“I knew nothing,” the actress told PEOPLE at an event for Allergan’s CoolSculpting in New York City on Tuesday night. “I had never worked with Harvey Weinstein, and I was absolutely devastated by this news. And shocked. I mean, horrified and demoralized and angry.
However, the feminist activist is also hopeful: “I am amazed by the courage of the women who have come forward, and I’m amazed by the courage of the survivors who haven’t come forward.”
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by over 50 women since The New York Times and The New Yorker documented decades of alleged abuse in detailed profiles earlier this month. (A spokesperson for Weinstein previously told PEOPLE in a statement that “any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”)
While the Will & Grace star is devastated by his treatment of women, she’s optimistic about the future.
“I am hopeful because I believe in the inherent goodness of people. That there are more good people than bad people in the world,” said Messing, 49, adding that the fact that “difficult conversations have begun that have long been unsaid and undiscussed” gives her faith that conditions for women in this industry will improve.
“I think that now that these conversations have begun, there’s no way that we can go back to what the status quo has been for women in my industry,” she added. “I think that this is a watershed moment, and now we can never ever, ever go back.”
She continued, “Unfortunately it has taken this fixture in our industry and the news about his reprehensible behavior that happened within his business to allow us to all say now, ‘Okay, this is serious.’”
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She noted that, if Weinstein weren’t such a prominent figure, it wouldn’t have resulted in as much of a groundswell: “If it was some independent filmmaker that no one really knew much about, it would be in Variety and then gone the next day.”
Messing participated in the #MeToo movement that took social media by storm over a week ago, revealing to her 439k followers that she’s experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault.
“I also think that social media gives me a sense of hope because there are so many loud anonymous voices from women all over the world that are saying, ‘I hear you, I believe you, I stand with you and I support you.’ And I think that feeling supported is a huge first step,” she said.
She’s also finding solace in other women.
“I have connections with a lot of women who are trying to make the world better for people and make things for equal for women,” Messing explained. “So within those groups, definitely we shared our horror and just commitment to one another to do whatever we can to make sure that people are outed and that there is justice.”