How stars from ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ ‘Star Wars’ and more got caught up in NXIVM.
[This article has been updated to include new revelations made in The Vow, The Vow Part II and Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.]
After NXIVM, a personal development company founded by Keith Raniere, was exposed as a pyramid scheme and cult that forced its female recruits into sexual slavery, it was soon discovered that there were many prominent, highly influential members from the worlds of business, politics and Hollywood that brought legitimacy and notoriety to the organization. While most were not directly involved in the more nefarious aspects of the organization, particularly the sex cult that was created by a group of women within NXIVM, one of the most shocking and notable performers was former Smallville actress Allison Mack, who was a senior member within the organization and eventually pleaded guilty to racketeering charges.
In the years since the 2017 New York Times exposé, it’s been revealed that cast members of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Dynasty crossed paths with the organization. “A lot of young people who were in the film and television industry, lots of actors [were involved],” former member and Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson says in the The Vow, which chronicles her and other members’ escape from the clutches of Raniere and NXIVM. (The HBO docuseries is back with a second season, The Vow Part II, with Edmondson and others detailing their experiences.)
In the Starz docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, former member India Oxenberg recalls seeing high-profile celebrities, like Jennifer Aniston and Rosario Dawson, at introductory ESP meetings that were used to entice new recruits. “There were entrepreneurs and strong powerful women like Rosario Dawson, who I just got to strike up a conversation with. I was impressed,” Oxenberg recalls. “They said they had people like Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston take the courses.” (None of them, however, became confirmed or active members in NXIVM.)
“Some of those people I did see and I did see take courses,” Oxenberg later told ET. “And they used high profile people as ways to recruit, as ways to legitimize the group. And that was all done strategically to me, unfortunately, but that's what they did.”
“We were all sort of in the same boat, struggling with our self-esteem, body issues, meaning and purpose,” Edmondson continues in The Vow, explaining why they may have been attracted to or susceptible to NXIVM’s many promises around wellness and self-help.
Here’s a list of Hollywood’s reported members or recruits.
As NXIVM expanded across North America, it eventually opened a center in Vancouver, Canada, where the CW superhero series was filmed. Former member Barbara Bouchey said in an interview with E! True Hollywood Story that she worked with Edmondson “over several years to develop the Vancouver center and that led eventually to Allison Mack.”
The actress, who was only 23 at the time, told the New York Times that she “came to NXIVM when she was unhappy with her TV acting career.” She reportedly asked Raniere to “make her a great actress again.” [More on Mack’s story via ETonline.]
The Abduction of Zack Butterfield
A model and actor, Ames’ most prominent role was as Agent Quincannon in the 2011 film The Abduction of Zack Butterfield, which the New York Times describes as “a cringingly awkward tale of sexual predation and female lunacy.”
More commonly known as Nippy, the actor was a longtime member of NXIVM, where he also met and fell in love with Edmondson. When the two got married, most of their wedding guests and bridal party were followers of NXIVM. While his wife continued to grow within the organization, Nippy became disillusioned by the experience and was unaware of her involvement with DOS.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Piesse is an Australian actress and a singer-songwriter most famous for being part of the Star Wars film franchise. Piesse appeared in the second two prequels as a young version of Beru Lars, Luke Skywalker’s aunt and surrogate mother.
She met director Mark Vicente (What the Bleep Do We Know!?), who was already a member of NXIVM, and turned to the organization as her music and acting career stalled. Eventually the two got married and became the poster couple for others to follow.
While Vicente remained dedicated to Raniere, even working closely with him on a documentary and screenplay about his story, Piesse eventually became suspicious of NXIVM’s practices and wanted out. Despite trying to leave on good terms, especially since Vicente remained an active member, she was blacklisted. The couple’s marriage suffered as a result. But once Vicente decided to leave, the two got back together and teamed up with Edmondson and Catherine Oxenberg to get others out.
Blue, who played General Zod during seasons nine and 10 of Smallville and also appeared on series like Proof and Royal Pains, found himself turning to the organization in 2011, after a personal tragedy. “At the height of my popularity, I went through some trauma. My father took his own life and I continued working and I was caught up in this spiral of chaos ‘cause Hollywood can be a chaotic and noisy place. And that really opened me up to looking to the outside world to find the answers,” he said in an interview with E! True Hollywood Story.
Put off by Raniere and his experience, Blue quickly left NXIVM. “I was in it for five days and I heard the same thing again and again and again,” he recalled.
Oxenberg, a former Dynasty actress and the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, was able to get out -- but not fast enough to save her daughter, India, from the clutches of Raniere. “I didn’t sign my daughter up for a sex cult,” Oxenberg told ET, explaining that she holds herself accountable for what ultimately happened to India. Intending to help her daughter on her journey into adulthood, she inadvertently introduced India, then 19 years old, to NXIVM in 2011.
“The truth is, what we went to was an intro for a leadership program,” Oxenberg explained. “It could have been any self-help program, and that’s the truth. Nobody signs up to join a cult. These cults very often have consumer-facing companies offering real and viable resources and tools. And that’s what this was… I thought that she might benefit from some leadership skills because she was going into the business world.”
Oxenberg has since recounted her story in the Lifetime film, Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother's Fight to Save Her Daughter, which is based on her 2018 memoir, Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult. Her attempts to free India are also chronicled on The Vow. [More on Oxenberg’s story via ETonline.]
After a number of small, episodic roles, Krowchuk appeared on Aliens in America before going on to bigger roles in Gracepoint and Wayward Pines.
He was initially recruited by Edmondson, but it was Mack, his girlfriend at the time, who convinced him to take a five-day training course. According to Vice, “Mack and Krowchuk were about three years into living together when NXIVM ‘became a thing’ in their group of friends,” with Mack quickly becoming fascinated by the organization. “That was the part that scared me the most,” Krowchuk said. “Before we had conversations about it, and we both thought it seemed kind of weird and creepy. I don’t necessarily know if she thought it was creepy, but we agreed it seemed a little messed up.”
While Mack became a high-ranking member, she reportedly wasn’t the first Smallville recruit. That was Kreuk, who played Lana Lang. According to The Hollywood Reporter, shortly after joining the group in 2006, she brought Mack. “I’m excited to work with you guys. I don’t know what else to say,” Kreuk says in footage featured on The Vow that shows her in a meeting alongside Edmondson.
Even though Kreuk was involved with NXIVM, she claims that she left before anything “illegal or nefarious” happened. “I am deeply disturbed and embarrassed to have been associated with NXIVM,” the actress posted to Twitter in 2018. “The accusations that I was in the ‘inner circle’ or recruited women as ‘sex slaves’ are blatantly false.”
“How are we contributing as a society to the myth of celebrity? ‘Cause a lot of people seem to be rather caught up in it,” Park, who famously portrayed Sharon “Boomer” Valerii on Battlestar Galactica before starring on the CBS reboot of Hawaii Five-0, is seen asking Raniere in a promotional video initially posted to NXIVM’s site and YouTube page. As seen in footage from The Vow, the actress was in the bridal party at Edmondson’s wedding, which according to the bride, was mostly attended by members of NXIVM.
According to Vice, Park “quietly left” after the explosive New York Times article, which featured revelations about Jness and the sex cult practices.
Hildreth has appeared on everything from The Tudors to Resurrection to Hulu’s The Looming Tower. But his most prominent role, it seems, is being the one to reportedly have recruited Kreuk into NXIVM. According to Vice, the actor “convinced her to attend her first session,” which proved to be a turning point for the organization, which could now say it had a “famous actress” among its members.
“I feel like the biggest limitation is that we judge ourselves,” Clyne, who reportedly was recruited by Edmondson in 2006, is seen saying during a NXIVM meeting in footage featured on The Vow. The actress who played Cally Henderson on the Syfy series was close to other Vancouver recruits, including Mack and Park.
In 2018, federal prosecutors claimed that Mack and Clyne were married, according to court transcripts obtained by People. The outlet reported “the union was at the behest of NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere.” A one-time publicist for the cult said, “Nicki has been in the cult for 12 years. She quit her regular role with Battlestar to follow Raniere.”
In The Vow Part II, Clyne reveals why she joined NIXVM. “Even though I was having success on TV, I felt like I wasn’t getting traction,” she says, explaining that she “didn’t feel fulfilled” until participating in one of the entry programs.
She also reveals that she created DOS and had an intimate relationship with Raniere. “I was in a physical relationship with Keith for many years. I kept it a secret. A lot of people in the community didn’t know who Keith’s partners were or if he had any. I felt very clear on what I was signing up for,” she says, claiming that when it came to DOS, “sex was not the focus of anything.”
La Femme Nikita
After Mack was initially arrested, The Sixth Sense and La Femme Nikita actress revealed to Megyn Kelly that she was approached by Mack to join NXIM after the two met at an audition in 2013. Soon after, Mack tried to get Shoaib to join a “school for introspection.”
“We got close very quickly, and looking back, it was a very contrived effort, but at the time she seemed so sincere,” Shoaib said at the time. While the actress never got involved, she was one of many that Mack attempted to recruit over the years. Others include Emma Watson, Kelly Clarkson and Beverly Mitchell.
Born and raised in Vancouver, the actress first appeared onscreen in the teen soap Edgemont opposite Park. She eventually went on to appear in a number of sci-fi projects like Andromeda, Continuum and Stargate SG-1. Her most notable role before leaving NXIVM was a recurring stint on Psych.
Once in NXIVM, Edmondson rose through the ranks to become one of its top recruiters, bringing in thousands of people, including some of the other actors listed here. She also met and married Nippy and when the two had a child, they named Lauren Salzman his godmother. It was Salzman who recruited her into DOS, where she became her slave and was branded with Raniere's initials.
Since leaving NXIVM, Edmondson has returned to acting and starred on season 2 of the short-lived series Salvation.
Un gancho al corazón
Born in Mexico, Jaspeado, who now goes by Vero, says she had “been a professional actress since I was 22 years old” before she found NXIVM and participated in the Executive Success Program. “When I joined ESP, I was really in a good place,” she says in The Vow Part II. “I had just come back from shooting a pretty successful show. But I’m pretty much a seeker, ya know? When I joined [ESP] I thought I found what I was looking for.”
Later, Vero reveals that she was also a member of NXIVM’s secret group. “I was there for 10 years when I was invited into DOS. We were supposed to be the closest, most loyal committed women,” she says, claiming “it was misused. It was tremendously misused.”
The Vow, The Vow Part II and Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult are now streaming on HBO Max and Starz, respectively.