Exclusive: The actress and #MeToo inspiration on what the entertainment industry -- and beyond -- needs to change in the wake of Harvey Weinstein
If there’s one thing that’s apparent from Harvey Weinstein’s downfall — with its allegations of decades of sexual misconduct and elaborate industry-wide cover-ups — it’s that Hollywood has a systemic problem turning a blind eye to abusive behavior. The cascade of media reports has raised many pertinent questions, including this one: What steps, specifically, should Hollywood take moving forward to prevent such abuse from occurring?
EW spoke to Alyssa Milano about the issue in the wake of the actress igniting a spectacular #MeToo social media movement encouraging women to reveal if they too have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault (which has generated 880,000 tweets and counting since Sunday, according to Twitter).
First, Milano wanted to make clear that the issue of sexual misconduct isn’t specific to Hollywood, and that she hopes this whole discussion can eventually shift beyond the entertainment industry (after all, that’s what #MeToo is about — showing how many everyday people been victimized just like the famous celebrities talking about their Weinstein encounters). “We really have to try to shift the focus away from this being just a Hollywood issue because I think [that focus does] a disservice to every single victim who isn’t in the entertainment industry,” she says.
But having worked in the industry since she was 7 years old, Milano did offer three insights on improving Hollywood.
“I think a good start is that there should be no funding for any artists accused of wrongdoing in this manner,” Milano says. “Whether that means Woody Allen, or Roman Polanski or Harvey Weinstein — that means a zero-tolerance policy.”
Milano also called for studios’ board of directors to hold immoral executives accountable. The Weinstein Co.’s board reportedly knew about Weinstein paying off his accusers two years ago yet didn’t take action. “I also think these companies have boards for a reason right?” she continued. “I don’t see how any board member just turns a blind to something like this, especially when the board is set in place specifically to ensure that everything is going in a way that’s positive for the company and that all the power does not reside in one person.”
Finally, Milano called for companies to foster an environment where people can report misbehavior without fear of jeopardizing their careers. In the Weinstein accusations, women recounted how they were pressured to stay silent due to fears about hurting their careers or were given the impression that movie roles came with strings attached.
“People need to feel they can come forward and they will be listened to and there will be a result,” she said. “So often we come forward and nothing is done and it makes us feel like we are screaming into the wind … If somebody is claiming to be harassed and abused it’s our duty to support and protect that person … I had a woman tell me a story yesterday about being on a set and she was being sexually harassed by somebody on the crew. When she went to the producer the producer said, ‘you’re talking about a friend of mine’ and so she was fired. But don’t tell me that doesn’t happen in any business. That could happen in an office, in a hospital, just as easily as it could happen on a set.”
And yet, Milano said the enormity of the problem is not just limited the employment workplace in general, either. “We elected a president who admitted to ‘grabbing them by the p—y,'” she notes. “There are serious cultural issues here we have to fix.”
The actress is currently on set in Atlanta shooting the upcoming Netflix series Insatiable, a drama about the world of beauty pageants and recently closed a deal to produce and star in a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style “soft-scripted” comedy Alyssa Milano for Mayor for Lifetime. She’s also pushing to take the #MeToo movement to another level. “I’m working with The Creative Coalition and we’re going to turn MeToo into something really tangible to help victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” she says.