Welcoming actress, author, singer, and, as he put it, “activist with her own army” Rose McGowan to The Late Show on Wednesday, Stephen Colbert complimented his first guest’s courage, and her hoodie. After coming out to rousing applause from the crowd, McGowan sat cross-legged, uncovered her close-cropped head, and started to talk. Whatever expectations Colbert and his audience might have had for McGowan—whose outspoken condemnation of serial sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein was instrumental in the movie mogul’s thoroughly deserved downfall—were quickly swept away by the actress’ rambling train of thought as she shifted topics, swore, gestured, and occasionally burst out in snatches of song.
Not that there wasn’t substance in McGowan’s answers to Colbert’s questions. She corrected the host’s assertion that her allegations against Weinstein came out six months ago, telling him, “Mine was a year ago. I was the architect.” Explaining to Colbert that she is “okay with discomfort,” McGowan went on to recommend Todd Solondz’s peerlessly squirmy 1998 film Happiness, perhaps prepping him and his crowd for what was coming. (To be fair to McGowan, Happiness is, as she says, both “an excruciating twist of your skin,” and very funny.) Colbert, showing his interviewing skills, met each of McGowan’s branching conversational topics (restrictive fashions, being barred from attending her fighter pilot brother’s military graduation, the idea that George W. Bush should have been allowed to be the painter she claims was his true vocation) with gameness and tact.
After her conversation turned to her father’s membership in the notorious cult Children Of God, Colbert offered up the fact that he’d grown up in the “cult called the Catholic Church” and good-humoredly attempted to correct McGowan’s understanding of the story of Jonah and the whale. McGowan curtailed things with the pronouncement “every woman’s had a yeast infection and a burning bush,” as she sailed onto a discussion of Weinstein’s (verified) employment of ex-Mossad agents to tail McGowan once she started speaking out against his now-infamous abuses.
“Did you ever think you were crazy for thinking that?” asked Colbert, noting how the accusation that a major Hollywood power player was having her tailed by Israeli spies is just the sort of thing that would brand her as unreliable. (Something, no doubt, alleged predators like Weinstein count on.) McGowan refused to entertain the idea, telling people (although not, as she assured, Colbert), “Don’t make your khaki-pants mind my problem.” After McGowan brought up her recent arrest on some suspiciously timed drug charges, Colbert gave a couple of tries at untangling her references to having “turned down Courage Street” before McGowan moved on.
McGowan’s appearance was peppered with bleeped profanities, leaving Colbert genially scrambling to keep things on track. In response to her assessment of Trump-era America as “a bus on fire with a madman in a blindfold” at the wheel, Colbert reached out, telling her, “There’s nothing about what you’ve said that’s wrong.” But, in the end, with his efforts to guide their interview back to McGowan’s new memoir (Brave), documentary miniseries (Citizen Rose), and an upcoming album lost in the actress and activist’s excursive responses, Colbert gently wrapped things up by bringing things back to her book, telling McGowan and his audience, kindly, “The book is Brave, thank you for being here.” McGowan bid her goodbye to The Late Show by telling the audience, “Be uncomfortable, be brave.”