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Steve McPherson takes stand at Sheridan trial

Ex-ABC chief corroborates Marc Cherry's account of on-set incident

Former ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson corroborated Marc Cherry’s assertion that the decision to kill off Nicollette Sheridan’s “Desperate Housewives” character was made months before the on-set incident at the heart of the actress’ wrongful termination suit.

McPherson, who has stayed out of the showbiz spotlight since exiting the Alphabet in mid-2010, testified on Friday that Cherry sought his approval to write Sheridan’s Edie Britt out of the show during a May 2008 meeting that also included “Housewives’ ” head writer Bob Daily and then-Touchstone TV prexy Mark Pedowitz. McPherson said the ultimate decision was kept confidential by design when pressed by Cherry’s attorney on why there was no paper trail about the move.

“We wanted to keep it confidential. We would do that for any character on any show,” McPherson said during testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Even though he helped spur an investigation, “Housewives” exec producer George Perkins testified earlier in the day that he wasn’t entirely convinced of Nicollette Sheridan’s claim that show creator Marc Cherry hit her while on the set of the show in September 2008.

“I know that Nicollette is emotional at times,” Perkins told the jury.

Attorneys for Cherry questioned Perkins about an email he sent shortly after the encounter, in which the exec referred to the interaction as a “minor incident.”

The question of whether or not Cherry assaulted Sheridan is central to the thesp’s case that she was wrongfully terminated from the ABC series. Cherry has maintained that he only “tapped” Sheridan as he provided guidance for a scene. Sheridan’s suit contends that she was fired from the show in retaliation after she complained about the encounter.

Perkins said on the stand Friday that he advised Cherry to apologize to Sheridan, even suggesting that the producer send flowers to the actress.

Attorneys for Cherry asked Perkins about the actress’ professional conduct, including inquiries about how often Sheridan showed up late for work or did not know her lines. Perkins responded that while he was not always on set by season five, the actress’ final season, he recalled that Sheridan was late about half the time during the show’s run. Perkins also testified that the actress told him that she felt her call time was “too early,” but said that she was not the only tardy thesp on set.

Attorneys for both sides also addressed Friday the issue of Touchstone’s mandated budget cuts for “Housewives.”

According to Perkins, by the end of season four the company had instructed producers to reduce the show’s budget by 2%. According to emails entered into evidence, Sheridan earned $175,000 per episode by the end of season five and was expecting to earn $200,000 per episode the following season.

“We were constantly under pressure to bring the budget down,” Perkins testified, explaining that network execs expected to save more than $100,000 by getting rid of Sheridan’s character.

Perkins said producers allocated $60,000 per episode for a replacement thesp.

Touchstone human resources staffer Lynne Volk also took the stand during Friday’s proceedings, testifying that she questioned witnesses during an investigation into the confrontation. But when attorneys for Sheridan pressed Volk about whether she questioned the actress herself, Volk said she had not. She said she considered the situation “minor and resolved.”

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