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Would-be 'Melrose' actress wins nearly $5 million award

Hunter Tylo
December 22, 1997
Web posted at: 6:22 p.m. EST (2322 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A jury Monday awarded actress Hunter Tylo nearly $5 million for being fired from her role as a "vixen" on "Melrose Place" after she became pregnant.

The Superior Court jury awarded Tylo $4 million for emotional distress and $894,601 for economic loss.

Tylo was fired from the TV show in early 1996 after telling producers she was pregnant and before appearing in a single episode. The 34-year-old actress sued Spelling Entertainment Group and Spelling Television Inc. for her claims of pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination and breach of contract.

She was seeking at least $2.5 million in damages.

Tylo: A victory 'for every woman'

Tylo contended that one of the producers of the steamy show said: "Why doesn't she just go out and get an abortion? Then she can work."

Hunter Tylo reacts to the verdict.
"It wasn't a victory for me..."
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"I have gone through extensive attacks..."
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"I was attacked on every side," Tylo said outside court after the verdict. "People were telling me I would never make it, that I was hurting my career. But I came through all of it."

She pronounced the verdict a victory "for every woman, for every child that's not born."

"They never dreamed I would challenge them -- never," Tylo said of the producers. "Believe me, no woman in this business wants to challenge a producer in this business. You can be blackballed very easily."

Defense: Tylo a 'liar, publicity seeker'

Lawyers for the two corporate defendants -- both run by Hollywood mogul Aaron Spelling -- argued that Tylo's condition would have made her too fat to play the role of Taylor McBride, a "vixen" bent on seducing star Heather Locklear's on-screen husband.

The show's producers contended they had a legal right to fire her. They pointed to a clause in her contract allowing her firing if there was a "material change" in her appearance. They also argued that pregnancy-discrimination law carves out an exception for actresses because of the need for dramatic believability.

During testimony, they said they had offered Tylo a settlement that included a new contract and a different role on the show. Their closing arguments characterized Tylo as a "liar and publicity seeker."

Locklear worked while pregnant

But Tylo said the "Melrose Place" producers could have used "TV magic," including body doubles and creative camera angles, to hide her pregnancy, as they did with the show's star, Heather Locklear.

Scene from
Scene from "Melrose Place"

To underscore her point that she could be pregnant and sexy at the same time, Tylo -- who is in her eighth month of another pregnancy -- wore tight miniskirts to court each day. Her pregnancy barely showed.

In a deposition read in court, Spelling said producers never considered using a body double for Tylo.

The deposition also included a letter from executive producer Frank South, who told Spelling it was "not dramatically sensible" to have a woman who is five months pregnant "rolling around in bed with our stars."

Monday's verdict came after a month-long trial in which jurors heard from Locklear, as well as actress Lisa Rinna, who plays the role originally intended for Tylo. Rinna recently announced she is pregnant, and she, too, will be permitted to continue working on the show in her role.

The jury of two men and 10 women -- one of whom is pregnant -- deliberated for more than four days before reaching a verdict.

Tylo is best known for her longtime role as a psychiatrist on the CBS daytime soap opera "The Bold & the Beautiful." She gave up her job to move into nighttime television. After her termination, she resumed work with the daytime soap.


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