Alyssa Milano wants to make it very clear that her new Netflix show, Insatiable, isn’t fat-shaming anyone, despite what many seemed to think after seeing its trailer. In fact, the show does quite the opposite — and working on the project made her feel empowered and inspired to speak her mind.
“The more I think about it, the trailer was feeding into exactly the thematic issue of the show, which is, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,'” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “People are judging 12 hours of TV from a minute and 28-second trailer.”
The series follows former Disney darling Debby Ryan as a high school student named Patty who was bullied relentlessly about her weight. After an incident leads to her jaw being wired shut over the summer, Patty shows up for the first day of her senior year looking rather different and — amid a few attempts at revenge against those who mistreated her — begins training to be a pageant queen alongside her coach, Bob (Dallas Roberts). Milano, 45, plays Bob’s social-climbing wife, Coralee.
“At the end of the day, the show is a satire about how looks can be deceiving and deals with thematic issues like body image and what it means to win, validation, and filling a void,” Milano explains.
She adds, “I felt so empowered by doing a show that touched on all of these issues. So empowered, in fact, that I felt that I could have the freedom to write that #MeToo tweet, because that happened in the middle of production. I felt so empowered that I wrote my op-ed for TIME magazine about having my anxiety disorder. So, for me, the backlash was personally hurtful, because as we were filming the show, it was so empowering to find myself through the work that everyone was doing.”
Milano was the first celebrity to tweet #MeToo with regards to sexual misconduct in Hollywood and ultimately was pivotal in launching the movement. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she wrote on Oct. 15, 2017. And sure enough, it did.
As for her battle with anxiety, Milano says she has “good days and bad days,” and notes that “anxiety is not something that you can take a magic pill and it just sort of goes away.”
- For more on Insatiable, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
“Whether it be mental illnesses or eating disorders or any of these hard societal topics that we face, these are all topics that cause pain, and people bring a certain amount of personal experience to what they watch,” the Who’s the Boss? alum adds, bringing the conversation back to Insatiable. “Art at its best is a great conversation instigator, and I think this show has already proven that it will be that. But I am a firm believer that, especially with my coming out with my anxiety disorder, that these things are better out in the open than swept under the rug.
“We need to be able to be true to who we are, share who we are in hopes of helping those who may need it, and we need to be able to dissect it to get a better understanding. What a better understanding enables us to do socially, on a societal level, is eradicate the shame, the shame that we are so caught up in right now. And whether that be fat-shaming or food-shaming or mommy-shaming or slut-shaming — whatever shaming we do right now on a systemic level I think will only be eradicated by being able to talk about these issues.”
Insatiable debuts on Netflix on Aug. 10.