Nicollette Sheridan burst into tears in court today—and that was before Marc Cherry's attorney recounted how Sheridan's character had simply "run its course" on Desperate Housewives and "it was time for Edie to die."
"There were only so many husbands she could sleep with," attorney Adam Levin said in his opening statement Wednesday on behalf of ABC and Cherry, who Sheridan is suing for wrongful termination and battery, claiming he booted her from the show after being verbally and physically abusive on set.
But it was during her own attorney's opening remarks earlier in the day that Sheridan broke down.
"Ms. Sheridan is taking this on alone in a town where nobody takes on a television network," her lawyer, Mark Baute, told the jury.
Cherry "hit Ms. Sheridan hard" during an argument on Sept. 24, 2008, Baute said—a gesture that stunned his client and left her asking Cherry repeatedly why he had become violent.
Baute alleges that ABC learned of what happened after the National Enquirer printed an article detailing the alleged assault and undertook an investigation that, by November of that year, would exonerate the "money machine known as Desperate Housewives."
Thanks to Cherry and ABC allying against her, Baute continued, Sheridan lost "the most lucrative job of her career"—and he plans to prove it during the course of the trial, he added. For instance, he said, 47 minor characters have been killed off from Desperate Housewives over seven seasons, but not one of the original principals, other than his client, ever met the same fate.
And in a "poorly written episode" at that, Baute alleged.
"Bottom line," Baute concluded, "this was retaliatory termination by someone who knew what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it."
Cherry's attorney, meanwhile, argued that the Desperate Housewives creator merely decided to kill off Edie Brit once her storyline had run its course.
"For a television show to last more than a few episodes, writers must continue to shock and surprise the audience who is wanting more," Levin told the court. "People die a lot on TV, which can lead to water-cooler talk and media exposure."
"Ms. Sheridan worked on Desperate Housewives for five seasons and then her character was killed off," Levin said, also noting that Cherry considered getting rid of Edie during season three but ultimately envisioned more action for her character. "Ms. Sheridan is obviously unhappy. But she was not wrongfully terminated, nor was she battered."
The alleged incident on Sept. 24, 2008, Levin said, "left no injury and no mark and she took no aspirin. In fact, her first call after the incident was to check her voicemail."
While Sheridan's attorney said that a number of the series' former writers will be testifying for her, Levin's witness list includes Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Felicity Huffman and James Denton.
Sheridan is scheduled to testify first Thursday morning. And as for her crying jag in court today, Baute told E! News afterward, "She was not acting. She clearly was shaken up."