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Bull actress Eliza Dushku was paid a $9.5 million settlement by CBS, after complaining about show lead Michael Weatherly's behavior and then subsequently being written off the show. Her confidential settlement is only coming to light now due to a larger investigation connected to claims against CBS's former chief Les Moonves and the larger "cultural issues at all levels of CBS."
The New York Times shared details on Eliza Dushku's experience on the Bull set. She was initially hired for three episodes starting in spring 2017, and that was supposed to lead to a full-time role in the cast.
Eliza Dushku told investigators how behavior from Michael Weatherly led her to feel uncomfortable -- like saying "Here comes legs" when she was wearing a suit; saying in front of the crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her; making jokes about having threesomes (that the crew picked up on and continued); and joking about taking her to his "rape van" on set.
Eliza Dushku approached producer Glenn Gordon Caron with her concerns, and they agreed that she should talk to Michael Weatherly. So she did, and told him that since everyone loves him on set, they follow his lead -- bringing up the example of how someone one the crew made a threesome comment to her after he did.
According to the New York Times report on the investigation, Michael Weatherly followed that talk with a text to David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, saying he wanted to talk about Eliza Dushku's sense of humor. Stapf replied that she made Bull a better show.
Eliza Dushku told her reps at that point that she was worried that Michael Weatherly would try to get her fired. Just days after their talk, Dushku was indeed written off the show, with the plan to make her a full-time cast member scrapped. Caron reportedly told her, via the interview notes used in the investigation, that he "didn't know how to write" her into the show anymore.
Eliza Dushku and her team responded by entering into mediation with CBS. Outtakes from Bull were used at first to try and back CBS's case, because they reportedly showed Dushku cursing on set. But the outtakes ended up capturing some of the alleged harassment on tape, which helped Dushku's lawyers in their case. The investigators called out CBS's failure to recognize the instances of harassment that were caught on tape, calling it a symptom of the larger problems at CBS.
A settlement agreement was reached in January, with Eliza Dushku prohibited from discussing what happened in exchange for $9.5 million. Dushku had initially been hired at $35,000 an episode, but that figure was meant to increase significantly when she continued on the show as a regular cast member. The $9.5 million was based on how much she was meant to make after four seasons on the show.
In a statement to The Times, CBS confirmed the settlement and vowed to improve working conditions:
The allegations in Ms. Dushku's claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done. The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.
Michael Weatherly also shared a statement with the New York Times on his alleged behavior:
During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script. When Eliza told me that she wasn't comfortable with my language and attempt at humor, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologized. After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza.
Michael Weatherly was a star of NCIS for 13 seasons before joining Bull, where he plays Dr. Jason Bull. Eliza Dushku is probably still best known for her role as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but she's also known from her roles on Tru Calling, Dollhouse, True Lies, and voice work for video games.