December 18, 2019
By Bryn Elise Sandberg, Kim Masters
The actress shocked fans of her Showtime drama when she suddenly quit the role that earned her a Golden Globe, then said she wasn’t allowed to say why. Now, insiders reveal a complex situation that involved complaints of a hostile work environment, Lena Dunham, and a director and showrunner who sparked a formal investigation.
In the summer of 2018, actress Ruth Wilson stunned fans and the television industry at large when she abruptly left The Affair, the Emmy-nominated Showtime drama in which she starred, with no explanation.
Days after her departure, the actress embarked on an awkward press tour for an upcoming film. Asked repeatedly about her mysterious exit from the show, she would only drop baiting hints. “It isn’t about pay parity, and it wasn’t about other jobs, [but] I’m not really allowed to talk about it,” she told The New York Times in August 2018, urging the reporter to contact showrunner Sarah Treem: “There is a much bigger story.”
That bigger story, it turns out, is much like the Rashomon-style narrative of the show itself, which explored different character perspectives on the same events and let the audience decide who might be the unreliable narrator. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed many of those involved in Wilson’s exit and the events that precipitated it. Many say Wilson, who is restrained by an NDA, had long wanted to leave the show because of ongoing frustrations with the nudity required of her, friction with Treem over the direction of her character, and what she ultimately felt was a “hostile work environment,” later the subject of a previously unreported 2017 investigation by Showtime parent company CBS.
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