Rose McGowan’s New Docuseries Is Airing on E! Because Netflix and HBO Aren’t ‘Egalitarian’

She wanted the widest possible reach for Citizen Rose

Citizen Rose will kick off with a two-hour documentary followed by four episodes later this spring. E! Entertainment
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It’s been just three months since Hollywood was first upended by wave after wave of sexual harassment allegations, but one of the loudest voices speaking out against the industry that turned a blind eye to her for two decades, Rose McGowan, says her upcoming E! docuseries has been three years in the making.

Citizen Rose, a five-part docuseries, will premiere with a two-hour documentary special on Jan. 30 followed by four episodes later this spring. The show will follow McGowan as she writes and finishes up her memoir, Brave.

E! announced the docuseries just a week ago, but McGowan said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that she’s been shooting footage for three years.

McGowan, the former actress who is now a multimedia artist, has been speaking out against sexual abuse, harassment and hypocrisy in Hollywood for several years, and her voice has only gotten louder since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were first reported in October.

She alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 1997. Weinstein has denied the assault but reached a $100,000 settlement with her at the time.

McGowan said she likes being on E!, as opposed to a premium network or streaming service, because of the network’s “reach,” explaining, “I didn’t want to do something on Netflix or HBO; it felt not egalitarian. My main goal is to really smash the 99 and 1 percent.”

E! was “the right place for her and this show, because this is a global problem,” and Citizen Rose will air in 160 countries, said showrunner Andrea Metz. “What this message is about is that women don’t have to sit in silence any longer and sit in fear.”

When McGowan began shooting footage for Citizen Rose, she said, she realized she wasn’t able to speak in front of a camera without a script and trained herself by doing Facebook Live chats. “I have no glam team. … It’s raw and it’s true, and it’s my truth,” she said of Citizen Rose. “This is my form of volunteer work.”

During her session with reporters, McGowan explained her outspoken approach to activism.

“I scare because I care,” she said, admitting that she was quoting the tagline for the Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. “My father said I was born with my fist up. … This has been a long time coming.”

Her show “is taking people on an actual journey. … I know I make people uncomfortable,” she said. “I’m really just trying to stop international rapists and child molesters, that’s it. It’s pretty simple.”

Bunim/Murray Productions came on board to produce Citizen Rose last fall, even before the Weinstein allegations.

“She’s been talking, but no one’s been listening” before that, said Andrea Metz, who hopes McGowan’s message will empower women to speak out. McGowan had been “dropping hints” to producers that something big was on the way ahead of the first New York Times and New Yorker stories that exposed Weinstein.

Throughout the panel, McGowan talked about everything from the way people talk about sexual harassment (“I wish we had better language. ‘Misconduct’ sounds tepid at best.”) to her two-decade journey since her alleged encounter with Weinstein (“Do you understand what I’ve been through for 20 years? I have fought, I have clawed, I have scraped … it’s not an accident that I’m sitting here.”).

McGowan said her platform is “really quite separate” from the #MeToo movement and also distanced herself from Times Up, an initiative spotlighted at Sunday’s Golden Globes that was created by hundreds of prominent Hollywood women—including Reese Witherspoon, Ashley Judd and Eva Longoria—to fight sexual harassment and gender disparity in leadership roles across the country. McGowan said she was asked to lend her name to aid female farmworkers, “and the next thing I know, I’m endorsing Times Up.”

McGowan doesn’t think change can come from inside the “massively broken” system, noting that there’s “no Band-Aid” for something that big. Meanwhile, her own legal fight with Weinstein isn’t over.

“I’m having to sell my house right now to pay off legal bills to fight the monster,” she said, referring to the disgraced mogul.

McGowan was asked about working for a network that recently came under fire because of E! News host Catt Sadler’s departure from the network after learning that co-host Jason Kennedy made double her salary. McGowan said gender pay inequality was a “systemic” problem and suggested her presence might bring about change at the network.

“It is a time of reckoning and a reset button, and I really, really, really like the people at E!” McGowan said. “I’m comfortable working there because I know what I’m doing.”

After McGowan’s panel, NBCUniversal exec Frances Berwick, who oversees the company’s lifestyle networks, including E!, told reporters there had been “a lot of misinformation” regarding the salary disparity and that Sadler and Kennedy had different salaries because they had different roles at the network. “Our employees’ salaries are based on their roles and their expertise, regardless of gender,” Berwick said.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.