Rosanna Arquette has a lot of strings to her bow; actress, filmmaker, director, activist, Hollywood whistle-blower. Now, after 40 years in the industry she has both excelled in and ardently criticised, she is jumping behind the microphone, and launching a podcast.
This month, Arquette debuted ‘Radical Musings’- with 20 episodes featuring intimate chats with creative minds and stars from Ronan Farrow and Jane Fonda to the rapper Q Tip. It was something she never thought of doing until she was approached by a production company. Then, it was a case of wondering why she had never considered it before.
“I’ve made two documentaries and I used to shoot the backstage interviews of Coachella,” she says, when we zoom from her Los Angeles home. "I've always loved interviewing people; it's kind of my hobby. So, it made total sense to do a podcast.”
She is evidently a natural interviewer, even turning tables on me several times through our conversation, wondering about my relationship, my parents, what lockdown is like in London, even if I’m drinking tea. She’s insatiably, brilliantly curious and it’s easy to feel like you’re another one of her guests.
“I’m sure the people I work with would love it to be a little bit more structured,” she admits, “but I just start talking and go from there. And I feel like it's just more authentic that way for me. This is not to say that I don't have something really important I want us to talk about.”
Arquette is, after all, a figure renown for having something to talk about. She was one of the earliest whistle-blowers on Harvey Weinstein, whose advances she rejected in the 1990s and who subsequently blacklisted her from Hollywood. She was the first to tell her story to Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, and subsequently to New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. Both journalists would go on to win the Pulitzer prize for their breaking of the Weinstein scandal that unleashed the #MeToo movement in 2017.
Farrow, interestingly, is her inaugural podcast guest and she isn’t shy about delving into the issues which brought them closer together; both her ordeal and Farrow’s own family history of alleged abuse at the hands of Woody Allen. It is this unapologetic candidness that, Arquette believes, has her blacklisted still.
“Sexism in Hollywood is like systemic racism, it’s in there and it doesn’t go away just because we have Weinstein in jail,” she says, ‘So, yes I’m proud of what we did to bring these issues out, but it’s not over. I was meant to do a huge TV show recently that I got removed from and I know exactly why and who stopped it. A lot of these people are still working in the industry. There’s a heavy price to pay for being a whistle-blower and I don't know if I'll ever really be welcomed back into the business and in the same way again.”
Her public work on the Weinstein scandal has earned her the moniker of Hollywood activist, but this is a label has a problematic relationship with, not least because she has been ‘doing the work’ long before it became the norm for celebrities. Arquette’s mother, ‘Mardi’ Arquette was a civil-rights and anti-war activist, meaning the young Arquettes (which include her siblings David and Patricia) were at protests almost as soon as they could walk.
“I will never forget the day I met Martin Luther King,” she says, casually. "It was at an anti-Vietnam protest that my mum had organised, and I was in the back of a truck with him. She had painted on my bare chest, ‘stop the war kill no more’ and he asked my name. I told him my name, and he just says, 'someone put a shirt on that little girl.'”
She drops several of these consequential anecdotes in during our conversation; the fact she was a (literal) flower child at Woodstock, that her mother was one of the organisers of the anti-war protests in Chicago that were recently the subject of Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed film The Trial of The Chicago 7.
“For my birthday this year, my brother Dave got me a Chicago riot police hat that was actually worn during those protests,” she smiles, “He painted ‘peace officer’ on it, and ‘Black Lives Matter’. It’s fantastic.”
Yes, Arquette was one of many celebrities at the Black Lives Matter marches last summer, just as she was with her friend (and second podcast guest) Jane Fonda, at a climate change protest in 2019, for which both of them were arrested.
“There are actually a lot of people in Hollywood who have been walking the walk on these issues for many years now,” she says, listing Fonda alongside names such as Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington. “Now you have people jumping on a bandwagon to get attention. I do have cringe moments with that.”
For all her misgivings about her industry, Arquette is still quietly building up a body of impressive work. She most recently starred in the Ryan Murphy show Ratched and has a slew of new shows and films in the pipeline, from returning for The L Word reboot to directing another feature.
“It’s good to be back working, but I have a new no-nudity clause,” she stresses.
I guess Martin Luther King did tell her to cover up, all those years ago?
“Oh yes,” she laughs, “I've been trying to keep my shirt on ever since.”
Radical Musings is available on Apple podcasts here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
In need of some at-home inspiration? Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for skincare and self-care, the latest cultural hits to read and download, and the little luxuries that make staying in so much more satisfying.
Plus, sign up here to get Harper’s Bazaar magazine delivered straight to your door.
You Might Also Like