There are no simple answers from Rose McGowan. Even a "How are you?" from the 92Y event's moderator and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow pulls the actress, activist and author into a circuitous explanation about how the cult she was born into trained her for The End of Days at 18 months of age. English, she says, is her third language after Italian and "cult."
It's a jarring introduction to the nearly two-hour conversation about her memoir Brave, out today, but a calculated one on McGowan's part. She needs to bring the room up to speed on who she is as a person – not the lacquered bad-girl from movies like Jawbreaker and Grindhouse – but someone whose beauty and precociousness helped her early on and also made her a target for sexual predators such as Harvey Weinstein, who she calls "The Monster."
"We were hunted," McGowan says onstage, dressed in a red hoodie and soft black leggings, talking about working as a teenage actress in Hollywood. "We were beautiful – ethereal, extraordinary beauties ... and the flood of beautiful girls and boys [in Hollywood] every year ... I didn't understand what that was or relate to it."
McGowan was a key source in two investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker (the latter written by Farrow) exposing Harvey Weinstein's long, shrouded history of rape, sexual assault and misconduct against women in Hollywood. Farrow emphasized that McGowan had spoken publicly about the allegations for years prior and attributes her willingness to speak on-the-record last January (then to NBC, where Farrow worked) to the success of the investigation.
"She empowered other women to come forward ... they went on the record because they knew someone had come first," said Farrow. "Having multiple accounts was always what kept this story alive at NBC and then eventually at the New Yorker."
Here, a few of the insights shared during the discussion:
An Oscar-winning actor had sex with her at age 15.
McGowan spoke about how her distrust stems from a lifetime of physical abuse. At age four, when she was in the cult Children of God, she was physically abused by older male cult members including one who cut a wart off of her finger with a razor blade. At age 15, McGowan experienced a statutory rape when an older male actor whom she admired ("he worked for my rapist and won Oscars") led her to his hotel room, showed her a soft porn movie he made for Showtime under a pseudonym, then had sex with her and left her "on a street corner."
"I didn't process that until two weeks after the [New Yorker] story came out," McGowan said. "I always thought of it just as a sexual experience even though I had not ... I was in bed and I was like ... I think that's molestation? Is it?" McGowan also related that she faced other predators in addition to the unnamed actor that she omitted from her memoir, including an executive who "pushed me up against a wall and jammed his tongue down my throat" and another who "stuck his finger up my skirt in a photo booth and put his finger inside of me."
McGowan fears she will be assassinated for speaking out against Weinstein.
"You could and I could," McGowan said, gravely gesturing to Farrow. "I know that people like me get killed. There was a plant last night at my first book reading ... definitely a paid plant that got up and was screaming at me." McGowan added that her handlers told her that they witnessed an "exchange" prior to the outburst. Farrow asked McGowan whether she believes Harvey Weinstein has come after her "in an ongoing way" since the stories were published. "Yes," McGowan said unflinchingly. She added that she's heard of people offering to pay "$100,000 to find out what hotel I'm in … who else cares? Who else is going to stalk me this long?"
McGowan became emotional when her pending drug charges in Virginia were brought up, as she suspects she was framed. "It was hard," she said, beginning to cry, when Farrow asked what it was like turning herself in to authorities when her wallet was found in a Virginia airport containing "cocaine residue." The actress was traveling to the women's march in Washington, D.C. "I hate that handcuffs have been on me and not [Weinstein]," McGowan said, tearfully. "I had planned – in the mug shot – of looking tough. But I was out of my body. I did what I did when I was raped. I floated up above. And that photo – I'm not there. I'm really not," she said, breaking down. "That was probably the expression in my eyes when it happened to me."
She stands by calling Alyssa Milano "a lie"
"I also don't like turnips," McGowan said when asked her to clarify the disparaging statements she made against former Charmed costar Alyssa Milano. "So I should try to be nice so that People magazine, who works with Citric PR and Sunshine PR, which does PR for the Monster [Harvey Weinstein] and Georgina Chapman … no." McGowan intimated that she grieves over the friendship and was disappointed to see Milano posing for press photos ("arm-in-arm") with Chapman.
She "groomed" the media for years.
McGowan said that years ago, long before the book, docu-series or articles, she began following different kinds of beat reporters and stringers on Twitter as a way to subtly re-introduce herself to the media. "I trained them how I see – and reframe things. I was grooming them as predators groom others. I thought, 'What if I groom for something positive.'"
Even Farrow, she said, was not exempt from her master plan. McGowan repeatedly apologized for sending Farrow cease and desist letters after they'd spoken on-the-record and on-camera about Weinstein for NBC. "It wasn't the right place," McGowan explained she had been speaking with other reporters at the time. "I needed to get two newsrooms in a fight [over this story]."
Keeping Up With the Kardashians producers made Citizen Rose.
McGowan says she trademarked "Rose Army" three years ago in preparation for going public with her story. She also planned her documentary series Citizen Rose that far in advance, specifically working with the producers behind Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E! "I really believe the medium is the message," McGowan said. "E! has the farthest reach."
She believes Trump's election enabled the #MeToo movement.
"The change, I think, was Trump," McGowan said carefully. She believes the November election awakened liberal men, in particular, to grievances against women. "Being willfully obtuse will no longer fly," she explained.