From Grey's Anatomy to Buffy: 6 of the biggest behind-the-scenes TV scandals of all time.

TV shows are meant to bring us the drama.

But sometimes, that drama doesn't stop when the cameras aren't rolling. Over the years, cast and crew members have alleged toxic on-set environments involving abuse, assault, tension and bullying across all kinds of TV series.

Here are six well-known shows that have grappled with major off-screen allegations or scandals.

Beverly Hills, 90210.

The drama of the teens on Beverly Hills, 90210 was iconic, and so were its behind-the-scenes scandals.

One of the most infamous issues was Shannon Doherty's attitude, which she herself admitted was because she was unhappy in the job. Doherty developed a diva reputation, and rumours persisted about her complicated relationships with the cast and crew.

"Her lateness was appalling, and she had a callous attitude and an indifference," screenwriter Charles Rosin told Entertainment Weekly.

"It wasn't like she ruined the show or anything. It just upset the cast members tremendously," producer Aaron Spelling added.

Image: Getty.


In 2015, Tori Spelling admitted she went to her father on behalf of the cast and requested Doherty be fired, after Doherty had a physical altercation with Jennie Garth.

"I felt like I was a part of something, a movement, that cost someone their livelihood," an emotional Spelling said during a 2015 special. "Was she a horrible person? No. She was one of the best friends I ever had."

The final straw for producers came when Doherty cut her hair in the middle of filming. She was written out of the show at the end of the fourth season.

Criminal Minds.

After 15 seasons and an insane 324 episodes, Criminal Minds finally ended in 2020.

But over its impressive run, the series became just as known for its on-set drama than it did for its on-screen crime scenes.


In 2020, California's Department Of Fair Employment And Housing filed a lawsuit against CBS, Disney and producers of the show, alleging the show's cinematographer Gregory St. Johns engaged in rampant sexual misconduct against crew members for years. 

The lawsuit claimed that St. Johns sexually and verbally harassed at least 19 men for years without repercussion. He was fired in 2018, but only after an article in Variety exposed the alleged abusive and threatening behaviour.

Beyond this, there were also tensions between members of the show's cast.

Thomas Gibson in Criminal Minds. Image: CBS.


Thomas Gibson was dismissed from the show midway through season 12 after a physical altercation between him and writer-producer, Virgil Williams.

"We were shooting a scene late one night when I went to Virgil and told him there was a line that I thought contradicted an earlier line. He said, 'Sorry, it's necessary, and I absolutely have to have it,'" Gibson told People in September 2016, adding things escalated when they encountered each other again on set later in the night.

"He came into that room and started coming towards me. As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg. If I hadn't moved, he would have run into me. We had some choice words, for which I apologised the next day, and that was it. It was over. We shot the scene, I went home – and I never got to go back."

Williams told People a similar story, but claims that Gibson kicked him in the shin.

In 2010, Gibson was asked by production to seek help for anger management.

Grey's Anatomy.

Grey's Anatomy is a pop culture institution. It's also had a well-documented toxic AF on-set environment.


Where do we even begin???

In a 2019 interview with Empire's Taraji P. Henson for Variety, Ellen Pompeo said there were times when she considered leaving the series because of its terrible culture.

"The first 10 years we had serious culture issues, very bad behaviour, really toxic work environment," she explained.

"After season 10, we had some big shifts in front of the camera, behind the camera. It became my goal to have an experience there that I could be happy and proud about, because we had so much turmoil for 10 years. My mission became, this can't be fantastic to the public and a disaster behind the scenes."


The amount of drama on this set over the years could sustain a 12-part podcast series, but here are the high low lights:

In October 2006, Isaiah Washington (he played Dr Preston Burke) allegedly yelled a homophobic slur about T. R. Knight (Dr George O'Malley) at Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy, of course).

Knight came out in a People magazine story published 10 days after the incident.

Washington apologised on October 26, but in January the issue resurfaced when he repeated the word, saying "I did not call T.R. a f*****. Never happened," at the 2007 Golden Globes. Soon after, ABC announced it would not be renewing Washington's contract and he would be dropped from the show.

In 2008, Katherine Heigl (Dr Izzie Stevens) pulled her name from Emmy contention because she "did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination", which pissed off the show's writers and producers.

A few years later in 2010, after she did not turn up to work - and after publicly shaming production over long hours - Heigl reached an agreement to immediately release her from her contract.


Heigl and Shonda Rhimes. Image: Getty.

But perhaps the biggest on-set drama happened around 2015, spurred on by rumours that the show's main man, Dempsey, was a major diva behind-the-scenes.

His character Derek was soon *spoiler alert* killed off, and in September 2021, an unauthorised book by author Lynette Rice, How To Save A Life: The Inside Story Of Grey’s Anatomy, published further details about Dempsey's departure.


In an excerpt published by the Hollywood Reporter, the book claimed he was "terrorising the set" before being written off the series.

"There were HR issues. It wasn't sexual in any way. He sort of was terrorising the set. Some cast members had all sorts of PTSD with him," executive producer James D. Parriott, who was brought back to the series to oversee Dempsey's exit, recalled.

"He had this hold on the set where he knew he could stop production and scare people. The network and studio came down, and we had sessions with them. I think he was just done with the show. He didn't like the inconvenience of coming in every day and working. He and Shonda were at each other's throats."

Read more: Denzel Washington's on-set fight, and all the other Grey's Anatomy behind-the-scenes drama in one place.

One Tree Hill.

Multiple One Tree Hill stars have spoken about an allegedly abusive behind the-scenes environment, often centring around show creator, Mark Schwahn.

Hilarie Burton, who played lead Peyton Sawyer, alleged in 2017 that she struggled to work alongside Schwahn, which earned her a reputation for being 'difficult'.

She pushed back against Schwahn's efforts to sexualise her character, but things took a turn in season three, which was when Schwahn decided Burton was "his muse", she told Variety.


Speaking to Variety, Burton alleged years of harassment and assault perpetrated by Schwahn against her and other women on the show. She claimed that Schwahn twice forced himself on her, kissing her on the mouth without warning and against her will. 

She said Schwahn touched her inappropriately while in the presence of his wife, spread false rumours about physical relationships with female cast members, and pitted women against each other.

The cast of One Tree Hill. Image: Warner Bros.


Schwahn was suspended from his job as showrunner on E!'s The Royals after Burton and 17 other women sent a signed letter to Variety accusing Schwahn of sexual harassment.

In 2018, Sophia Bush spoke out about her experiences on Sirius XM's Andy Cohen Live, including the time she hit Schwahn.

"The first time Mark Schwahn grabbed my ass, I hit him in front of six other producers and I hit him f***ing hard. And he came back to L.A. and I was told years later by one of the then-writers who became an EP that he came back being like, 'That fucking entitled bitch who does she think she is,' and this very sweet man named Mike, who I love and who is like a ride or die for me, was like, 'Maybe you just shouldn't touch the girls,’ and, ya know, Mark gave him the option of shut up and keep your job or get out."

In 2021, Bush claimed on Michael Rosenbaum's Inside of You podcast that Schwahn also kept photos of the actresses on set from lingerie wardrobe fittings, which Bush called "super violating".

She spoke about the tactic of pitting the cast against each other behind the scenes on the Chicks in the Office podcast.

"It was weird because, in some ways, we were treated like adults. We were expected to be these adults and yet, we were also looked at kind of as pawns," she said.


"We had grown-ups who we trusted, who now we understand were being really controlling and manipulative – who didn't want us to be close because they thought we would band together and ask for more money. It's just so weird and those were just things we were not aware of at the time."

Desperate Housewives.

It's no secret there was a massive rift within the cast of Desperate Housewives, which led to a very uncomfortable time on set. 

Supposedly, it all started when Teri Hatcher won a Golden Globe in 2005, just a year into the show's eight-year run. 

Later that year, Hatcher, along with her co-stars, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria, plus series regular Nicollette Sheridan, did a cover shoot for Vanity Fair, and the magazine gleefully lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes drama.

"You wouldn’t believe what it took just to get this photo!" the cover declared.

The story explained that a representative from the ABC network told the Vanity Fair team at the shoot that Hatcher was not to be allowed to select her wardrobe first or to appear in the centre of the photo. However, Hatcher did go into wardrobe first, and the rep complained about it.

"I'm getting text messages from Eva," he said. "Everything is not fine."

Image: Vanity Fair.


Later, Hatcher was placed next to Cross, in the middle of the photo, Cross reportedly stormed off the set, screaming at the ABC rep, "Do your [expletive deleted] job!"

The photo that ended up appearing on the cover shows Sheridan standing in the middle of the women, with Hatcher on one side of her and Cross on the other.

In 2010, Sheridan's character, Edie Britt, was killed off. After leaving the show, Sheridan sued creator Marc Cherry, accusing him of assaulting her on set and saying she'd been fired out of spite following the incident.


The case was eventually thrown out of court. 

In 2012, when the show ended, Hatcher's name was absent from a card attached to gifts for the crew. Longoria, Cross, Huffman and Vanessa Williams signed the card, leaving Hatcher to do her own gifts.

Then in 2019, long after the series ended, Huffman faced jail time over the college admissions scandal, so Longoria and Cherry wrote letters to the judge, praising Hoffman's character.

Both parties referenced an incident where Huffman graciously handled a "big star" on the show who bullied an inexperienced Longoria.

"I dreaded the days I had to go to work with that person because it was pure torture. Until one day, Felicity told the bully 'enough' and it all stopped. Felicity could feel that I was riddled with anxiety even though I never complained or mentioned the abuse to anyone. I know I would not have survived those 10 years if it wasn't for the friendship of Felicity," Longoria wrote.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In early 2021, the cast of iconic 90s TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer came together to speak out about the "toxic environment" fostered by show creator Joss Whedon.

A chain reaction was set off by actress Charisma Carpenter, who starred in the first three seasons of Buffy plus four seasons of spin-off show Angel.

Carpenter shared a lengthy statement on Instagram, accusing Whedon of misconduct and abusive on-set behaviour.


"Joss Whedon abused his power on numerous occasions while working on the sets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel," she wrote.

"While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers. The disturbing incidents triggered a chronic physical condition from which I still suffer. It is with a beating, heavy heart that I say I coped in isolation and, at times, destructively."


Carpenter claimed Whedon made regular threats to fire her, called her fat when she was four months pregnant and pitted cast members against one another.

She said after accusing her of "sabotaging the show", Whedon "unceremoniously" fired her the following season once she'd given birth.

Soon after publishing the statement, Amber Benson, who played Tara Maclay for three seasons of Buffy, retweeted Carpenter's post.

Then Sarah Michelle Gellar shared her own statement.


"While I am proud to have my name associated with Buffy Summers, I don't want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon," she wrote on Instagram. "I will not be making any further statement at this time. But I stand with all survivors of abuse and am proud of them for speaking out."

Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Dawn Summers, reposted Gellar's post and added her own comments, saying she felt brave enough now to share details of their experience.

"I am brave enough now as a 35-year-old woman to repost this. Because. This must. Be known. As a teenager. With his not appropriate behaviour..."

On February 26, Variety ran an article detailing the claims of a further 11 people who worked closely on the production of Buffy and Angel

These independent sources, who chose to remain anonymous, supported earlier allegations that Whedon verbally abused his colleagues, created a toxic and inappropriate atmosphere on set, and ran the productions like a high school clique "making everyone aware of who was in and who was out".

Feature image: ABC/Fox.

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