Producer testifies that 'tap' was 'physical business' for character

“Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry said Thursday he was “stunned” when actress Nicollette Sheridan reacted to physical direction he was giving her for a scene by claiming that he “hit” her.

Providing his version of events that took place on Sept. 24, 2008 — an incident at the heart of Sheridan’s wrongful termination trial against Cherry and Touchstone Television — Cherry denied Sheridan’s claim that he gave her a “wallop” or that he “violently hit her across the head.”

Sheridan claims that her character was written out of the show in retaliation after the actress complaining about the incident.

Testifying before a jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, Cherry said that he was not upset with Sheridan during their conversation but had been discussing a line that was cut from a scene. He said he explained to her that because the line quoted from Beatles lyrics, it raised the prospect that the show would have to pay a licensing fee, so it was excised. But Sheridan thought that she still needed some kind of a joke, in which her character exits the room after conversing with her husband, Dave, played by Neal McDonough.

Cherry said the solution he gave her was a piece of “physical business,” in which she would playfully tap her husband in the back of the head before exiting.

“She (Sheridan) seemed to be confused” when he was explaining the direction, Cherry said, so to demonstrate “I reached over and tapped her on the side of the head.”

It was then that Sheridan gave him a look that was a bit “odd,” Cherry said, before she waited a few seconds and said to him, “You hit me. You can’t just hit me.” She then left the set.

Jason Ganzel, an assistant, and the director of the episode, Larry Shaw, were with him at the time, Cherry said, and Shaw turned to him after Sheridan left and said, “Yep, directing was hard.”

Cherry later went to Sheridan’s trailer to apologize “because I needed to get her back to that set.”

When he explained what he had been doing, “She processed this and seemed to understand,” adding that they later hugged in her trailer. But after George Perkins, a producer on the show, talked to Sheridan later that day and sent Cherry a note saying that Sheridan wanted flowers, Cherry resisted. He said that he was “not apologizing for hitting her because that I had not done.”

Sheridan’s version of events recalled them as being much more confrontational. She claims she was hit “hard” on the side of the head as she queried an irritated Cherry about the scene.

Her legal team has sought to cast doubt that a sufficient investigation of the incident was ever conducted by Touchstone’s human resources officials.

Sabrina Wind, Cherry’s production partner and someone the producer described as his “right-hand gal,” testified that she informed human resources of the incident that day.

But Cherry said he was never interviewed in the probe, although he insisted that he “wished there was an investigation because I wanted everyone to know what had happened.”

The investigation eventually determined that Cherry had done nothing wrong.

Sheridan’s team also has been attempting to show that an effort was made to keep the incident quiet.

In an email Perkins sent later on Sept. 24 to human resources and others on the show, including Wind, he warned that the incident was “not to be taken wider.”

Sheridan’s team also is highlighting inconsistencies in version of events. Cherry said that in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 24 incident, he called Wind to tell her about it. But she said that he told her when he returned to their offices from the set.

And in earlier testimony, Cherry said that when he informed Sheridan in February 2009, that her character would be killed off, he didn’t recall telling her that the choice had been made between two characters. On Thursday, he said he “never said” that.

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