” At one point, Reiner pulled out his phone to show Dunham a graphic photo of “a mutual friend with a cock next to her face,” as Konner described it. Sources say that the image was of Affair actress Maura Tierney and a nude male actor working as a body double for actor Josh Stamberg. Reiner declined to comment.
After the blind item, showrunner Sarah Treem went to bat for the director instead of the cast, and Reiner was ultimately allowed to continue working on the show while the investigation was pending. He was not, however, allowed to direct episodes with Wilson, so he quit in protest. The entire incident, however, affected morale on the show.
Wilson, likewise, used the incident to negotiate herself out of the toxic environment while also receiving a “substantial” payment. She filmed all of her fourth season scenes ahead of time and showrunner Sarah Teem wasn’t allowed on set with her. Wilson also objected to the way she was written out — raped and murdered — insisting on excluding the rape.
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