After a lifetime of preparation, McGowan gets her activist focus

The first time Rose McGowan talked to the Television Critics Association, she was an impressive person in a semi-impressive show. She was the new witch on "Charmed," on the WB network; she also seemed like a bright person, worth listenig to.

Now, 16 years later, WB is gone and McGowan has a very different mission, discussing sexual abuse and more. Her special is Tuesday (Jan. 30) on cable's E; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For many people,
this can be unsettling: Suddenly, they're in the swirl of a
hot-button issue.

For Rose McGowan,
however, it's a natural. “My father said I was born with my fist
up,” she said.

She's been at the
core of the sex-abuse charges in Hollywood and beyond. Now comes her
“Citizen Rose” special; Amy Introcaso-Davis, development chief
for the E cable channel, calls it “an unfettered view into her
incredible mind and what propels Rose the activist.”

And yes, E – home
of the Kardashians and surface flash – may seem like an odd place
for activism. McGowan, however, has existed in both worlds.

She modeled as a kid
and, later, for the Bebe clothing line. Alongside lots of serious
roles, she spent five years as a witch in “Charmed” and was
Ann-Margret in the “Elvis” mini-series. She's known the flashy
side of show business.

But there's the
other side of her, as professed by her dad: “My birthday card from
him, when I was 10, said, 'Dear Rose, I've always admired your sense
of justice. Happy birthday.'”

That was the year
her family moved from Italy to Oregon. (Her parents, a writer and an
artist, were American-born, but lived in Italy, sometimes in a
Children of God commune.) Her rebellious side continued; she was
reportedly a teen runaway, becoming legally emancipated at 15.

But it wasn't until
her early 40s that the outspoken side fully emerged. “I started
shooting footage three years ago,” McGowan said. “I realized that
I could not speak on camera without a script .... I had to train
myself to just exist as me.”

In August, she took
the footage to Bunim-Murray Productions, the reality-show pioneer.

“Rose came in to
talk to us before the New York Times article (and) the New Yorker
article came out,” said producer Andrea Metz. “I personally was
intrigued by her and her story and the fact that she hasn't been
given the opportunity. She's been talking, but nobody has been

The company –
which created MTV's “The Real World” in 1982 – seems to fit a
feminist focus. “Probably 70 percent of our showrunners are female
and ... 20 percent are gay men,” said Jonathan Murray, who
co-founded it with the late Mary-Ellis Bunim.

It began filming
McGowan in September, Metz said, without knowing what the project
would be about. “She kept saying, 'It will be worth it. I

The next month, the
Times and New Yorker stories broke, with McGowan among the people
accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse. A flurry news
stories followed.

Now some of the
footage, old and new, will be sifted into a four-week series this
spring and the two-hour special Tuesday.

In some time zones,
that special overlaps with an accused sex-abuser delivering the State
of the Union address. Talking to the Television Critics Association,
McGowan avoided mentioning individual names and stuck to the broader

years ago, equal pay for women was voted down on the Senate floor,”
she said. “We're the only First World country that has no
constitutional protection for women. So this is so big.”

-- “Citizen Rose,”
8-10 p.m. Tuesday, E; rerunning 10 p.m. to midnight.

-- In some time
zones, that overlaps with the State of the Union address, at 9 p.m.

-- Other reruns are
8 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.