March 09, 2012 2:51pm PT by Alex Ben Block
'Desperate Housewives' Trial: Former ABC Chief Stephen McPherson Says He Approved Sheridan Firing Months Before Cherry Incident
Former ABC Entertainment Group president Stephen McPherson testified Friday in Nicollette Sheridan’s lawsuit against Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and the network that he approved a plan in May 2008 to kill off Sheridan's character, Edie Britt.
The testimony is important because it backs the studio's view that the decision to write Sheridan off the show was made during a smalll meeting months before the September 2008 altercation between Cherry and Sheridan in which Cherry hit the actress on the head. Sheridan's suit claims she was written off the show after complaining about that incident. McPherson’s testimony was consistent with earlier testimony about that May 22, 2008, meeting by Cherry, former Touchstone studio head Mark Pedowitz and Housewives executive producer Sabrina Wind.
“I gave them my approval,” McPherson said. The former exec also said he brought up that when the character was killed, the show should “make it promotable” for the network.
Asked why he did not write memos about the plan to kill off the character, McPherson said: “We wanted to keep it confidential. We always do that with any character on any show. We don’t want it to get out.”
McPherson said there was no subsequent discussion with Cherry or others about not killing off the character, which meant the end of Sheridan’s five-season run on the hit show. He said, “We were excited about it,” but was cut off by an objection from Sheridan’s lawyers, with the judge agreeing he should not discuss his thoughts in that way.
McPherson was asked by Sheridan’s attorney Mark Baute why he resigned from ABC in July 2010 on short notice, but that brought an objection from Cherry and ABC’s attorney Adam Levin, who called it irrelevant. The judge agreed. (THR reported at the time of his exit that there was an internal sexual-harassment probe related to McPherson at ABC.) Sources close to the case said there was an agreement in advance not to get into the circumstances of McPherson's suddenly leaving the network.
Asked what he does now, McPherson said he has his own company, McPherson Global Ventures, which is in the wine business and makes other investments.