Eliza Dushku was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s and the 2000s. She got her start in 1992 playing Alice Bloom in That Night, and had other roles over the next few years, but her big break came in 1998 when she was cast as Faith on the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dushku reprised the role on the show Angel, and other big parts soon followed. Among Dushku’s best-known characters are that of Missy in Bring It On, Tru Davies in Tru Calling, and Echo in Dollhouse.
Dushku’s position at the top of the Hollywood pack seemed unshakeable, but by the time the 2010s rolled around, people began to wonder what had happened to the star. She was appearing in fewer and fewer shows and films until she seemed to disappear from Hollywood entirely. Did the actress retire? Did her career take a major hit? What really happened to her? The real reason Eliza Dushku left Hollywood may surprise you.
Eliza Dushku "tripped and fell into" her acting career
It might be hard to believe considering just how talented she is, but Eliza Dushku didn’t really set out to become an actress. That career is one that found her, but it was never her sole dream to be a Hollywood star. As she explained to AV Club, acting is something that she “tripped and fell into.”
Dushku revealed the full story to Bella Magazine. It turns out that when she says she tripped and fell, she meant it literally. It was her brother who wanted to pursue acting. When the 10-year-old Dushku accompanied him on an audition, she ended up losing her balance which caught the attention of producers.
Dushku was ambivalent about embarking on an acting career, explaining that her mother declined on her behalf when she was first invited to go in for a screen test. However, her brothers encouraged her to go, thinking of it as a free trip to Hollywood, but not thinking she’d actually get the part. Dushku ended up crushing her screen test, though, and scored her first role in That Night launching an unexpected career.
Surprisingly, Eliza Dushku turned down a Buffy spinoff
Eliza Dushku’s role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of her most memorable, but what many fans of Dushku don’t realize is that she could have continued playing the character of Faith even after Buffy wrapped. Dushku was invited to reprise the role in a spinoff centered on her character, but decided to turn down the opportunity.
As she explained to IGN, while she loved her character she felt it was time “to try something else.” Dushku had played the role for five years and just wasn’t feeling the idea of a spinoff, even though it could have catapulted her to greater fame. Still, she felt that her “gut” was pushing her in another direction and that she “needed to try something else that was just different.”
Dushku also admitted to being a little intimidated about starring in the spinoff of such a beloved franchise. “I think that those would have been really big boots to fill,” she said, adding that she was concerned the spinoff “would have been compared to Buffy.”
Eliza Dushku battled substance abuse
Eliza Dushku’s early Hollywood career wasn’t as charmed as it seemed to her fans at the time. In 2017, she opened up about her history of substance abuse and the toll it took on her and on her family. In a speech at the Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness, the actress revealed that she started using drugs when she was just 14 years old. “It was fun and I loved it, until it wasn’t,” she said (via The Fix).
Dushku also struggled with alcohol abuse and said that she “didn’t make good decisions” when drinking or doing drugs. She finally got sober after her family refused to let her see her niece until she sought help. Dushku admitted that, without that ultimatum, she may have continued on her downward spiral. “I didn’t like myself but I love my family,” she explained of finally deciding to get treatment.
Thankfully, Dushku got the help she needed. In 2018, she celebrated 10 years of sobriety in an Instagram post, in which she encouraged others struggling with addiction to seek help.
Eliza Dushku turned towards voice acting
Eliza Dushku’s presence in Hollywood isn’t quite as sparse as it may seem. What fans of the star might not realize is that some of her biggest parts have been roles in which you can’t see her face. Dushku has been a successful voice actress for quite some time, starting with an episode of King of the Hill in 2002. Dushku has also voiced roles in several video games, including reprising her Buffy character, Faith, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds. Other shows and films Dushku has voiced roles in include Tobotomy, Torchwood: Web of Lies, Jay and Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and Ultimate Spider-Man.
In an interview with Geek Mom, Dushku said that doing voice acting is quite different from her live action roles and comes with its own set of challenges. She explained that, while being “stationed at your podium with your script” is a “sort of chill” environment, “emotionally, it can be really exhausting.”
After living in Los Angeles for years, Eliza Dushku moved home to Boston
Even though she saw a lot of success in Hollywood, Eliza Dushku’s heart remained in her home town of Boston. Her desire to move back home led to friction with her longtime boyfriend, Rick Fox, and contributed to their breakup. “Rick’s an L.A. guy and I’m a Boston girl,” she told The Boston Globe (via E! News) in 2014, citing wanting to live on different coasts as a big part of their split. Dushku also revealed at the time that she’d bought a condo near her childhood home, saying that she missed her hometown and her family.
In 2019, Dushku proudly told Boston Magazine that she was “a full-time Bostonian yet again,” and that she couldn’t believe she’d lived in L.A. for so long, calling her time in Hollywood “an honest effort.” Dushku admitted that she never planned to live in Hollywood forever, saying, “I always considered myself a Boston girl through and through, and I always planned to come back.”
Eliza Dushku became an Albanian citizen
Moving back to Boston isn’t the only way that Eliza Dushku has gotten back to her roots. She also explored Albania as part of an hour long documentary for PBS called Dear America, released in 2016. The documentary was created alongside her brother, Nate Dushku, actor and producer Blerim Destani, and photographer Fadil Berisha.
Dushku was inspired to create the documentary, as her paternal grandparents moved to America in the 1920s, settling in Boston. Dushku told Glamour that she and her brothers held on to “fragments of our Albanian identity,” but that she wanted to explore her heritage in more depth and “to debunk the myth of the ‘crazy Albanian.'”
Dushku was shocked to discover that, along with Mother Theresa and the Belushi brothers, she is considered to be one of the most famous Albanians in the world. As part of her work to document the story of Albania and its people, Dushku obtained dual citizenship in Albania. “Today and for all time, I, Eliza Dushku, am an official Albanian-American citizen and intend to continue to honor my roles by being a global service activist,” she said.
Eliza Dushku was happy to return to school
While Eliza Dushku acted throughout her childhood and adolescence, she also remained focused on her studies. She told Bella Magazine that her mother ensured that she never let acting interfere with her schoolwork, and encouraged her to continue her studies when it was time for her to go to college. Dushku planned to do just that, but ended up putting college on hold when she landed her role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Dushku always planned on going to university, but one part led to another, and what started as a way to make some money for school turned into a full-blown career. Dushku was in her 30s before she finally had the time to go to college, which she called a “dream” of hers so that she “could shut people up.”
In 2019, Dushku explained to Boston Magazine that she loves being back at school at Lesley University, where she’s working towards a degree in holistic psychology, a field she chose because she wants to be able to help others. “I’ve written more papers than I ever thought possible, but I’ve got to say that I freakin’ love it,” she said.
In 2018, Eliza Dushku got married and started a family
While she may not be as much in the public eye as she was at the height of the popularity, that doesn’t mean that Eliza Dushku isn’t living her best life. One of the things keeping her busy these days is the family she’s raising with her husband, Peter Palandjian. As noted by E! News, Palandjian also has quite a successful career, and is the CEO of Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation. The couple tied the knot in August 2018.
The marriage made Dushku a stepmother to Palandjian’s four kids from a previous marriage: Madelon, Manon, Margot, and Petros Palandjian. The following year, Dushku and Palandjian welcomed their first child together, a son named Pete Palandjian. “I’m just so excited about this next chapter in my life,” the excited mom revealed to Us Weekly after the news of her pregnancy broke. She added that she was enjoying finding other passions outside of acting and that she was happy with where her life had led her.
Eliza Dushku opened up about being assaulted as a child star
The life of a child star often isn’t an easy one; it requires a kid to forego a normal life and to enter an adult world. Eliza Dushku’s experience as a child star was especially horrifying, but she kept the full extent of it to herself for decades. In 2018, Dushku penned a lengthy Facebook post in which she opened up about being sexually molested by stunt coordinator Joel Kramer on the set of True Lies when she was 12. Dushku revealed that she confided in her parents, two adult friends, and one of her brothers at the time but that “no one,” including herself, “seemed ready to confront this taboo subject then.”
Dushku recalled how Kramer spent months “grooming” her, and criticized not only the adults on set for not realizing the alarming amount of attention he paid to her, but also Hollywood for failing her. “I hope that speaking out will help other victims and protect against future abuse,” she wrote.
Why was Eliza Dushku fired from Bull?
Fans were excited when Eliza Dushku landed a role on the television show Bull, as J.P. Nunnelly, but were shocked when she appeared in only three episodes. Aside from a part in the TV movie The Saint, that was her only acting appearance in 2017, and she hasn’t landed a role since.
In 2018, Dushku revealed what really happened on the set of Bull in a piece for the Boston Globe, in which she said that she’d been fired from the show after its star, Michael Weatherly, “sexually harassed and bullied [her] day-in and day-out.” Dushku demanded to be treated with respect. Instead, she was written off the show. The show’s writer and producer, Glenn Gordon Caron, defended Weatherly, claiming he was only joking, while weatherly said that Dushku was at fault for not having a sense of humor.
Dushku was ultimately paid $9.5 million on the condition that she not speak about what happened on set. Dushku decided to break her silence, though, after news of the settlement broke and both Weatherly and Caron gave statements to the press. “NDAs re-victimize people,” she told Time. “They give more power to the powerful.”
Eliza Dushku has dedicated herself to activism and philanthropy
Another thing that has kept Eliza Dushku busy has been her commitment to activism and philanthropy. As noted by Bella Magazine, Dushku is involved with a number of organizations including THRIVEGulu, a nonprofit started by her mother that’s focused on helping former child soldiers and survivors of trauma and war in Northern Uganda. Dushku also wants to help others who have struggled with addiction, telling People that she and her husband help support various programs in Boston related to that. She added that leaving Hollywood freed up more time for her to focus on such passion projects.
In 2016, Dushku hit the campaign trail in support of Bernie Sanders, who was vying for the Democratic nomination. “I think Bernie is the only one… trying to make changes,” Dushku told Spare Change News.
Look to the Stars listed several other organizations that Dushku has supported, including Invisible Children, Millennium Campus Network, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Eliza Dushku started her own production company
Part of Eliza Duskhku’s break from acting has been because she’s been busy running her own production company, Boston Diva, which she started with her brother. Dushku and her brother produced their documentary, Dear Albania, through the company, as well as the 2018 biopic Mapplethorpe, which is centered on the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Dushku told People in 2019 that Mapplethorpe was a passion project she and her brother had wanted to work on for more than 15 years, but that it had taken a long time for everything to come together. “I certainly didn’t choose for it to be that long of a process, but I’ve got to say, it’s sort of incredible how everything aligned,” she said.
Production has opened a whole new avenue for Dushku, who told Deadline that it’s important to her to have “that freedom to tell any kinds of stories that I want to tell.”
Thanks to social media, Eliza Dushku has stayed connected to her fans
Eliza Dushku’s absence from Hollywood might have led some people to think she’d retired, but Dushku hasn’t exactly retreated from the public eye. In fact, she’s continued to give interviews and has been quite open about her life and her career. Dushku also has a substantial media presence, with more than 600,000 followers on Instagram and 1.6 million on Twitter. Dushku provides updates on her personal life on social media, including glimpses of her son, Peter Palandjian.
Still, social media has its pros and cons. In 2019, Dushku told Boston Magazine that she backed away from social media because of all the stress, comparing reading what people think about her online to “putting a loaded gun to your head.” Dushku explained that it’s all too easy to focus on the one critic “that just drills into you.” She added, “And today with the trolls and the fake bots, it’s just too much.” Given what happens to your body when you give up social media, we don’t blame her for ignoring the comments.
Eliza Dushku still wants to act, but wants to do it on her own terms
Eliza Dushku’s acting resume might not be as jam-packed with roles as some of her fans would expect, but that doesn’t mean that she’s abandoned her acting career entirely. Indeed, acting is still something that Dushku loves and enjoys and she plans to keep doing it — so long as she’s the one calling the shots. As she explained to People in 2019, she hasn’t “quit Hollywood,” but simply wants to focus on other things for a while.
That same year, Dushku explained in an interview with Time that she hadn’t quit acting or been blacklisted from the industry for coming forward about being harassed, but that she was just taking some time for herself to heal after everything she’d been through in Hollywood. “I don’t want people to think coming forward means ending your career,” she said. “I could be acting… I just need to be here right now.”
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