- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 7, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A former writer on “Desperate Housewives” has contradicted testimony by the show’s creator that he decided to kill off Nicollette Sheridan character months before the pair had an on-set fight.

Lori Kirkland Baker told jurors in Sheridan’s wrongful termination trial that she first heard the actress’ role was being eliminated in December 2008, not in May of that year as creator Marc Cherry has testified.

Baker was a writer and co-executive producer on the show’s fourth and fifth seasons. Her contract was not renewed after that.

Sheridan claims Cherry struck her during an argument in September 2008 and he killed off her character after ABC officials cleared him of wrongdoing.

Baker acknowledges she wasn’t present for all plot discussions, but insisted discussions of killing Sheridan’s role didn’t occur until after Sheridan and Cherry sparred.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The creator of “Desperate Housewives” showed jurors Wednesday writers’ notes detailing various scenarios for killing off Nicollette Sheridan’s character in the months before he and the actress argued on the set.

Marc Cherry walked jurors through index cards and details that he said writers’ assistants took while crafting plots for the show’s fifth season, during which Sheridan’s character, Edie Britt, died.

The notes are a key part of Cherry’s defense that he didn’t kill of Sheridan’s role on the hit series in retaliation for her complaining about the veteran television writer and producer touching her during their dispute. Sheridan claims Cherry whacked her hard on the head, but he claims he only delivered a tap as artistic direction for a scene.

In an early note, Cherry told jurors the code “Steven drinks OJ” was a reference to Sheridan’s on-screen husband killing Britt. He said it was a reference to O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of killing his wife.

Sheridan is suing Cherry and ABC, claiming she was fired from “Housewives” after complaining that Cherry hit her during the September 2008 argument. She is seeking more than $6 million.

Cherry and a former ABC executive, Mark Pedowitz, have testified that approval to kill off Sheridan’s role was given four months before the fight. Pedowitz testified Tuesday that he thought Britt’s character had run its course by the fifth season.

Cherry told jurors that he had contemplated killing Sheridan’s character at the end of season three, but studio and network executives didn’t approve it. As he began to plan season five in May 2008, he said he wanted to kill Britt as part of a “risky but potentially effective change to the series.”

He received approval to kill Sheridan’s role on May 22, 2008, from two top-ranking executives at ABC, which produces and airs “Desperate Housewives.”

Sheridan’s attorneys have claimed Cherry decided to fire Sheridan from the series only after he was cleared by ABC executives for striking the actress on set. In opening statements, the actress’ attorney, Mark Baute, claimed the episode in which Britt dies was poorly written and was done more haphazardly than if it had been planned for months.

Cherry said he never wavered in his decision to kill off Sheridan’s role, but that he acquiesced to requests by the executives to wait until later in the season for the on-screen killing to occur. The notes displayed Wednesday showed Britt’s death was originally slated for mid-season, with several episodes dealing with a police investigation.

He said the coded phrase “Steve drinks OJ” was necessary to keep the secret from people passing through the writers’ room where “Housewives” scripts are contemplated and crafted.

“Mine is a series based on surprise and shock and secrets,” Cherry said.

Britt died in the 18th episode of the season after surviving a strangulation attempt and a car crash, only to be electrocuted by a downed power line. Baute, in opening statements, called it a triple homicide that reflected Cherry’s animosity toward Sheridan.

“Desperate Housewives,” a glossy prime-time comedy/soap opera with an ensemble cast including Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria, made a pop-culture and ratings splash when it premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle. It is in its last season.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.


Anthony McCartney can be reached at https://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

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