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Ruth Wilson Quit ‘The Affair’ After Contentious Nude Scenes and X-Rated Screenshots: Report

Ruth Wilson

At long last we finally have an explanation for Ruth Wilson‘s abrupt exit from The Affair. And it’s just as complicated and nuanced as an episode of the Showtime original series. A recent piece from The Hollywood Reporter details questionably appropriate nude scenes, a conversation with Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, and an allegedly delayed reaction from CBS that led to Wilson’s departure.

Last October, Wilson shocked fans by abruptly announcing that she would not be returning for The Affair‘s fifth and final season. The actress has long maintained that an NDA has prevented her from revealing the exact reasons why she left the series, but the story around her departure was larger than anything like a pay dispute.

According to The Hollywood Reporter‘s piece, Wilson raised a hostile work environment complaint against The Affair back in February of 2017. This was months before the October 2017 allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the event that’s commonly thought of as launching the #MeToo movement. Wilson’s frustrations over The Affair’s work environment seemed to be two-fold, both about the way her nude scenes were handled on set with series creator Sarah Treem and an after work conversation that happened between Lena Dunham and The Affair executive producer Jeffrey Reiner.

The Affair, true to its name, has always been a sex-focused series. But according to sources close to production, Wilson was uncomfortable with the frequency and intent of her nude scenes. The actress would sometimes ask to be nude for scenes with the only creative reason being that they were “titillating.” One source even overheard Wilson ask, “Why do you need to see me and not more of him?”

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“Over and over again, I witnessed Sarah Treem try to cajole actors to get naked even if they were uncomfortable or not contractually obligated to,” one insider told The Hollywood Reporter. Another described Treem’s coaxing as “things you would think would be coming out of a man’s mouth from the 1950s … the environment was very toxic.” The report also notes that more people than necessary were allegedly present during these nude shoots and that monitors showing these intimate scenes would sometimes face out, two practices that are huge breaches of trust when it comes to filming sex scenes.

Treem, for her part, has denied all allegations of misconduct and claims she did everything she could to make Wilson comfortable with these scenes. “I would never say those things to an actor. That’s not who I am. I am not a manipulative person, and I’ve always been a feminist,” Treem told The Hollywood Reporter. “The idea that I would ever cultivate an unsafe environment or harass a woman on one of my shows is utterly ridiculous and lacks a grounding in reality.”

But that’s only half of what is to believed to have led to Wilson’s original complaint against Showtime. In 2016 after a production day, The Affair executive producer Jeffery Reiner and some of his associates ran into Lena Dunham, Jenni Konner, and several other Girls cast and crewmembers while at a restaurant. Reiner, Dunham, and Konner reportedly got into a conversation about the challenges of filming sex scenes.

According to differing accounts, the conversation may have drifted from professional to horrifying once Reiner, while trying to make a point about The Affair’s use of equal gender nudity, showed Dunham a graphic photo. Konner would later describe it in her and Dunham’s now-discontinued Lenny Letter as “a mutual friend with a cock next to her face.” Sources close to the production confirmed that mutual friend was The Affair actress Maura Tierney who was working with a male body double actor. Konner’s Lenny Letter entry also claims that Reiner asked Dunham to persuade Wilson to “show her tits, or at least some vag” before he allegedly critiqued the bodies of all the women on the Showtime series.

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Though the overall tone of this conversation has been contested by Konner and The Affair assistant director Cleta Ellington, one point remains the same. Reiner showed Dunham an explicit image from set he was not supposed to share.

Showtime eventually launched an investigation into The Affair, the third of the networks’ series to be accused of sexual misconduct (The Chi and SMILF were also investigated for similar claims, though each come from different production companies). Reiner left The Affair after its third season, frustrated that he would now no longer be able to direct the series. But rather than departing from Showtime entirely, he took a meeting to be part of I’m Dying Up Here and ended up directing an episode of Shameless. After the conclusion of the internal investigation against Reiner, CBS told him he was required to take “an online anti-harassment and management training course.”

All of this was the storm Ruth Wilson seemed to need to escape her contract on The Affair. After pushing back on Treem’s final arc for her character Alison, which initially included Alison being violently raped before her murder, Wilson was able to cut ties with the show and walk away with, what sources say, is a “substantial payment.” With so many mixed narratives, it’s difficult to know exactly how Ruth Wilson came to leave The Affair. What’s clear is that the reality of her departure was as complicated as the show that won her a Golden Globe.

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