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Rose McGowan Says of Her New Series Citizen Rose: "I Know I Make People Uncomfortable"

Her new E! series will document her activism

Malcolm Venable

Rose McGowan, who became thrust into a role as a high-profile, punk-influenced activist role after Harvey Weinstein's deeds came to light, has been talking, but nobody had been listening according to Andrea Metz, executive producer of McGowan's new series Citizen Rose.

Months before the wall of silence broke around Weinstein -- who McGowan maintains raped her in 1997 (and, it's since come to light, forced her silence with hush money and even hired spies to infiltrate her life) -- McGowan had been in talks with producers at E! about using footage she'd compiled for years. They started talks in August; by the time the Weinstein story broke in October, E! had already been shooting. "It'll be worth it, I promise," she'd told them initially. It was a gamble that looks like it'll pay off.

E! Defends Lack of Equal Pay for Catt Sadler

Citizen Rose, a two-hour documentary followed by four episodes airing in Spring 2018, follows McGowan as she readies her memoir/manifesto, BRAVE, and shares her message while trying to heal and fight for justice. "This isn't the traditional approach to reality television," she told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "I have fought, I have clawed, I have scraped...I was waiting for someone else for so long, you guys. No one came."

Wearing a black turtleneck, black pants, platform sneakers and a white windbreaker, McGowan sat in the center of the ballroom's stage, flanked by executive producer and co-founder Jonathan Murray and EP/showrunner Metz. This moment, like the documentary itself, is clearly a vulnerable and even uneasy place for her to live; before the presentation began, a video played that was part PSA, part art project that showed Rose asking reporters to be respectful, and "not say the name we all know" overlaid with footage of the artist in a kind of dreamscape state, dancing in a white leotard against a digital, hallucinatory backdrop. It was unusual, sure, but for a woman who'd been living with a painful, massive secret about systemic abuse in the entertainment industry while being decreed as "crazy" by the industry and press, she's certainly earned the right to break with format, convention or even politeness. Of her choice to put this on E!, she said, "I didn't want to do something on Netflix; it didn't feel egalitarian." Her real objective: "I wanted to smash the 99 percent."

Taking cues from anarchist-activist groups like ACT UP - the AIDS organization that used guerrilla-style tactics in the 1980s to force governments to address the epidemic -- McGowan's series will channel her righteous anger into work but that doesn't mean it's not human or even light-hearted at times. "I scare because I care," she said, acknowledging that the line is from Monsters, Inc. which drew laughs. "My father said I was born with a fist up. This has been a long time coming."

It'll be an unorthodox series in many ways, in part because, when she first started filming, she realized she was uncomfortable speaking on camera without a script. "I hadn't trained myself to just exist as me," she said. "This is all-access. I have no glam team. It's raw and it's true and it's my truth." She says this is work in service of others, and she's "selling" herself in a different way than she has before. "It's my form of volunteer work."

Of course, it's complicated to reconcile her choice to be on E! with the accusations that the network did not compensate former E! anchor Catt Sadler and her male Daily Pop co-anchor Jason Kennedy at parity. McGowan said those allegations came after she'd already done her deal, adding for context that she, and women worldwide, are up against a massive system. "This is so big," she said. "I'm going as fast as I can."

Now viewers will get to see her moving in a world that's just now caught up to what she'd been saying for nearly 20 years. "This is taking people on an actual journey. I know I make people uncomfortable," she said. Considering all she's been through, that may be the best and only way to make people listen.

Citizen Rose debutsTuesday, Jan. 30 at 8/7c on E!