Workplace drama is inevitable. Whether you work in hospo, retail, or on the set of one of the biggest shows on the planet, there’s always bound to be a squabble or two.
But any time I find myself smack bang in the middle of a workplace spat, I mull over the wild behind-the-scenes happenings of Desperate Housewives and I feel infinitely better about my own situation.
Let’s cast our minds back: The year is 2005. Brad and Jennifer have just called it quits. Tom Cruise is jumping for joy on Oprah’s couch. Some chick called Rihanna has just burst onto the music scene with ‘Pon de Replay’. And a spicy new television series called Desperate Housewives is all anyone is talking about.
I remember the teaser ads vividly. Gorgeous actresses in lingerie mowing their lawns, doing their gardening, hanging their washing in what appeared to be a peaceful, Pleasantville-esque neighbourhood, until a newspaper revealed that a mysterious suicide had occurred.
Here it is, just to jog your memory:
It was a show that ticked all the boxes: a talented, loveable cast who also happened to be easy on the eyes, loads of comedic moments, steamy romance, plus a murder mystery that we were all gossiping about at school (we knew we shouldn’t have been watching it, but our mums were too busy envying Bree’s homemaker skills and empathising with Lynette’s stress to protest our presence in the living room between 8:30 – 9:30pm).
But while we were busy sinking our teeth into the apple that was the drama going down on-screen, we were completely oblivious to the even wilder drama that was unfolding off-camera.
That is, until Vanity Fair decided to feature the cast on their May 2005 cover and all hell broke loose.
Presumably there was already a heap of tension mounting on the set of the drama series and so ABC’s reps had an inkling that the Vanity Fair shoot would erupt in chaos.
To avoid this from happening, an ABC rep messaged VF’s stylist prior to the shoot, saying, “Whatever you do do not let Teri [Hatcher] go to wardrobe first.”
Little did they know, Hatcher had already sunk her claws into the stylist to plan what she’d be wearing and how she’d be positioned in the pics.
Upon learning this, the poor rep told VF’s reporter, “This is a problem. I’m getting text messages from Eva [Longoria]. Everything is not fine.”
Once they got everyone to set, as Marcia Cross found Hatcher in the center of the photo, wearing the cherry red swimsuit she had wanted, she stormed off and screamed at the ABC rep to “do your [expletive which I assume is ‘fucking’] job!”
This resulted in Hatcher running off screaming into the night, reportedly calling someone in tears.
From what I can gather, there was quite a lot of contention surrounding Hatcher who believed her character was the lead and should therefore be at the forefront of every promo and photoshoot.
After much swearing, crying, bartering and compromising, the end result was a photo with Nicolette Sheridan in the center, flanked on either side by Hatcher and Cross, with Longoria and Felicity Huffman posed below them. When the fold-out cover was closed, Huffman and Cross weren’t even visible. Awks.
ABC and the DH cast probably thought they got away with the vicious on-set catfight, until the issue came out and divulged literally everything that went down, including the coverline: “You Won’t Believe What It Took Just To Get This Photo!”
Considering the spicy binches at VF have a track record of turning interviews with celebs into scathing tell-alls, I’ll forever be baffled by the fact that the DH team didn’t play nice in front of the reporters so as not to taint the brand spanking new series.
I mean, they’re actors, FFS. Couldn’t they have kept their cool for one goddamn shoot? But I guess that gives you an indication as to just how bad the tension was.
The incident was even parodied on Saturday Night Live, with Longoria playing Hatcher.
I’m sure that did wonders to repair their fractured relationship…
As news of drama between the cast spread through the press like wildfire, naturally they did everything they could to play the whole thing down.
Doug Savant (Lynette’s hubby Tom) insisted the publication set the whole thing up in “the most contentious way.”
“I was at the shoot,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I got done with my hair and makeup and I was like, ”I’m going to grab something to eat,” and I was walking toward a makeshift table when a production assistant stopped me and said, ‘What are you doing?!… You’ve gotta go to hair and makeup!’ and the guy starts taking me there. And I go, ‘Hey, buddy? I know it might not look like much, but I’m done! Can I go get something to eat now?’ So there was all this tension, and it was one of the most inhospitable environments I’ve been in for a photoshoot.”
James Denton (Susan’s hubby Mike) added: “There’s no disputing the Vanity Fair story happened, but it happened because these women were given this golden opportunity and they all knew they better make the most out of it because Hollywood’s very tough on women. It was just people going, ‘Oh my God, this is a huge hit. I better take advantage of it today.’ Or ‘I don’t want it to be Teri’s show because I need a job after this.’ That caused a lot of conflict, understandably.”
Longoria, however, put it all down to exhaustion: “We did so much press. We were all so exhausted. By the time the Vanity Fair thing came around at the end of [shooting the first year], we were so run-down.”
And Cross? Well, she was just salty that people “thought for a long time” that she was “the bitch” because her character was so high-strung.
Regardless, the world was now blithely aware that there was a rift in the cast, which made the show much, much juicier, I’ve gotta say.
Other instances throughout the course of the eight seasons and as recently as last year have proven that this certainly wasn’t an isolated incident.
There was an insane amount of pressure for the series to back-up the success of season 1 to avoid what’s called the sophomore slump.
But sadly, as series creator and mastermind Marc Cherry took a step away from the writers room, the quality declined and several episodes and storylines were panned by critics and fans.
There was also controversy surrounding the fact that the first housewife of colour, Betty Applewhite (played by the legendary Alfre Woodard), had a storyline that involved chaining her mentally ill son in the basement.
This resulted in major backlash (rightfully so) and impacted the show even years later as in season 7 when Vanessa Williams joined the cast, she divulged that she hesitated to take part in the series due to the offensive second season.
Alfre Woodard as the secretive Betty Applewhite
There has also been reports of cast members frequently banging on the writers room door and demanding they change certain scenes and storylines.
If the gang weren’t getting along when the series was peaking in season 1, just imagine how volatile things would’ve been when the quality of the series started to decline.
Things took an even more serious turn in 2010 when Sheridan (who played the provocative Edie Britt) filed a $20 million lawsuit against Cherry and ABC Television after being fired from the show a year prior.
She claimed she’d been assaulted by Cherry on-set, struck on the head during a rehearsal on Sept. 24, 2008, and was fired in retaliation for reporting the alleged abuse to the network.
Cherry insisted the alleged assault was merely a tap to the head with his fingers, done to show her how she should play out a gag.
Hatcher (left) with series creator Cherry (middle) and Sheridan (right)
He testified that he’d apologised to Sheridan for the incident, but when she demanded a second apology as well as a gift of flowers, he put his foot down.
The court case was an absolute shitshow that divided the cast and crew, many of whom were forced to testify.
The case was ultimately thrown out, but not before testimony and reporting unearthed a bunch of wild tea.
Cherry testified that Sheridan was a negative presence on the set for years, recalling an incident where he had to intervene in a fight between Sheridan and Teri Hatcher.
Sheridan told him that Hatcher was the “meanest woman in the world,” Cherry testified.
It was also revealed that Sheridan was literally the last person to find out her character was being killed off.
Edie was killed off at the end of season 5
The “primary reason I killed off the character was I thought creatively it was the best thing for my show,” he said in court, admitting that it also saved the show money and made for a nicer environment on the set.
Cherry testified that Sheridan would come to work not knowing her lines and make “insulting comments” during table reads.
Interestingly, Hatcher was the only main cast member not on Cherry’s list of potential witnesses. Longoria, Cross, Huffman and Denton were all accounted for.
An internal investigation by ABC cleared Cherry of any wrongdoing, but sadly this wasn’t the final accusation against him.
According to sources, there was a distinct sense of gender discrimination going on with Cherry and his writing staff. Only 14 writer-producers out of the 39 who’d worked on the show from 2004-10 were women, and many of their tenures were short-lived. SNL alum Julia Sweeney left after half a season.
“He hates women,” said one person who has worked on set. “It’s apparent on set that he’s a fan of cute, gay men, not women.” Another source said that female writers were kept out of the “polishing room” and relegated to their “caves,” and when storylines involving menopause, aging and pregnancy came up, Cherry listened primarily to his male writers, while females got “a hostile face and a dismissive wave, and a ‘You need to go shut up and sit over there, while I listen to this guy.'”
In 2012, Desperate Housewives, now the longest-running TV series with all female leads, finally came to an end.
Since the DH family was disbanding for good, you’d think surely they’d be able to put their differences aside and walk out on a high, right? Wrong.
There’s an infamous tale about how the cast presented the crew with a parting gift and Hatcher’s name was conspicuously nowhere to be found on the card, but Vanessa Williams, who’d co-starred in only two seasons, was.
Whenever the core four actresses have been asked about their time on the show, they’ve never shied away from admitting things were tense on set.
Hatcher once told TV Guide, “I will never disclose the true and complicated journey of us all, but I wish everyone on the show well.”
During her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Longoria was asked if she’s good friends with all of her co-stars, to which she replied: “No… but 99 per cent of us are.”
Zero guesses as to who that one per cent is.
The Desperate Housewives drama was pretty much put to bed until last year, seven years after the series wrapped, when lead star Felicity Huffman was embroiled in the wild ass college admissions scandal.
Prominent members of Hollywood were very open about their thoughts and feelings on the whole thing, with some slamming the IRL Lynette and pulling for jailtime while others defended her actions.
The Desperate Housewives cast and crew were naturally asked about the whole thing and Huffman had the support of Longoria, Williams, Dana Delaney (Katherine Mayfair) and Cherry.
In fact, when it seemed very likely that Huffman was gonna be put away for a very long time, Longoria and Cherry went as far as to pen letters to the judge.
Both parties referenced an incident where Huffman graciously handled a “big star” who displayed “big behavioural problems” and “bullied” Longoria.
Have a read of their full letters here, which contains a bunch more Desperate Housewives tea.
Huffman exiting court last year
Huffman did not, however, have the support of former co-stars Ricardo Antonio Chavira (Carlos Solis) and Sheridan.
When she was sentenced to just 14 days in prison, Chavira posted a couple of scathing tweets, proving that the on-set drama wasn’t just between the women of the series.
“White Privilege. And I saw Eight years worth of it, so I know what I’m talking about,” he wrote in a now-deleted tweet. “Accountability and Responsibility don’t mean shit to these people.”
Chavira (left) starred alongside Huffman (right) in all eight seasons, playing her BFF’s hubby and even her boss at one point
He continued, “I saw Eight years worth of it working on Housewives. I’ve seen a lifetime of it being a halfbreed, and I’ve struggled w the intricacies of it on a daily basis w all the cultural bias I’ve received on both ends. But whatever. Slap on the wrist. Sorry, but this shit.”
Meanwhile Sheridan called her former co-star’s actions “disgraceful” in the below interview:
Is there any wonder that the show inspired the Real Housewives franchise considering the real drama of the show was way juicier than the fiction?
So the next time you catch Linda in payroll drinking out of your coffee mug, just think: at least she’s not stealing your cherry red swimsuit or actively trying to land you in prison.