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The Journal Gazette

  • Showtime Ruth Wilson starred as Alison in “The Affair”

Monday, September 03, 2018 1:00 am

Questions linger after 'Affair' actress's exit

Bethonie Butler | Washington Post

Each episode of “The Affair” is typically told from two different perspectives. And Ruth Wilson's mysterious exit from the well-reviewed Showtime drama is being explained in basically the same way.

Wilson's character, Alison Bailey, the complex woman whose affair with writer Noah Solloway (Dominic West) caused lingering ripple effects that upended their lives and families, was unexpectedly killed off at the height of the show's fourth season, which ended last month.

“The Affair's” Rashomon storytelling – which began solely from Alison and Noah's perspectives and evolved to include others, most frequently their former spouses, Cole (Joshua Jackson) and Helen (Maura Tierney) – made Alison's death all the more enigmatic. Officials in her Long Island community of Montauk said she had drowned herself, but in Alison's own retelling, she was killed by Ben (Ramon Rodriguez), a troubled Marine veteran she had unexpectedly begun falling for.

Alison's final moments became central to the season's gripping penultimate episode, but fans lamented the largely unexplained death. Sarah Treem, showrunner and co-creator, told the Hollywood Reporter Wilson “wanted to leave the show.”

Wilson confirmed that a couple weeks later on “CBS This Morning.” But she also hinted at possible drama behind the scenes. “I did want to leave,” she told Gayle King, “but I'm not allowed to talk about why.”

King asked whether her decision to leave the show had anything to do with the reported pay disparity between her and West, who, she said in a February interview with Radio Times, was paid more for his work on the Showtime series.

“I've never complained to Showtime about pay parity,” Wilson told King flatly.

Following Wilson's appearance on “CBS This Morning,” Showtime issued a statement to Deadline, saying that “heading into season four everyone agreed the character's story had run its course.”

“Ultimately, it felt like the most powerful creative decision would be to end Alison's arc at the moment when she had finally achieved self-empowerment,” the statement continued.

But in a New York Times interview, Wilson said “there is a much bigger story” behind her exit, which she reiterated had nothing to do with pay. And though she is making the promotional rounds for the big-screen thriller “The Little Stranger,” she also said she didn't leave the series for other jobs. Writer Ruth La Ferla notes Wilson urged her “more than once” to contact Treem for clarity.

Treem, meanwhile, echoed Showtime's statement, telling the Times that “the character of Alison had run its course.”

Treem also suggested that “The Affair,” which has been renewed for its fifth and final season, will explore the aftermath of Alison's death. “By completing her arc this season, the consequences of her death will lead to compelling story lines for our final season,” she said.