In August of 2018, Ruth Wilson exited The Affair with the conclusion of the show’s fourth season, and the death of her character Alison. That month, the actress confirmed to CBS This Morning’s Gayle King that though she “did want to leave” the series, she was “not allowed to talk about why.” Now, a new report from The Hollywood Reporter alleges that Wilson was uncomfortable on the show due to a “toxic environment” which stemmed from alleged inappropriate comments from one of the show’s directors, in addition to numerous gratuitous nude scenes.
Wilson reportedly signed a nudity waiver when she tested for the pilot, but according to sources for THR, she would often question how much value her character’s many nude scenes added to the Affair’s story. Sarah Treem, the showrunner on The Affair, was accused specifically by one source of encouraging actors to be nude for scenes even when they weren’t “contractually obligated” or comfortable with doing so.
Treem vehemently denied such behavior, and, in a statement to THR, said that the “idea that I would ever cultivate an unsafe environment or harass a woman on one of my shows is utterly ridiculous and lacks a grounding in reality." With Wilson specifically, Treem said she would remove certain scenes the star was not comfortable with, storyboard moments in advance, and allow Wilson to approval cuts before they went to air. Unlike HBO, who began the practice for all of their series after being encouraged to do so by Emily Meade of The Deuce, Showtime did not employ an intimacy coordinator for The Affair.
Another major issue involved director and producer Jeffrey Reiner, who allegedly had an inappropriate conversation with Girls showrunner Lena Dunham while out to lunch with the crews of both shows in Montauk. During the conversation, Reiner allegedly encouraged Dunham to tell Wilson to "show her tits, or at least some vag” on the series. He then allegedly showed a photograph of Affair star Maura Tierney and a nude body double in an explicit situation.
Fellow Girls showrunner Jenni Konner, who was at the lunch where the conversation took place, wrote about the incident in a 2016 article for the now-defunct site Lenny Letter. Cleta Ellington, an assistant director on The Affair with 20 years of experience, denied the incident as described in Lenny Letter and claimed Dunham, not Reiner, was the “provocateur in the conversation.” Ellington noted specifically that she was not mentioned in Konner’s Lenny Letter, despite allegedly being the third person in Reiner and Dunham’s conversation, and called Konner’s account of Reiner’s behavior “a click bait smear against a trusted colleague.”
“Yes, we did discuss nudity, body doubles, the ins and outs of filming sex scenes, what the various networks expected, and even shared a nude picture of male genitalia after Lena accused The Affair of not showing equal male nudity (the scene had previously aired on national TV the year before),” Ellington said in her statement. “Our candid conversation did not once ever pause in discomfort and/or insult one anothers’ filmmaking process.”
Wilson and Tierney reportedly felt “uncomfortable” working with Reiner on the fourth season of the series, per THR. Reiner was then told that he could no longer work on episodes featuring Wilson, causing him to leave the series. In February of 2017, Wilson reportedly raised a complaint with Showtime over the “hostile work environment,” leading parent company CBS to open an internal investigation. It is unclear what, if anything, was uncovered or what decisions CBS made in light of the allegations.
Wilson was able to negotiate her leave from The Affair, which THR reports included a pay out. She reportedly insisted that Treem not be on set with her when she filmed Alison’s season 4 arc, and fought to remove a scene in which Alison is the victim of an attempted sexual assault before she is murdered. It appears Wilson was successful, as though Alison is killed, she experiences no sexual assault in her final scene.
Refinery29 reached out to all involved parties for comment, but did not hear back in time for publishing.