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Rose McGowan’s name has been a staple in the news cycle since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, but she says she actually trademarked what has become her #MeToo army, the Rose Army, three years ago.
During a two-part interview on ABC’s Good Morning America that aired Tuesday, the actress told host Robin Roberts of her intention: “I wanted to see if I could make people — societally, including myself — 10 percent more awesome. The broader message is about thought and about looking at things. I realized, there are no lobbyists for critical thinking. There are no lobbyists for bravery.”
“Be brave,” she said of her message. “Do it, even if your ankles shake, because they will.”
McGowan became a ready activist in the sexual harassment reckoning after going public with her rape accusation against Weinstein and becoming one of the first Hollywood names to contribute to reports in The New York Times and New Yorker. She used her Twitter account as a platform to continue to speak out against sexual misconduct, particularly in Hollywood, and empower other victims of harassment and assault.
In both the book and in her show, Weinstein is referred to only as “the monster” and never by name. The book goes into detail about the alleged assault, which she has said happened in his hotel suite at the annual Sundance Film Festival in 1997.
That day, an MTV camera crew was following her to film “a day in the life of Rose McGowan” segment. She remembers turning to the camera and saying, now regrettably, “I think my life is finally getting easier!”
She now says, “I walked in and, for me, he’s a sick person, he’s a sick mind — but what about all the others? There were so many. The machinery he would set up in every country he would go to for the handlers to hand him the victims, starting with the agents and managers.”
Explaining the setup, McGowan says the meeting was in a presidential suite, which can often take up the entire floor. Auditioning for a director in such a room was not unusual.
Robins then read a detailed passage from her book about the encounter.
“A lot of victims and survivors will say they detach, and you really do; you float up above your body,” McGowan said. “Your brain is in another place and all of a sudden your body is like, ‘What, what, what?'”
McGowan, who has been vocal about Hollywood complicity in the current climate, then said, “My then-manager got a job with him for seven years after that, you do the math.”
After the encounter, McGowan has said she had a press engagement for her film Going All the Way with co-star Ben Affleck. “I looked at him and I must have had tears in my eyes. I remember shaking and I said, ‘I just came from a meeting with him,’ and I said his name. That’s when [Affleck] said, ‘God dammit, I told him to stop doing that.'” (Affleck has not commented on McGowan’s claim about their encounter.)
During a later visit on ABC’s The View, McGowan recalled the message Weinstein left her three days after. Referencing only the name of Gwyneth Paltrow, since she has also come forward about Weinstein, McGowan recalled Weinstein’s message. “He said, ‘Gwyneth’s my special friend, [blank]’s my special friend, you’re my new special friend.’ I slid down the wall and threw up on myself,” she said through tears.
On GMA, McGowan said she started hammering the phrase “complicity machine” three years ago. “Everybody knew. I know that. I was there,” she said. “People think that I don’t know these people, that I’m on the outside — like they are — looking in. Someone asked me who I would be if I were a character in the Wizard of Oz. I would be the curtain. I would be the one who saw both sides that nobody noticed, that was pretty and there to be used and discarded when they were done. I was the curtain, but I absorbed all information from both sides. Both how to sell to the audience and how to be sold.”
The “systemic” complicity extended to his studio, The Weinstein Co., she said, referencing reports about a fund that was set up to pay off Weinstein victims: “If he had to pay out a victim $100,000, he had to pay the board back $250,000. So when I say it’s a complicity machine, it is.”
Of her $100,000 settlement with Weinstein in exchange for her silence, McGowan said she tried to buy a billboard to send a message to him. Ultimately, taking the money was “my only way of saying, ‘I didn’t like this. I didn’t want this.’ It was my only form of voice.” She then added of any criticism, “Let me tell you: The only perfect rape victim is a dead rape victim.”
Weinstein is currently being investigated by the Los Angeles, New York and London police departments, though charges have yet to be brought. The public tally is more than 80 accusers, though McGowan said his number of victims by her estimation would be “over 1,000” because “this is a lifelong career of rape for this man.”
Weinstein, through his attorney and rep, has denied any accusations of nonconsensual sex.
While talking with Roberts in front of a live studio audience, McGowan said speaking out doesn’t mean she isn’t still scared: “There’s no other choice. The other choice leads to, I think, lying to yourself.”
McGowan also spoke about Hollywood messaging, comparing her experience in the entertainment industry to growing up in the Children of God cult, something she documents in both her book and her documentary.
“I grew up in an unusual way, but when I came out of the cult, I saw the language everywhere,” she explained (her family escaped the cult after the group began advocating for adult members to have sex with children). “I saw the same language in Hollywood. They were doing the same exact thing that they did in the cult. I thought, ‘Oh God, they are really spreading misinformation.'”
She then asked, including to Roberts directly: “Do you recognize yourself, women, in movies? Do you see yourself?”
Adding, “Because I don’t see it. I was a thing sent out to make you nervous. If a girl went to the movies with her boyfriend, I was the thing sent out to make her uncomfortable and be like, ‘Don’t you want to be like me?’ And meant to turn him on. There are messages, and everything counts. I believe every detail counts.”
McGowan said the suspicions that many have about the entertainment industry are true: “I wish it weren’t so. I wish everybody was awesome. Sometimes, you’ve got to clean house a little bit.”
When speaking about the cover of her book, which displays McGowan’s shaved head before the word Brave, McGowan, who began acting at age 14, said that her former roles like on the TV series Charmed felt “like doing drag as a woman, for me.” It took her years before she realized, “I can be free.”
To her critics she simply offered this:
“What’s wrong with being angry? There’s a lot of stuff to be angry about. If you’re angry, anger covers pain. I don’t know if you can truly deal with pain. We have stages of grief that we all know about. Why is it not the same after a sexual assault? Because part of you dies.
“But we can live.”
During her sitdown that will air in full on ABC’s Nightline on Wednesday night, McGowan says her true hope is that Weinstein will go to prison.
“This man should be behind bars for the rest of his life. He has stolen, he has hi-jacked, he has smeared, he has lied, he has purchased. He has done diabolical things in the name of being able to stick his face between women’s legs and literally eat their essence,” she said. “It’s chilling and it’s real.”
She also continues to take aim at Hollywood complicity, turning her gaze to the recent Golden Globes blackout, where both women and men wore the color to represent the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. McGowan had criticized the all-black call when it was first announced.
“It felt like people were dancing on our graves,” she tells co-anchor Juju Chang. “People in fancy dresses, like, black of course, posing and living it up on the red carpet. The black stupid clothes that the stupid men wore. It’s a lie, and I knew they were going to trot the activists out there for PR.”
She added of the Hollywood #MeToo showing — in which McGowan was not in attendance: “Every time I thought about those black dresses, I would get a body flashback. Every time, even right now. I can feel him there.”
Jan. 30, 1:25 p.m. Updated with Nightline appearance.
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Robert De Niro