Ruth Wilson’s departure from Showtime’s The Affair sparked a lot of questions in 2018, with basically one co-star offering an opinion regarding the mysterious exit. Wilson's exit spurred speculation about behind the scenes drama, and a fairly recent report alleged the actress left the show after tension-filled disagreements with series creator Sarah Treem over the multitude and nature of the show’s nude scenes. In an essay, Treem defended The Affair’s nude scenes and more after WIlson's alleged feelings were made public.
Several sources claimed a toxic workplace environment existing on the set of The Affair was the generalized reason behind Ruth Wilson's exit. In the initial report, first released by THR, sources alleged that Wilson, who claimed she couldn’t talk about why she left the show due to signing an NDA, expressed concern about the frequency of nude scenes. According to one source, showrunner Sarah Treem was tone-deaf regarding the “position she was putting actors in.”
Sarah Treem denied the accusations saying she made The Affair's actors uncomfortable, or that she pressured them into doing nude scenes. In her own words (via Deadline), Treem revealed her side of the story and defended her stance regarding nudity, sex scenes, and her working relationship with Ruth Wilson:
On a continuous basis throughout Ruth’s time on the show, I tried to protect her and shoot sex scenes safely and respectfully. In the pilot episode... she came to me and didn’t like the director’s suggestion that she do the scene nude against the hood of the car. I agreed and talked to the director and we changed the scene. In the third episode, I took out a sex scene she objected to. In the fourth episode, we rehearsed a sex scene with doubles, story-boarded it and then showed it to the actors for their approval before we shot it. In the fifth episode, we showed Ruth a cut of a sex scene she was unsure about and she approved it before we aired it. In the ninth episode, she objected to a sex scene, but I needed it to tell the story, so a body-double was brought in to shoot the entire scene.
Sarah Treem went on to say that she didn’t always agree with Ruth Wilson in terms of sex scenes and what was best for the show, but that she did have respect for Wilson and her craft. That’s why she says she worked to collaborate with the actress to change the nature of certain scenes that Wilson didn’t approve of.
Claiming that Showtime execs asked her to write Ruth Wilson's Alison out of the show following the third season, Sarah Treem went into detail about her final clash with Wilson, as it were, which centered on the penultimate Season 4 installment, where Alison is murdered. (Because there was no way Alison could walk off into the sunset at this point.) As it was originally conceived, Treem wanted Alison to be in a reverse situation from where her story began on The Affair, with Treem's own past informing some of it.
Sarah Treem hoped for Alison's final episode to mark a meaningful exit, but her alleged intentions weren't embraced by Wilson or her publicists, and viewers ended up getting the truncated scene that was aired. Here's how Treem described it:
So, when it came time to end Alison’s story, I went back to her beginning. Back into a situation where a married man is projecting his fantasies onto her and she could potentially use sex to numb her pain. But this time, she chooses differently. She breaks up with him. He tries to force himself on her, but he’s still impotent. She fights him off and screams at him to get the hell out of her apartment. She then gives him this powerful speech about how she’s been in pain her entire life. And maybe that’s why people think she’s weak. But she is fucking sick of it. And because she is finally standing up to him, because he has to face the fact that she can’t and won’t save him from himself, because she’s finally showing him the truth of who he is… he kills her. . . . But once Ruth’s team reported that she wasn’t happy, they suddenly asked me to change it. At that point, I absolutely fought back because I didn’t want to write a script where a veteran just goes insane and kills a woman with no impetus. If I had known I wouldn’t have been able to follow through on a storyline I had been setting up since the beginning of the season, I would not have made the character of Ben a veteran. To this day, I hate that the storyline seems to suggest that veterans suffering from PTSD are so crazy they might murder women at any point.
Sarah Treem admits that she and Ruth Wilson clashed a lot on the direction of Alison and often disagreed on how things went for the character in general. However, Treem says that that's not the "same thing as not respecting or supporting an actress’s need to feel safe in her work environment, which is something I always take incredibly seriously," essentially denying the allegations that the workplace environment was toxic.
The Affair recently ended its five-season run on Showtime. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest regarding this story. In the meantime, be sure to check out our midseason schedule to see what’s new and returning to TV in 2020.