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Mira Sorvino on #MeToo’s Impact and Her New Show ‘StartUp’

Over the past year, Mira Sorvino, an important part of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, has opened up about her abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. Sorvino, an Oscar winner for her role in 1995’s “Mighty Aphrodite,” spoke about the strides those movements have made, what still needs to be done and her recent work on Sony Crackle’s “StartUp.”

What’s the intrigue at the heart of “StartUp”? 

The story is really about tech and how it can be used in the world as a weapon in a strange way. Originally, this show is about the internet and the creation of this dark web which is supposed to be agnostic and everyone can have complete anonymity in it and protection from government and privacy, but actually then it ends up being something that can foment terrorist activity, a lot of illegal activity: drugs and arm sales. And how trying to do something good if you’re not really careful with it can end up being something very bad. And all these people are caught in the middle of it, thinking that they’re working on something neutral and then it spins out of control. Some of them lose their way morally, and others actually become more moral. It’s a very Shakespearean story, I feel. So that’s what people are going to relate to, is the drama and you fall in love with a lot of the characters and so you want to watch and see what’s going to happen in their journey.

What changes have come out of #MeToo since 2017?

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed [three] out of five [“Take the Lead” bills]. They make it much harder for companies to silence victims. They increase the ability for people to seek justice, to speak out against abusive employers. Now actually, all companies with five employees or more working in California, all organizations will have to provide sexual harassment training to all levels of employment, not just the supervisor tier. So basically you’re creating this community of people who know their rights and workers who can have each other’s backs and when they see something happening, they’ll know exactly what to do about it, and try to protect each other.

And I think it’s really going to reduce the atmosphere of impunity that all these predators have been working in for so many years. I think sexual harassment is a gateway drug for predators. Basically, it’s people trying out their ability to get away with darker intents. It’s a slippery slope from harassment to assault to rape to coerced relationships. It’s all abuse of power.

I feel like that is a nice place to go on from how I felt a year go, which was very, very nervous and just feeling like I had to speak out and I had to tell my story, but not knowing what the consequences would be. Here I stand a year later and I feel like, “Okay, I was part of something that actually achieved change so drastically.”

What would you like to accomplish in the coming year?

We have to throw our weight behind all these incredible programs that are working with children and teenagers on consent, on de-escalating harassing, nipping that behavior in the bud using peer pressure in a good way to be like, “Man that’s not cool, we’re not going to talk about how big her butt is,” or people walking away from their friends who are engaging in that harassing behavior that maps toward sexual violence. Studies have shown that where these programs are put into place, there’s a significant reduction in sexual violence in those high schools. We basically have to teach our kids how to be aware of their rights, how to be comfortable enough to explain what they want to have happen and to verbalize consent, and to ask consent. We’ve got to get rid of that idea that being a man means exploiting women or hurting women or being just [focused] on the maximum number of women you can score with.

That’s the kind of brave, generous human being that we want to promote in this world and end this culture — the “Animal House,” the “Sixteen Candles” culture. I saw [“Sixteen Candles”] recently and I was so appalled because there’s basically a date rape scene that’s presented as a great thing. Anthony Michael Hall’s character loses his virginity to a drunk girl who’s absolutely incapable of consent because her boyfriend has decided to give her to him because he doesn’t want her anymore. My generation was raised on those ’70s and ’80s movies that had a totally different view of what male-female relationships should be, or that there was a few good girls, and the rest of the girls were fair game and deserved whatever they allowed to happen to themselves. And that’s just not where we are right now as a culture, and that’s not how we’re going to raise our children, so I wanted to really just focus on those mechanisms of instilling those values and those conversations in our kids.

Did you relate to Natalie Portman’s statement that she felt women in Hollywood were kept from sharing their experiences with one another?

Ashley [Judd] and I worked on “Norma Jean & Marilyn” together [after] both of our Harvey experiences, and we never knew about that. We didn’t talk about that kind of thing because they were highly embarrassing, humiliating stories. And now this conversation is so empowering and loving; there’s so much love from other people, and not just women — men too, and nonbinary people. Just so many different people are like, ‘Yes, that happened to me; I’m here for you. I love you. I want to protect you from that ever happening again.’ And it’s kind of beautiful, actually. There’s been a lot of change through all the suffering. There’s been a lot of beauty that has come out.

Things You Didn’t Know About Mira Sorvino

Age: 51
Hometown: New York City
Recent favorite book: “The Rainman’s Third Cure,” by Peter Coyote
Show she’s bingeing right now: “Pose”
Film/TV roles she’s most proud of: “Human Trafficking,” “Norma Jean & Marilyn”

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