Live

Watch CBSN Live

"Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry begins testimony

"Desperate Housewives" creator/executive producer Marc Cherry leaves court on March 2, 2012, in Los Angeles. AP

(CBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - "Desperate Housewives" creator/executive producer Marc Cherry said he received permission to kill off Nicollette Sheridan's character four months before he was involved in a dispute during which the actress claims he struck her on the head.

Cherry testified that a top ABC executive gave him permission to kill off the Edie Britt character during a brief meeting in May 2008, long before the dispute over a scene.

Sheridan's attorneys claim she was fired for complaining about the blow, which Cherry has described as a tap he gave as artistic direction.

The actress, whose character died toward the end of the show's fifth season, is seeking more than $6 million for wrongful termination and battery claims.

Sheridan concluded her testimony Monday after sparring with Cherry's attorneys over her prominence on the show and whether she had inconsistently described how Cherry hit her.

She told jurors she was shocked by the blow and demonstrated it on her attorney for the jury. She claims Cherry hit her on the temple, but Cherry testified, "I tapped her head."

"It was humiliating," she told the jury last week. "It was demeaning. It was unfathomable to me that I had just been hit by my boss."

Sheridan's attorneys called Cherry as the trial's second witness, but he has not yet described his version of the dispute in detail. Instead, his early testimony focused on the decision to kill the Britt character and whether that was made before his dispute with the actress.

Cherry said on the stand that he had three reasons for killing off Britt - creative, cost-cutting, and complaints about Sheridan's behavior. He acknowledged there wasn't any documentation about the actress' alleged bad behavior, which included claims of tardiness, forgetting lines and treating a prop person rudely.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Cherry said Sheridan's behavior was not the "primary reason for my decision, but it was something I was aware of."

Mark Baute, Sheridan's attorney, has noted that Sheridan's contract was renewed just days after the May 2008 meeting during which Cherry claims he was given permission to fire the actress. That renewal decision meant the actress' pay was bumped to $175,000 per episode and she received a full share of profits from the series.

Baute also played a clip of an interview Cherry gave before the start of the fifth season, which was Sheridan's last, in which he said the show would focus on the lives of five characters played by Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Sheridan.

The show's four other female stars are listed as potential witnesses at the trial.

Cherry said he told ABC the death of Britt could be heavily promoted and would benefit the show financially and with ratings.

"Desperate Housewives" made a pop-culture and ratings splash when the comedy/soap opera premiered in 2004 but has seen its audience dwindle. It is in its eighth and final season.