When actress Raeden Greer was offered a small speaking role in True Detective, she was ecstatic. It was minor, but in the then 24-year-old’s eyes, nabbing a part in a buzzy new HBO series and working alongside Woody Harrelson just might be the stepping stone to something bigger.
But she says those earnest hopes were dashed by the time she left set. Humiliated and outraged, Greer retreated to a friend’s house to cry after abruptly being fired from the show.
The reason for her dismissal? Greer says she refused to go topless in a scene after it was suddenly sprung upon her, despite it not being part of her contract and repeated guarantees that she wouldn’t have to be nude.
Although it’s been roughly eight years since then, Greer told The Daily Beast the incident has always weighed heavily on her. But it recently bubbled to the surface again after she came across an interview that director Cary Joji Fukunaga had given to The Hollywood Reporter, where he spoke of his efforts to bring the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, into a post-#MeToo world.
Contemporary audiences could never stomach Bond forcing women to have sex with him despite their protestations. “That wouldn’t fly today,” Fukunaga explained, adding that he brought on Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge to help strengthen the script and to ensure the film’s “female characters [are] more than just contrivances.”
But Fukunaga’s words rang hollow for Greer because she says that’s exactly the way Fukunaga treated her on the set of True Detective when she refused to go topless, engaging in a tense 10-minute standoff with the director, who she claims tried every bargaining tactic he could think of to convince her to agree to the nudity.
And when Greer wouldn’t back down, citing not having a nudity rider in her contract and her overall feeling of discomfort, she was sent home—her speaking role, she says, handed to an extra with no acting experience, but who had agreed to be nude.
“It was disheartening. It felt bad,” says Greer, who went on to small acting roles in American Horror Story and Magic Mike XXL. “You can’t just treat people like all you are is a pair of tits, that is very hurtful.
“And now, Cary is out here talking about his female characters—it’s like another slap in the face over and over and over. Yes, he has had an illustrious career—that was a star-maker for him, and what happened to me? Nobody cares.”
“That was the human element that was missing that is so hurtful to me, that you could just look at somebody—a young girl who is starting out in her career who doesn’t want to show everything she’s got naked on camera spur of the moment, and you can’t understand that? He knew that he wasn’t doing [it] above board. He knew.” (Multiple requests for comment to Fukunaga’s representatives went unanswered; HBO declined comment for this story.)
“I’ve had this story and I’ve had more stories of things that have happened to me in this industry over the years,” Greer adds. “Women in general, we all have these stories… When it comes to real people whose lives you are affecting in your work and the choices you make at work, there’s no consequence.”
It would take another four years after Greer’s experience for Hollywood to be hit with a long-overdue reckoning in the wake of Harvey Weinstein being exposed as a serial sexual predator. When the accusations broke in The New York Times and The New Yorker, it sparked the global #MeToo movement, as people finally felt emboldened and supported to speak out about abuses they had faced over the decades, with the aim of resetting the glaring power imbalance many had to endure in silence.
But that’s not to say the deep-rooted issues of abuse in the entertainment industry suddenly evaporated overnight.
Jon Rubinstein, CEO and founder of Authentic Talent & Literary Management that reps Brie Larson, told The Hollywood Reporter in August 2018 that despite Weinstein’s downfall being fresh in everyone’s minds, there were still many instances of actresses being pushed into nudity by directors or producers.
“Mostly, where you get into trouble is where a producer or director approaches an actress directly on a set and asks for something that wasn’t negotiated,” Rubinstein explained. “It’s, ‘Look, the whole crew wants to go home. It’s midnight. We’re all exhausted. We just have to get this one last shot. The way that we’ve been doing it isn’t working. Can you drop the towel?’ Or ‘That shirt doesn’t look right, why don’t you just lose it?’ Then suddenly you’re standing there, and you’ve got 20 people waiting for you, and you go, ‘Ugh, fine.’ That happens all the time.”
Rubinstein’s example mirrors what Greer experienced. And it isn’t just smaller actresses who are subjected to that kind of pressure—even at the peak of her star power as Kate Austen on ABC’s Lost, Evangeline Lilly says that she was “basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked.”
“I felt had no choice in the matter,” Lilly explained in a podcast in 2018. “I was mortified, and I was trembling when it finished. I was crying my eyes out, and I had to go on do a very formidable, very strong scene thereafter.”
For Greer, she hopes Fukunaga’s talk of championing women and creating dynamic, multifaceted female characters is because he’s learned something in the past eight years, not because it’s a talking point or check to be ticked off during the press tour for the new Bond—a franchise that has been criticized for its misogyny.
And if it’s the latter, Greer is glad the #MeToo movement has helped to enable actors to speak out against abuses within the industry, while also taking steps to protect actors while on set, such as SAG-AFTRA rolling out a new rule that states a nudity rider “must be provided to a performer at least 48 hours prior to call time on the day a scene is to be shot.” It helps ensure that a young actor wouldn’t suddenly be pressured to appear nude moments before they are about to film.
But Greer had no such clause in place when she secured the True Detective role. Booking the part was a huge deal at the time to Greer, who earnestly emailed her agent to celebrate the small victory that her character had a first and last name. She was hoping to transition out of the local market in the South and launch a full-fledged acting career.
The part was Kelsey Burgess, a local woman who worked at a strip club and appeared in the fourth episode as Harrelson’s character, Detective Marty Hart, is attempting to track down a lead. During Greer’s final audition for the role, she recalls how Fukunaga asked her to improvise a scene, deviating from the script as the detective tried to get answers out of her.
And while Greer knew her character was supposed to be an exotic dancer, she says the script that she auditioned from never indicated there would be any nudity for the role, since the bulk of the dialogue was set to happen after she got off work at the club. Even when signing the contract, Greer says there was no nudity rider. Typically, nudity riders are included for any actor that agrees to appear nude on camera, allowing them to consent to the type of nudity shown and dictating if that nudity can appear in marketing materials. Plus, actors can sometimes negotiate a higher fee if they agree to appear nude.
Once Greer received the full script, she noticed there was a scene that indicated that her character would be dancing. “I started wondering, ‘Are they going to try something with me? Because this has never been mentioned that there was any nudity in this role,’” Greer explains.
“So, I started asking after that, like, ‘To be clear, there’s no nudity involved in this role, right?’ I kept getting the answer from my agent and from casting—no, that would be absolutely unheard of if they asked you to do nudity after it wasn’t disclosed. There was no rider, there was no negotiating this into your contract, that would not happen, so stop asking about it because it’s making you look amateurish.’ So, I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna quit worrying about it.’”
But the concern cropped up again when Greer showed up to her wardrobe fitting. Instead of seeing sweats or clothes typical of someone getting straight off from work, there were only bikinis and bras. “Again, I kept being told, no, you’re going to have a cover-up, you’re not going to be naked,” she says.
On the day of filming —March 19, 2013—Greer says she arrived at her trailer and sure enough, there was nothing else there besides a set of pasties and a nude thong laid out for her to wear. She put on the undergarments and a robe, and while on the way to hair and makeup, she asked a production assistant for help in sorting out the issue with her costume.
“I told the PA, can you get somebody to come and talk to me because I’m extremely uncomfortable about this costume situation and what’s going to be expected of me. I need to talk to somebody about this before we go any further,” Greer says. “The PA said, ‘OK, I’ll go get somebody to come and talk to you, but in the meantime, you need to go to the makeup trailer.’”
Eventually, she says Fukunaga and two other producers pulled a fully made-up Greer outside for a chat to address her concern shortly before filming.
“I was, like, frantic because I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to get naked. I wasn’t expecting to [and] this is not fair. Are you expecting me to do this?’” she recalls stressing to the men, saying it felt like a bait-and-switch.
“Cary said to me at that moment, ‘Everybody on this show goes topless. All the women on the show go topless. Your character is a stripper, so you have to,’” Greer says.
Indeed, there was a good deal of nudity on the show, with at least 10 women going topless or partially nude for scenes. It was the first time actress Alexandra Daddario, then best known for her role in the Percy Jackson films, agreed to appear nude on camera as Harrelson’s mistress, Lisa.
“Cary said to me at that moment, ‘Everybody on this show goes topless. All the women on the show go topless. Your character is a stripper, so you have to…”
Speaking of her decision, Daddario told MTV in 2014, “I really wanted to be part of the show, and I understood why the nudity and all of that was required of the character. The character is really different from anything that I’ve done before. The nudity was just part of that…. I tried not to think about it too much before shooting the more intimate scenes and just sort of did it.”
Creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto defended the use of nudity in the series to BuzzFeed, pinning it on the show being from the viewpoint of two troubled male cops and how they ultimately view women, before saying he believes that True Detective pales in comparison to other shows.
“There is a clear mandate in pay-cable for a certain level of nudity,” he says. “Now, you’re not going to get our two lead movie stars to go full-frontal, but we at least got Matthew’s butt in there. There’s not a great deal of nudity in the series at all, though, compared to other shows on pay-cable. I’d be happy with none. Seems to me if people want to see naked people doing it, there’s this thing called ‘the internet.’”
But Greer says Fukunaga did not have Pizzolatto’s self-professed blasé attitude toward nudity when she pushed back about appearing topless, claiming he repeatedly tried to convince her into caving.
“He was trying different things to convince me that it’s not a big deal,” she says. “It [was] going to be very tasteful, or it’s just gonna be really insignificant in the background. I was like, ‘Well, if it’s so insignificant, why is he so insistent that I have to do this?’ It was just on and on and on with no budging.”
Eventually, Greer put her foot down and said she would not be appearing topless, and they would not be able to convince her into doing it, admitting it felt intimidating going up against the director and two high-level producers by herself. The men conceded, saying they would come up with something different and get back to her.
“He was trying different things to convince me that it’s not a big deal. It [was] going to be very tasteful, or it’s just gonna be really insignificant in the background. I was like, ‘Well, if it’s so insignificant, why is he so insistent that I have to do this?’”
She recalls heading back to her trailer, thinking they would either reconstruct the framing of the shot or photo-double her. Instead, when one of the producers finally turned up to her trailer hours later, he sat down and simply said they had found someone else to play her part. She was fired.
Greer says she was stunned. Shuttled back to hair and makeup, Greer remembers her wig being taken off and later plopped on the head of the extra who had been given the role, Amber Carollo. According to IMDb, the scene was Carollo’s only credited acting role, although she’s listed as an uncredited “girl in bathroom” in 22 Jump Street. Carollo did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
“It was extremely shitty, it was horrible,” Greer says. “To know how little I mattered and how little whatever I brought to the table meant to them. It was like, ‘You are just completely disposable and even somebody who has never fucking acted before can do this. Just go home, we’ll get anybody else to come in here and do this.’”
“So yeah, it was degrading. It was humiliating and made me feel terrible. As soon as I got in my car, I started crying and I called my agent and I told her what happened and she couldn’t believe it.”
Greer feels there were multiple opportunities for the situation to have been prevented. After all, the other women who appeared as extras at the strip club had been made aware they would be appearing nude, explaining how on the call sheet some of the extras were referred to as “nude stripper,” and under notes for the costume department, it states “nude gals.”
“I feel like if it was an actor, somebody they respected, that it would have been handled differently,” she says. “They could have easily just said from the beginning, this role requires nudity. They could have negotiated it into my contract, they could have given me the nudity rider, so I knew what to expect instead of just putting this on me on the day, just assuming that I’m a desperate young girl who’s going to do whatever they tell me to do.”
In the final version of True Detective, the character’s dialogue appears to have been whittled down to a few lines in just one scene, showing Carollo as Kelsey touching up her makeup dressed in a sparkly bikini top in the club’s dressing room as some other women mill about topless.
The scene cuts to a close-up of Carollo dancing on the stage, dressed in a skimpy American flag one-piece bikini—an outfit Greer says she also tried on during her wardrobe fitting. (The character is also shown in the bikini in the season’s opening-credits sequence.)
As Carollo begins to undo her top, it cuts to Harrelson’s character trying to bribe the bartender (played by Pizzolatto) for information on Kelsey. In the background, yet still prominently positioned, Carollo is shown dancing topless. The next time the character is shown, she’s dressed in casual clothes heading off in her car to a party, saying no further lines.
Greer says she feels the character was minimized, evident in the fact that her script had a scene with dialogue between her and Harrelson’s characters after leaving work, while the actress who replaced her only said a few words in the dressing room.
Greer says it still hurts that being topless was somehow more important to Fukunaga and the two other male producers than what she could have contributed to the character and the show; that nudity trumped how she was treated as an actor and as a person.
“Everyone just treated me with utter disrespect,” she says. “I feel like this happened to me and nobody cared, and nobody ever will care. These men go on to have these illustrious careers and we are supposed to be an industry that at its core is about humanity and empathy, and these people have none.”