If you happened to be strolling the streets of northern Atlanta on March 28, you could have scored a ride from Alyssa Milano.
The star of Who’s the Boss? and Charmed took a break from filming a new CW pilot to drive people to the polls in support of Jon Ossoff, a fresh-faced Democrat hoping to flip Georgia’s 6th congressional district. Milano was arguably the most vocal celebrity supporter of the 30-year-old political neophyte, donating her time, money, and 3.1 million strong Twitter account to the cause.
When Ossoff not-so-narrowly lost the special election to Republican Karen Handel, the actress fired off an innocuous tweet—one that, two days later, drew a creepy reply from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), winking face emoji and all.
“My initial reaction was that I had to check the account four times to make sure it wasn’t a parody account. I was like, ‘This is really coming from Ted Cruz?!’” recalls Milano. “I think what he was doing was actually giving me a dig, right? I think it was a dig…but it didn’t surprise anyone coming from Ted Cruz.”
The Bensonhurst native swiftly put the Campbell’s Chunky Soup-loving lawmaker in his place.
Yes, when it comes to ‘80s TV icons the right may have Chachi but the left has Milano, who’s been gracing our television screens since she was 11 (her new series, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, premieres on Netflix August 4). And in the wake of her Ossoff campaigning, she’s decided to launch a website—along with actor Misha Collins—that “allows you to contact your representative, via phone, email or video, and demand they take action now” and “hold the Trump administration accountable for collusion with Russia.” Its slogan—or hashtag—is #patriotnotpartisan.
“It’s very easy to sit behind our computers and bitch about the administration, but in everything I do I want to empower people to make a difference and know in themselves that they can make a difference,” Milano tells me.
“And this concept of ‘collusion’ and Russia is a very obscure concept for people to really grasp, so I hope this campaign puts into words what’s really going on in a simple way so that other people can grasp the concepts,” she continues. “In particular, this idea of ‘patriot not partisan’ is very near and dear to my heart because I feel like the far-right has hijacked the word ‘patriot,’ and it upsets me. I’m not any less of a patriot because my ideas are different.”
Milano, who is 44, created the website in response to all of the curious connections between the Trump camp and Russia—ones that are currently being investigated by the Department of Justice under special counsel Robert Mueller.
The most recent developments in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga include: a clandestine meeting taken by Trump’s campaign surrogate (and eldest son) Donald Trump Jr. with a Kremlin-linked attorney, an accused Russian money launderer, and a former Soviet intelligence officer who was once implicated in an international hacking conspiracy, wherein Trump Jr. was promised damaging intel on Hillary Clinton; a secret hour-long G20 meeting between President Trump and Vladimir Putin; and President Trump’s stunning admission that he wouldn’t have hired Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he knew he’d recuse himself from all things Russia-related (after Sessions lied under oath about his previous contacts with Russians).
“All of these meetings—all of this craziness—has no place in this country and no place in our leadership, and it angers me to the bone that not only has it happened, but they’ve normalized it,” says Milano. “And they’ve been able to normalize it because people don’t understand the gravity of what this is. It’s crazy. If you wrote it in any show, people would say, ‘Come on! There’s no way that could happen.’ I come from the business where we make things up for the sake of entertainment. This isn’t that. This is real life, and it’s as corrupt as anything I’ve seen in a government while serving as UNICEF ambassador.”
In addition to serving as a UNICEF ambassador, Milano has been a longtime HIV/AIDS activist. The roots of her humanitarianism, she says, can be traced to her time with Ryan White—a schoolkid suffering from AIDS who, as a fan of her TV show Who’s the Boss?, reached out to a teenage Milano in the late ‘80s. She struck up a friendship with the boy, and spent six hours fashioning friendship bracelets for him at a party in his honor. Later, she went on The Phil Donahue Show and kissed White on the lips in order to combat the stigma around AIDS. When White passed away, his mother found a poster of Milano on his wall. It was framed by the friendship bracelets she’d made him.
“Ryan White was incredibly instrumental—at a very young age, and a very formative age—at informing me that I was someone in the public eye that has a voice to help others, and to create positive change. Before he came along, I didn’t realize the impact I could have,” says Milano. “I think about Ryan at least once a day, and feel like he’s always watching over me.”