Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Here comes the big guy — former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson is slated to testify in Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial on Friday at 1:30 PM. McPherson, who left ABC in 2010, has been cited in testimony by Marc Cherry and former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz as having given the network’s permission to kill off Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008, four months before the Cherry allegedly struck Sheridan in the head during an on-set altercation. Sheridan claims she was eliminated from the show because of that latter incident.
Testimony today saw several witnesses take the stand out of order due to scheduling issues, and saw Cherry’s ongoing testimony pause yet again to accommodate those changes. Sabrina Wind, a Desperate Housewives producer and Cherry’s self-described “right-hand gal,” took the stand this afternoon and contradicted several statements her boss made during his testimony. Wind, visibly nervous, said she could not recall getting a call from Cherry shortly after the alleged head-hitting incident between him and Sheridan on September 24, 2008. Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute then read from Wind’s deposition last year, in which she said she “did not” receive a call from Cherry as he previously testified. Wind, in another contradiction to Cherry’s testimony, also said she did not keep the producer up to date on a human resources investigation into the alleged incident. Wind, who is Cherry’s partner in Cherry/Wind Productions, also said she knew of no discussions about financial savings or “unprofessional behavior” on Sheridan’s part as reasons for killing off the actress’ character.
Earlier in the afternoon, former Desperate Housewives co-executive producer Lori Kirkland Baker testified that she never saw a supposed writer’s index card saying “Steve drinks OJ.” Baker, who was with the show from 2007-09, also said Cherry first announced his plans in December 2008, after “just being given permission by Steve McPherson to kill off the Edie Britt character.” Cherry said in previous testimony that McPherson, along with Pedowitz, gave him permission to kill off the character in May 2008, and that he had been working on a storyline to that effect. Wind’s testimony is expected to continue tomorrow. James Denton, who played Teri Hatcher’s love interest on the show, could possibly be called by the defense.
(UPDATE, 6:20 PM: After court concluded for the day, defense attorney Adam Levin issued this statement: ”Three witnesses have testified on behalf of the defense that the final decision to kill Ms. Sheridan’s character was made in May of 2008. One witness has testified for the plaintiff under perjury and penalty that she wasn’t in the room when the discussions took place.”)
PREVIOUS, 2:21 PM: Marc Cherry resumed his testimony today in Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial. The Desperate Housewives creator/executive producer answered more questions about the timeline of the decision to kill off Sheridan’s character Edie Britt, which is at the core of the actress’ suit against Cherry, ABC Studios and ABC. Cherry continued to claim that the main reason he decided to kill off the Britt character was “creative”, because “the purpose of the character was over” by Season 5. But Cherry said financial considerations and concerns about Sheridan’s “egregious” and “unprofessional” behavior also factored into his decision; that seemingly contradicts testimony Tuesday from former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz, who told the court killing off the Britt character was a purely “creative” matter. Pressed for specifics Wednesday, Cherry cited Sheridan making remarks about scripts that were “insulting” to writers, a time she was seemingly unprepared for a scenes, and an incident during the show’s first season between Sheridan and co-star Teri Hatcher in which Sheridan told Cherry that Hatcher was “the meanest person she had ever met.”
In another revelation, Cherry told the jury this morning that to keep the news of the Britt “mystery story” arc a secret, he used the code words “Steven drinks OJ” on an index card that Housewives writers used to organize story arcs for Season 5. That card was created in early May 2008, Cherry testified, before a September 2008 head-slapping incident occurred between Cherry and Sheridan that the actress said led to the decision to kill her off the show. Cherry said the “Steven” mention on the card was a working title for Edie’s new husband — later changed to “Dave” — and the “OJ” was “because OJ Simpson killed his wife.”
Earlier in the morning, Cherry testified that he thought Britt’s death would give the show “some juice” and “open up” possibilities for new characters. As his lawyer argued last week, Cherry, under questioning from defense attorney Adam Levin, insisted that Edie Britt was “not a leading character” but “an important series regular.” The defense also introduced various sets of writer’s assistant’s notes and other bullet-point documents, dated May 14, 19 and 22 of 2008, that mentioned “Edie’s death” as a part of that season’s storylines. Cherry told the court that while some storylines and ideas were abandoned as the season progressed, he never wavered in his plan to kill off Britt, especially after he received permission from Pedowitz and then-ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson on May 22, 2008.
McPherson, who is on the witness list, is expected to testify later this week.
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