Nicollette Sheridan opens up about Desperate Housewives lawsuit: 'I was vilified'
'I didn’t know that I wanted anything to do with the business for some time,' Sheridan says.
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When Alexis Carrington walks onto Dynasty on March 23, hers won’t be the only comeback that gets people talking. Nine years after leaving Desperate Housewives, Nicollette Sheridan is returning to TV in a role that seems tailor-made for her: Drama! Romance! Killer outfits! But for Sheridan, her decision to play Alexis was about more than just a great ensemble. “I really wanted to work with nice people,” Sheridan tells EW. “That has been something that has colored the past 10 years of my life.”
Sitting down for an interview in the wine room of Atlanta’s St. Regis Hotel on a rainy day in February, Sheridan is finally ready to talk about those years away and the drama surrounding her exit from Desperate Housewives. After her character, Edie Britt, was killed off Desperate in 2009, Sheridan filed a lawsuit against ABC, production studio Touchstone, and show creator Marc Cherry. Sheridan claimed that Cherry struck her in the head and, after she complained about the altercation, wrote her off the show. “I was the victim of assault and battery on the set of Desperate Housewives by the creator of the show, my boss,” Sheridan says. “I reported him and was retaliated against for doing so and fired. That is against the law.”
Suddenly, Sheridan went from being on a series with a rabid following to being in a high-profile legal battle that garnered a rabid following all its own. While many fans were talking about Edie’s death, many more were talking about the case. And eight years after the initial lawsuit, it’s not over. A judge threw out her case last year, but Sheridan is appealing. Cherry’s reps issued the following statement to EW: “Nicolette Sheridan was not a victim at the hands of Marc Cherry — a court has already ruled to that effect after hearing the testimony of multiple witnesses. We are disappointed that the judicial determination continues to be ignored.” (Representatives for Disney, ABC’s parent company, declined to comment.)
As far as Sheridan is concerned, the battle must continue. “I was vilified for standing up for my rights, not only as a woman but as a human being,” she says. “And I was punished for it. But that wasn’t going to stop me because I had to get my dignity back, and if I’d let it slide, I couldn’t have looked myself in the mirror.”
She chose not to let it slide, though the decision took a personal and professional toll. After Edie met her demise by electrocution in 2009, Sheridan retreated to her farm in Hidden Hills, Calif., to reevaluate her relationship with the industry she’d been part of for decades. “What happened at the end of Desperate Housewives was degrading and demoralizing,” Sheridan says. “It sent me under a rock,” she says. “I really grappled with what happened, losing faith in people and really not trusting the business at all. I didn’t know that I wanted anything to do with the business for some time.”
Sheridan wrote and produced a few of her own projects with Hallmark, but it wasn’t until The CW called that she thought about making a return to series TV. “When Edie Britt died on Desperate Housewives, I feel like the audience felt like Nicollette died with her,” she says. “And I thought [Dynasty] was such a splashy, fun, strong comeback. It was just the right thing at the right time.”
Yes, about that timing… Sheridan acknowledges that the Time’s Up movement made her reentry to TV a bit easier. “As I was having these conversations about Dynasty, all of these women started coming out,” she says. “I was flipping through the channels and I heard somebody talking about what had happened and it was like this weight lifted off my shoulders because I didn’t feel alone. It is so empowering to not feel alone and to hear other stories. It really helps.”
With that in mind, Sheridan says her only regret about her own experience is that she didn’t speak out sooner. But as she puts it, there’s no time like the present, especially when the present feels like a period of change. “Women are being heard now,” she says. “I was stepped on. [They] tried to shove me under a carpet. But it didn’t work.” And now, she’s ready to put on Alexis’ oversized hat and march her way back into our lives. Because much like Blake Carrington’s ex, Sheridan loves a good comeback.
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