Ruth Wilson’s award-winning turn on The Affair came to a sudden end in 2018, when she announced she would not be reprising her role as Alison Lockhart, and, notably, couldn’t say why. Since then, others working on the show have come forward to say what Wilson couldn’t, alleging a hostile work environment in which showrunner Sarah Treem pushed actors into gratuitous nudity and director Jeffrey Reiner subjected them to inappropriate comments. By the time Wilson left the show, The Hollywood Reporter says both Reiner and Treem had to be removed from set while she was shooting, and that Wilson was fighting to cut degrading nudity up until her very last scene. While Wilson herself has kept mum throughout, she’s finally opening up about the final straw that made staying on The Affair impossible — and her reference to #MeToo suggests that sexual harassment or even abuse at play may have been worse than we thought.
In a new cover interview with Stylist, Wilson carefully reflected on her departure, and why it’s been so hard for her to present her version of events to the public.
“The reason I haven’t gone into The Affair is that I haven’t worked out how to discuss it,” she explained. “There’s a lot of noise and anger surrounding it, and really the power rests with me to choose how I discuss my life and my experiences.”
Further setting the scene, Wilson notes that she left the show before the #MeToo movement began, a sudden coming together of women in Hollywood and beyond calling out men in power for their sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. But Wilson is proud that she recognized and fought back against that sort of unacceptable behavior even before there was a movement behind it.
“It was before #MeToo and before Harvey Weinstein — and yet my instincts were very clear and strong about what I felt was wrong, about what was going on, and what I didn’t feel safe about,” Wilson explains. “What’s important to say is that I did speak up. I did have a voice. I did stand up for myself. There was a situation on The Affair where things didn’t feel right, and I dealt with them, and I managed to protect myself.”
On shows that include a lot of nude scenes, it’s now become commonplace to hire intimacy coordinators who work with the actors to choreograph sex scenes and ensure that everything is carefully mapped out for their safety and comfort. Showtime’s The Affair did not hire a coordinator, which may have limited Wilson’s ability to find recourse when there was a situation she “didn’t feel safe about.”
Wilson’s harrowing story hurts — but it’s even more frightening to remember how many women have gone along with nudity and explicit scenes without feeling like they had a choice, or thinking their own concerns deserved to be ignored.
It’s Wilson’s choice how much of this story she ever wants to share, but we’re forever proud of the stand she took by leaving.
Before you go, click here to see actors who have spoken out about pressure to get naked for a role.