Struggling to maintain her composure, actress Nicollette Sheridan told a downtown Los Angeles jury today that "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry smacked her in the head while they were debating the elimination of a line from a script.
Sheridan, 48, told the Los Angeles Superior Court panel she wanted to tell Cherry why she thought a humorous line should remain in the script of an episode being shot on Sept. 24, 2008. Cherry had previously said the line had to be omitted because it included part of a Beatles song and the studio would have to pay royalties, she said.
Sheridan said she and Cherry were standing near the on-set kitchen of a home that served as the residence of her Edie Britt character. The show is filmed at Universal Studios. Sheridan testified that they were discussing the omission of the line when Cherry shouted, "What is it that you want?"
But she said she was stopped when she tried to respond.
"Mr. Cherry stepped toward me and he took his right hand and he hit me upside the head," Sheridan said, her voice breaking. "It was a nice wallop."
The actress is the first witness in the trial of the lawsuit she filed in April 2010, alleging battery and wrongful termination against Cherry and Touchstone Television Productions. She claims she was fired during the hit comedy's fifth season for complaining about Cherry's alleged smack on her head.
Defense attorney Adam Levin said Cherry tapped Sheridan on the head, but denied he struck her hard. Levin said Cherry was trying to demonstrate what he wanted Sheridan to do in the scene being rehearsed.
But Sheridan denied Cherry was giving her any directions. She and her attorney, Patrick Maloney, stood next to each other in court and reenacted the encounter.
The actress said she was momentarily taken aback by what had happened.
"I was stunned, I could not believe he just hit me in the head. I could tell he was stunned," she said. "I told him, 'You just hit me in the head, that is not OK."'
Asked by Maloney to describe how she felt, Sheridan replied, "It was shocking, it was humiliating, it was demeaning."
"It was unfathomable that I had just been hit by my boss," she said. Sheridan said she went back to her trailer to try to compose herself and speak with others. She said Cherry eventually came to the trailer and apologized.
"I am on bended knee begging your forgiveness," Cherry said, according to Sheridan.
She said he wrapped his arm around her and apologized again. She said she thanked him, but did not forgive him.
Sheridan said she went back to the set and finished the scene with a line different than the one Cherry objected to.
"There was a scene that had to be shot," she said. "I pride myself on being a professional. I went back ... because it was the work order of the day and I wasn't going to let everybody down."
Maloney played a video of the final cut before the jury.
Earlier today, Sheridan testified that Cherry once said he believed her Edie Britt character would continue for the duration of the hit ABC program.
Sheridan said ABC producers wanted to spice up the end of the third season, so Cherry and the writers had her perform an attempted suicide scene with a scarf for the final episode -- in response to Edie Britt's rejection by cast member Ricardo Chavira's Carlos Solis character. The idea was that she would be rescued during the first episode of season four, she explained.
The fourth season's opening episode revealed the suicide attempt was faked, but Sheridan said Cherry discussed Britt's survival during talks with the cast.
"We know Edie's character is one we definitely won't be killing off," Cherry said, according to Sheridan.
Asked by Maloney whether Cherry ever mentioned prior to the fifth season that he was thinking of removing her character from the show, Sheridan replied, "No, absolutely not."
Sheridan said she read for different characters on the show in 2004 during auditions and ultimately was given the Britt character. She described her on-screen image as one of a "singular woman" who is "very overt" and "audacious." But she said she is not the same person in real life.
"I think honesty is about the only thing we shared," she said.
Sheridan said she was unhappy about making less money than the other cast members and eventually got a new contract that allowed her to be paid for all episodes, including those in which Britt was not scheduled to have a part.
However, she said she protested to Cherry and his associates when she was not included in one episode of the fifth season in which a table discussion among the cast and producers was slated as bonus material for a DVD.
Levin countered that Cherry had thought as early as the third season about eliminating Sheridan's promiscuous character and eventually made up his mind in May 2008 that he was going to do so. He said ABC executives approved the move.
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