Brooke Shields recalls witnessing ‘stonewalling’ on ‘The Cosby Show’ set

Model, actress and TV host Brooke Shields will recount the earliest memories she has of the workplace in her new memoir Soul, which comes out Tuesday. In it, she describes how she watched with alarm as a 17-year-old former child star was stalked by photographers while working on Saturday Night Live, and recounts the 1993 “pep talk” she got from Barbara Walters after being cast in The Cosby Show.

Then a young model, Shields performed on SNL during Season 2 and the paparazzi immediately began stalking her on-set. It was not until after the shoot was over that she began to realize what was happening. “I came back to my dressing room and was about to tell my manager that I just didn’t want to do the show anymore,” Shields writes.

“But I panicked and before I could tell him anything, it was clear that the situation was on another level — literally. Sixteen people with cameras and lenses, all shooting me and my other ‘co-stars’ the exact same spot, with flashes at every turn, would not have taken this a second longer. This was like a staged scene out of a gangster movie. Those photographers were literally stalking me. Not only that, but they were being deliberately provocative, photographing me even when I turned my back on them.”

Shields states that she ran through the back entrance of the studio and out the back door, but the paparazzi chased her to the car and refused to go away. In recounting the time on SNL, Shields says that Walters was informed by producers about the show’s crisis and replied by saying, “Just leave.”

After she was cast on Cosby, there was still fallout. This time, the focus was squarely on Lisa Bonet’s on-set behavior and sexual harassment claims.

Shields says the show’s head producer approached her to give her a pep talk. “We all know that there’s been all kinds of talk about your sister over the past few weeks and I think it’s important for you to hear from someone who’s experienced [sexism and] harassment first-hand,” he said. “It was her decision to leave the show, and we all respect that. But now this is her choice to work.”

“She couldn’t have been more direct. And I remember my stomach falling and mine turning to mush as I couldn’t believe that this woman could tell me about her experience of sexual harassment when I, a woman who grew up with sexuality and confidence and more sex than my mother, was still three years away from being sexually active. She said I needed to realize that when I talk about sex, it’s not because I want to scare men off my body, it’s because I want to be taken seriously.”

After she sat down with Walters at “another very revealing interview,” Shields writes that the conversation quickly veered to sexual harassment and assault.

In the piece, Shields also revisits the incident that helped inspire The Guilt Trip with Seth Rogen, and opens up about her fear that child actors would be slut-shamed as they have been in the past.

She also recalls her final show on 90210, which saw her crying as she read the scripts for her last episode. “Everyone was crying and I knew I had to do something. I told my father I was ‘going to do what’s best for my career’ and we both knew it was the right decision.”

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