After allegations that a “toxic” workplace environment led to Ruth Wilson’s exit from The Affair, showrunner and co-creator Sarah Treem is speaking out against those claims. In a guest column for Deadline, Treem responded to a recent Hollywood Reporter article that claims Wilson left the Showtime series last summer because of alleged inappropriate comments from one of the show’s directors, in addition to feeling uncomfortable with numerous gratuitous nude scenes. “We didn’t agree on the choices of the character or whether or not a sex scene was necessary to advance the plot,” Treem wrote of Wilson’s concerns over the value of her character’s sex scenes, “but that is 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.”
Treem claims that despite reaching out for her response to allegations that she created a hostile work environment and, according to one source, encouraged actors to be nude for scenes that they weren’t comfortable with doing, THR left her side of the story out of its piece. “Unfortunately, not much of my perspective made it into the story,” she wrote. “Nor the perspectives of many of the half-dozen senior level producers, director, and other key crew members who spoke up.”
According to Treem, she worked with Wilson to make sure she was comfortable with her character Alison’s sex scenes, which Treem felt were necessary to tell Alison’s story. Treem stated she changed scenes, used body doubles for Wilson, and showed the actress a cut of a sex scene she was uncomfortable with for her approval, which Treems said Wilson gave.
By season 3 of The Affair, Treem wrote, “I had abandoned my original plan for the character and was actively trying to write Alison closer to Ruth’s vision.” To keep Wilson on the show, Treem wrote that she “work[ed] incredibly hard to locate some sort of happy medium for us, where she would feel good about doing the show and we could continue to move the story forward.” That became difficult after Jeffrey Reiner, an executive producer and frequent director on The Affair, allegedly made inappropriate comments to Lena Dunham about Wilson being uncomfortable with nudity.
After the details of Reiner’s 2016 encounter with Dunham were published in her now-defunct newsletter Lenny Letter, Treem sent an email to cast and crew, obtained by THR, that stated The Affair had a “zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and assault," but didn’t mention the incident with Reiner. In her article for Deadline, Treem does not make mention of that email. Instead, she claims that she asked Showtime to close down production of the show so she could apologise to the cast. She also wanted to offer sensitivity training. (Showtime did not employ an intimacy coordinator for The Affair, which has now become common practice for networks like HBO.) Treem wrote that her frequent requests to do something were denied by the network. Ultimately, Treem stated that it was Showtime who told her to write Wilson out of the show.
“I did not always agree with Ruth Wilson,” Treem wrote, “but I did always have respect for her craft, her ability and her process and I tried to write her a character deserving of her immense talent. I know she’ll continue to tell the story of complex, multi-faceted, remarkable female characters for the rest of her long career. I plan on doing the same.”
Wilson has not responded to Treem’s open letter or THR’s report, which she is not quoted in. In August 2018, the actress told CBS This Morning’s Gayle King that she “did want to leave” The Affair, but she was “not allowed to talk about why.”