Why McLachlan accusers waited

 

IN 2014, a group of four women working on a Melbourne production of The Rocky Horror Showgathered in the dressing room Erika Heynatz occupied to discuss the alleged behaviour of the show's lead actor Craig McLachlan, the actress claims.

The female lead told ABC's 7.30 each of the women "revealed what had gone on for the other", claiming there had been "unwanted kissing, unwanted touching, aggression, bullying and intimidation".

The group allegedly discussed harassment by McLachlan, and discovered a "pattern" to their experiences.

But despite being shaken by the allegations and acknowledging what had happened was wrong, Heynatz says, the group decided not to approach production company The Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO) with their complaints.

The lead actress revealed the disturbing reason for the group's inaction in an interview with 7.30, saying the women feared for their careers.

"None of us were aware the other person was going through the same thing. What do we do? So we talked about it - do we speak to the production company?" she said.

"They're not going to believe us. He's the big head star, they're going to keep him we're going to lose our jobs - because we're replaceable.

"And that's the disgusting thing about it, we all feel as though our voice isn't enough and we're not important enough."

Erika Heynatz said cast members feared losing their jobs if they complained about Craig McLachlan. Picture: 7:30/ABC
Erika Heynatz said cast members feared losing their jobs if they complained about Craig McLachlan. Picture: 7:30/ABC

Heynatz and fellow cast member Christie Whelan Browne both said they had approached production members with complaints.

Whelan Browne, who claimed McLachlan inappropriately touched and kissed her onstage, said she had gone to a senior production member saying McLachlan was "intimidating me on stage and others".

"She said, 'That's a very serious accusation'. The insinuation was - you don't want this to go any further," Whelan Browne said.

Claiming McLachlan had come into her dressing room and kissed her, Heynatz said she had also confided in a senior production member.

"The woman I shared this story with was really concerned and she really wanted me to feel safe at work," she said.

"She would look after me and every day she would come in and sit with until I was dressed and my hair was done, so that was kind of, she made sure that I was safe."

Heynatz said neither Whelan Browne nor fellow actress Angela Scundi, who also accused McLachlan, were among of the four women who she spoke with about the actor's alleged behaviour in 2014.

Though the actresses decided against making formal complaints at the time, considering the potential threat to their careers, Heynatz said fellow cast members started getting in touch years later when allegations started coming out about Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein and other entertainment industry figures.

Craig McLachlan has strenuously denied all allegations. Picture: Calum Robertson
Craig McLachlan has strenuously denied all allegations. Picture: Calum Robertson

While the Weinstein scandal prompted the women to seek legal representation and approach GFO, there is no suggestion the allegations levelled against McLachlan go beyond inappropriate touching. McLachlan vehemently denies all allegations.

"The Harvey Weinstein stories started coming out and I have an immediate physical and mental reaction to it," she said.

"I start reliving some of the sensory things that go on, feeling anxious and unsettled, sleeplessness."

Whelan Browne said she contacted Heynatz at the same time, despite not having been in touch for more than three years.

"I just said, 'Hey, I don't know if you're having any reaction to these stories that are coming out, but I am. I just wanted to see if you're OK.' She called me and apparently all the other girls had been talking," she said.

"I did feel a sense of shock when I heard what they'd been going through. And that they had talked about coming forward all those years ago, but, yeah, I'm glad that we were able to connect because for me it felt like a really lonely, solo experience and it doesn't anymore."

The three women who have gone on the record with complaints against McLachlan explained their decision, saying they hoped to change the culture of the industry that caused them to feel unable to come forward back in 2014.

"I hope that in coming forward, which is something that is very difficult and something I tried to avoid, but I hope that it makes a change," Whelan Browne said.

Christie Whelan Brown says she hoped coming forward would spark change in the industry. Picture: 7:30/ABC
Christie Whelan Brown says she hoped coming forward would spark change in the industry. Picture: 7:30/ABC

McLachlan has strenuously denied all allegations against him, saying in an email to Fairfax media the claims were "baseless" and "they seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety.

"These allegations are ALL made up," he said.

The theatre company behind GFO yesterday confirmed McLachlan would be stood down from his role in the current production of the show.

Production of The Doctor Blake Mysteries has also been put on hold "to allow due process", production company December Media announced Monday, and past episodes of the program have been removed from ABC's streaming platform iview.

Victoria Police confirmed on Monday complaints had been received concerning McLachlan's behaviour, and at least two more women have contacted police about the actor's behaviour since allegations were published.



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