Brownstein: Montreal actress braces for Harvey Weinstein trial

“I don’t want to drown in this abyss," Erika Rosenbaum says. "But I want to support the other women."

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It is certainly far more tropical in Hollywood now, but Montreal actress Erika Rosenbaum wouldn’t trade these polar climes for anything to be back in what was hardly Lotusland for her.

“It’s just so peaceful here,” says Rosenbaum, who lives with her husband and four children on a West Island farm. “Snow is everywhere. It’s so clean and fresh. My kids are happy. Honestly, life is good.”

But Rosenbaum will be looking back in her rear-view mirror this week when life wasn’t so good. She will be watching closely from afar as opening arguments are set for Wednesday in New York at the trial of disgraced American movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is facing numerous charges of rape, sexual abuse and harassment. He is also facing similar charges in Los Angeles. He claims all acts were consensual or fabricated.

Rosenbaum tells a far different story. In the documentary Untouchable and in an interview with the Montreal Gazette last September, Rosenbaum vividly recalls her meeting with Weinstein over 15 years ago, when she believed she was seeing a “star-maker” and that this might be her “moment.”

It was anything but. She says it led to two terrifying encounters with Weinstein that were to shatter the Ormstown native’s self-esteem, re-consider her career and move back to these parts. It also led to Rosenbaum coming forward in order to make other vulnerable performers aware of the price they might have to pay to get ahead in a business long known for its predatory sexual practices.

Like the other accusers, Rosenbaum feared angering Weinstein and getting blacklisted as a consequence. But she managed to escape the clutches of Weinstein, after the partially naked producer allegedly ambushed her in his hotel bathroom and tried to pleasure himself while holding on to her.

Erika Rosenbaum says she is ready to go to New York if needed, and has also offered to speak to the Los Angeles district attorney regarding Weinstein’s case there. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

She recounts feeling “overwhelming shame” and going through years of “crippling insecurity.”

“I’ve been monitoring events regarding the trial as closely as I can while trying to maintain my mental health,” Rosenbaum says. “I don’t want to drown in this abyss. But I want to support the other women.”

She is ready to go to New York if needed. She has also offered to speak to the Los Angeles district attorney regarding Weinstein’s case there.

“I think I’m a credible witness, because I’m not famous and have nothing to gain from speaking out.”

Rosenbaum says more than 100 women have come forward in accusing Weinstein.

“It’s shocking that he believes these acts were consensual or that charges have been fabricated. I just hope no one is foolish enough to fall for that. There’s no reason for all of us in different walks of life to come forward at great personal risk. A lot of women who have a higher profile are being slandered and very publicly. It’s certainly not helping their careers. A lot of them have not auditioned or have been seen by casting directors in the two years since they’ve come forward.

“There’s no win here, except for justice,” she adds. “There’s been a certain degree of justice in what he has lost and also the fact that we have found and supported each other.”

Rosenbaum isn’t taking anything for granted. She knows Weinstein is a master story-teller and that this image of him looking enfeebled and requiring a walker after back surgery may make some feel he’s the victim.

“I don’t doubt that he believes he was trying to do the right thing by helping women directors and by supporting women’s foundations. But regardless of the tale he may try to spin, he had so little regard for women and had such a skewed view of his power that he thought he was an advocate for the arts and yet he was so abusive.

“He’s manipulated the media throughout his whole career. That’s part of what he did successfully as a producer, and it’s certainly what he’s trying to do as a defendant. But I do think the public is a little more savvy. I just hope the jury is also savvy.”

Like many of the other accusers, Rosenbaum, too, has faced backlash from internet trolls who think she’s doing this for the money. In fact, she has opted not to participate in any lawsuit.

“No, that’s not for me.”

Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court on January 17. EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS

Weinstein and the board of his bankrupt company reached a tentative $25 million agreement with some of his alleged victims, but the deal apparently wouldn’t require him to admit wrongdoing or pay anything to his accusers himself.

“I don’t hold judgment on those who would like to get something out of their ordeal. Many of those women were told this was maybe all they would get and were advised to go ahead. I’d be happy to stand up in court and say these women deserve something for their lack of work and mental-health challenges.”

Rosenbaum has a solid arts pedigree. She studied acting at Ontario’s Stratford Conservatory and New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse. She’s had credits in films by Atom Egoyan, Tony Goldwyn and Jacob Tierney. She still acts, but is also passionate about photography and music.

Her first love was dance and her first starring performance came in landing a lead in the Nutcracker ballet when she was eight.

“I just hope this trial sets a precedent both for predators and for the women brave enough to have come forward,” she says. “Is there anything going to happen to this guy after 100 women have brought out all this evidence against him? If this doesn’t do it, then it will, sadly, send a pretty hopeless message for women and victims of this kind of abuse.”

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

twitter.com/billbrownstein

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