The A Plus Interview

Alyssa Milano Knows Times Are Tough, But Finds Strength In Those Fighting For What’s Right

"There’s never 'not' a fight."

The A Plus Interview reimagines the celebrity interview by inviting artists to answer a short series of brief, poignant questions that strive to be more meaningful than those asked by others. Visit on the last Thursday of each month for the latest installment.

You may know Alyssa Milano from TV — starring in Melrose Place, Charmed, Mistresses, and now hosting Project Runway All Stars — but now she is playing her biggest role yet: your voice. Milano has always been outspoken about political and social issues but, given the current state of affairs, things have certainly picked up for the Brooklyn-born activist.

With a phrase first uttered by fellow activist Tarana Burke and countless women before and after, Milano became a de facto leader in the post-Harvey Weinstein world we live in thanks to two words: me too. Since sending that single social media post into the universe, the 45-year-old has been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement and, later on, Time's Up.

A Plus spoke to the Who's the Boss? star about both of these important initiatives, as well as how this specific moment in history is different for her than all the others, how she feels about celebrities voicing their opinions, her relationship with Burke, separating art from the artists, how she thinks the entertainment industry is going to change, what men can do better, and what keeps her motivated to fight for what is right.

Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Photo Credit: Carlo Allegri / Reuters

A PLUS: You’ve been an activist for decades now. Does the time we’re currently living in feel different from all the other times you’ve spoken out before?

ALYSSA MILANO: I definitely think it feels different because, in the past, I had a certain amount of faith and hope that our government was doing the right thing for its people. Even though there were issues that always needed someone to amplify or get out in front of, I always felt there was a pure intention going on and that people in power were protecting the Constitution and doing what they felt was right — that they weren't so outside of the box as far as reflecting the American dream, and the idea of what it means to be an American, and to be in this country. Now, I feel like all of that is a distant memory. I have no faith that this administration has the same hopes and dreams for its people. So I feel like, although there is always something to fight for, this time the fight is just more important.

That outlook on politics seems a bit bleak. Does the upheaval spurred by the #MeToo movement give you more hope?

Yeah, I do think my faith now lies in humanity and the citizens of this country rather than the government — and I think that's a powerful transition. If we can shine a light on anything that is positive about this era we're in right now, it's that we have found our voices as Americans, and we have used them to speak up, support each other, and amplify those who have no voice. All of that was really the perfect storm that allowed the #MeToo movement to really explode the way it did. We had been fighting for the last year ... we've been fighting and fighting and fighting. This was something we all came together to support each other. We've been practicing that for the past year because there's been so much we've had to support each other with. I mean, everything. This administration has touched on every single aspect of our country in a way that is devastating ... [and] it just goes on and on and on — there's never not a fight.

With women's rights and women's issues, the time was right. The time was right for this. It had to be a perfect storm, like every movement we've seen throughout history. It happened because of a number of things that made it possible, so I don't think you can exclude one from the other.

What’s your response to those who say celebrities don’t have a right to be outspoken about important issues?

They elected a celebrity, so obviously, they think a celebrity's opinions matter. They elect a guy to be our president who may have been a businessman — but not a very good one — and what he was really known for was being a reality TV star. Plus, I'm an American citizen. I have a right to use my voice and to speak up just like everyone else, and I will continue to use my platform to fight for the things that I believe in or to amplify a fight that needs amplification. 

Can you tell me a little about what it was like in the room when Time’s Up was created?

I was actually not in the room for that. I got involved [later], so I can't talk about the inception of Time's Up. I do know it was clearly a result of our industry being hit particularly hard with Harvey Weinstein … and the list goes on and on. Time's Up was a reaction to how hard our industry was hit and what we were going to do to fix our industry. And, in turn, how that would help to fix industries everywhere, and to fight for women everywhere and to fight for gender equality and gender equity.

How has it been having a partner in the #MeToo movement with its founder, Tarana Burke? What has this friendship and partnership meant to you or taught you?

It's interesting because I met Tarana two days after I first sent that initial tweet, not realizing the coincidence of any of it. From the second I met her, which was via DM on Twitter, I felt just a soulful connection that I'm not quite sure I've ever felt before in my life.

The takeaway from my relationship with her is really reflective of who she is as a person. Since October 15, when I sent out that first #MeToo tweet, I have heard so many heartbreaking, gut-wrenching #MeToo stories. To be entrusted with those stories and share them for the past three or four months, I've been deeply affected by them and changed on a real cellular level by them — and I've only been hearing them the past few months. My point is, you meet someone like Tarana who has dedicated her entire life to these stories, to these women, and it really just is such a reflection of the enormous heart, soul, compassion, and empathy this woman is capable of. Throughout all of it, there's never been a day when we were in the thick of it where she has not stopped to ask me how I was doing. "Are you OK hearing these stories? How are you feeling about your stories?" I love her, I love her very much, I love the person she is, I love what she strives to accomplish, and I am so proud to be walking by her side and to help her in any way that I can. She is an amazing person.

There have been instances some claim to be detrimental to the #MeToo movement. How do we circumvent these things that could take away from the progress being made?

I'm going to quote my friend Shannon Watts [founder of Moms Demand Action] who said the greatest thing to me, which was that this movement is not linear. There's going to be missteps ... but that doesn't make the movement any weaker. If anything, it ultimately will make the movement stronger because, as we are marching through this, we get to really examine behavior, define these lines of what's acceptable and what's unacceptable, and learn how to support victims in what they need to heal. I think those are really important things. Men are learning lessons. Women are learning lessons.

One of the debates being had in pop culture right now is separating art from the artists. Where do you stand on that issue?

For me, personally, it is way too soon for me to separate someone's art or ability with this movement. Things are triggering to me right now, and I have to protect myself and continue to work on my healing. Part of that is not putting myself in positions that make me vulnerable.

You can logically say someone is good at their jobs but just be really bad humans. I think [there] have been artists throughout history where that's the case, but when the bad human part has affected your life in such a devastating way, I don't think you can separate that. This industry for me right now is hard. It really is. I feel like things have scabbed over — which is good because that means that they will heal — but for a very long time this was a bloody, festering wound that needed care. So I, yeah, I'm not ready to separate that.

What can men do to be better?

There's some pretty basic things. One is to listen and support. These are stories that are not only affecting the entertainment industry. It's important to me that, when I'm discussing these issues, it has more to do with women across all industries than it does the entertainment industry. So a husband, brother, son, or father can listen and support the women in their lives. 

Two is to not be a part of the locker room culture, to just shut it down if someone starts to speak disrespectfully about women. Just say "don't do that in front of me." Really take responsibility for what you're contributing to that conversation.

Three is that, if you're a man in a position of power, I would encourage you to hire more women — more women of color and just more people who are underrepresented. Time after time studies have shown that when the workplace is diverse, things like this don't happen — or they happen less.

How do you think the #MeToo movement and Time's Up have changed the course of Hollywood?

I think that the industry will change on its own. I think it has to. As women are given more opportunity — or demand more opportunity — to be storytellers, I think the industry dynamic will shift. We've already seen it start to shift in television, that's why there are so many strong female characters on TV. We just have to really back that up with strong female showrunners, strong female directors, strong female producers, and strong female crew members, and demanding 50-50 representation.

You’re constantly fighting the next fight. What keeps you hopeful for the future?

My children, really. I want them to grow up in a world — in a country — where all of our ideals are their reality. I fight every day to try to ensure that for them.

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