Rose McGowan joined the series in 2001 after Shannen Doherty's character was killed off
Rose McGowan wasn’t living a Charmed existence while starring on The WB’s hit supernatural show.
In one poignant moment from her E! docuseries Citizen Rose, which premiered Tuesday, she stops and reflects on a blurry painting in her home: “I believe art shows you exactly where you are when you buy it. I was on a show called Charmed, and I was so lost, I was so invisible. Nobody could see who I was. I couldn’t see who I was,” she says, before pointing to another piece. “That girl, she’s a bound and gagged ballerina in a cage, and that’s exactly what my life felt like.”
The actress — who’s been an outspoken advocate for victims of sexual harassment and abuse — also discusses her secret trauma behind the scenes in her new memoir, Brave, revealing that she felt nervous about joining the series in 2001 after Shannen Doherty‘s character was killed off.
“I wasn’t going to be playing Shannen’s role, but it was still someone new for the fans to bond with. I had been told that many show don’t survive a major cast change. I knew that I had a slim chance at success here. People had to fall in love with my character as quickly as possible or Charmed would die,” write McGowan, 44. “I thought about how big the crew was and how they would all be out of a job if I failed. So I made myself look super nonthreatening. I gained weight, about ten pounds, for the role.”
She also writes about flouting a rule about not coloring her hair, dying it bright red before her second season: “The studio got wind of it and flipped out, of course. They were furious and demanded to know how I expected them to explain this. I told them: ‘It’s a show about magic. You simply say I was mixing a potion and it exploded in my face! My hair turned red! I liked it, so I kept it.’ That became the very first dialogue of the season, almost verbatim, between me and the character Leo. All it takes is a little creative thought, but the studios rarely have that working for them.”
McGowan, 44, describes a toxic set on which alleges she that various male producers and directors yelled at her throughout her five seasons playing witch Paige Matthews, half-sister to original stars Holly Marie Combs (Piper Halliwell) and Alyssa Milano (Phoebe Halliwell). During her second year, she writes, she decided to begin hypnotherapy.
“I found the repetitive days so opposite my natural rhythms that I became sick over and over. And it was at times a very stressful environment. I started to have panic attacks because of everything I was pushing down,” she says. “I was sick about four or five times a season. We would shoot twenty-two or twenty-three episodes. On hour-long TV, you are essentially shooting half of a feature film in eight days. The pace was grueling. Two years in a row I had 102-degree fevers and got dumped in trash cans, in a stunt, always on the days that I was the most ill.”
Though McGowan writes that the “Charmed Ones” didn’t hang out together when they weren’t working, she said she had no issues with the other women and is proud of the show’s legacy.
“For a long time Charmed was — and might still be — the longest-running female-driven hour-long show in history,” she says. “I wish we got more credit for that, because it’s important.”
Charmed went off the air in 2006 but made headlines again last week when The CW greenlit a “fierce, funny, feminist reboot” that “centers on three sisters in a college town who discover they are witches.” Earlier, the network had floated the possibility of a prequel set in the 1970s.
Combs, 44, went on a Twitter tear against the notion that the original series didn’t explore feminist themes — and applauding McGowan for speaking out about Weinstein and Milano, 45, for her role in the #MeToo movement.
“While some may not get why I take issue with the network that didn’t want to renew Charmed 12 years ago ‘reimagining’ it now let me just say I understand it perfectly. Also this kinda stuff given all that Rose and Alyssa have done lately…um no. Just No,” she tweeted.
Combs also enthusiastically tweeted her support for Citizen Rose, promising a fan who said she’d be watching: “Me too.”