After 19 years of staying silent, Zelda Perkins spoke out in her first TV interview since agreeing to a settlement, detailing the experience she had with former boss Harvey Weinstein. Perkins was 24 when she began working as Weinstein’s personal assistant at Miramax Films. In 1998, she resigned after a colleague accused her boss, whom she called a “repulsive monster,” of attempted rape. At that time, she signed an non-disclosure agreement and received $168,000 in settlement.
“The last 19 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” she said on BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday, December 19. “It’s not just distressing for me, but for lots of women who have not been able to own their past, and for many of them, their trauma. Although the process I went through was legal, it was immoral.”
While Perkins was never physically threatened by Weinstein, she says she was “constantly” threatened “emotionally and psychologically.” During a trip abroad, a colleague approached her and claimed that the producer had tried to rape her — a claim Weinstein has denied.
“She was shaking, very distressed, and clearly in shock,” Perkins said. “She didn’t want anybody to know and was absolutely terrified of the consequences. I spoke with her and tried to calm her down before confronting Harvey face to face.”
When Perkins and her colleague attempted to take legal action, they were shocked to hear the lawyers tell them they had very few options because they were lacking physical evidence. “In hindsight, my lawyers were giving me the advice they thought was best,” she explained. “However, they were saying, ‘You will get dragged backwards, forwards and sideways through the courts. As will your family, as will your friends, as will anybody who knows anything about you. You haven’t got a chance. You will be destroyed.’”
That was when she decided to leave the industry, but had to sign an agreement first — one so secret that she’s not allowed to own a copy of it and can only read it under supervision. She believes that that alone should be a sign of a larger problem.
“If you have an agreement that somebody has signed, that says that he will go to therapy, that he will be dismissed from his own company if anybody else makes a claim in the ensuing period, that an HR policy for sexual harassment has to be brought into the company, it’s pretty clear that something’s wrong,” Perkins said.
Nearly 20 years later, multiple women have come forward with claims of sexual harassment and assault against the producer, all that Weinstein, 65, has adamantly denied.
“Everybody now says, ‘Why did everybody go to his hotel room?’ It wasn’t as simple as that,” Perkins explained. “Everybody went to his hotel. This was where he did business. It wasn’t in his bedroom, it was his suite. You had top agents, top actors — male and female — coming in hourly for meetings. This was his place of business.”
That being said, she said he did have “girlfriends,” some who were nervous actresses. “I presumed they were consensual [relationships], but there were obviously some women who were reluctant to come. When you’d ring up to try to make a meeting, they would always come up with excuses and Harvey would get very angry and threatening and would threaten you personally,” she alleged. “With Harvey, there was no such word as ‘no.’”
“I don’t think he’s a sex addict. He’s a power addict,” Perkins continued. “Everything he did, everything that drove him was about dominance, with men and women. He put an enormous amount of energy into humiliating men and an enormous amount of energy into getting women to submit, and getting men to submit. That was what drove him … his overarching need for power.”
Following multiple allegations made against Weinstein, he was fired from The Weinstein Company in October. In response to Perkins’ interview, Weinstein’s lawyers told BBC that he has ever engaged in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behavior. Miramax had no comment to add.