Actor and comedian Jeremy Piven is set to return to the big screen this week. Piven stars in the film “Sweetwater,” a biopic that tells the story of the life and legacy of Nat Clifton, the first Black man to sign a contract in the NBA.
In the film, Piven portrays former New York Knicks head coach and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Joe Lapchick.
For Piven, the role represents a return to Hollywood after a brief sabbatical following allegations of sexual misconduct.
In 2017 and 2018, the “Entourage” actor faced accusations of sexual assault and misconduct by several women, as originally reported by BuzzFeed. Those alleged incidents were reported to have taken place as far back as 1985, and as recently as 2009 on the set of the HBO dramedy that propelled Piven from a relatively unknown character actor to a three-time Emmy winner and Hollywood leading man.
Piven, 57, has denied any impropriety and has referred to himself as “collateral damage” of the #MeToo movement, in which victims of sexual abuse or harassment publicly discussed their experiences in the media and online.
Speaking with KTLA’s Frank Buckley last week on the “Frank Buckley Interviews” podcast, Piven discussed the allegations levied against him, which he continues to deny, and said he’s moved past them.
“When you’re on stage doing stand up, you’re in your truth. And because I’m in my truth, and I have nothing to hide,” Piven said to Buckley. “And so you can’t look for justice … and spend your life pining away at that type of stuff.”
He added that he’s accepted that the accusations derailed his career and said it forced him to pivot toward stand up and “make the most” of the situation.
“Like the great Martin Luther King said, ‘no lie can last forever,'” the actor said, referencing Dr. King’s 1965 speech at the Alabama State Capitol following one of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches during the civil rights movement. The correct line is actually, “no lie can live forever.”
“I know that probably your producers or someone is looking for a soundbite, but it’s not about that. It’s about taking ownership of your life, and when you know your truth, you can get up on a stage anywhere when you have nothing to hide,” Piven said.
The conversation regarding the accusations was short, lasting less than two minutes of the entire 30-minute interview. The actor ended his thoughts on the topic by saying that his fall from grace and dropping out of the public eye had been a “gift,” allowing him to spend more time with his mother, return to the stage as a stand-up and leading him to pursue meditation.
“I didn’t have a lot of balance in my life,” Piven said.
“Sweetwater” premieres Friday in theaters across the country. It also stars Cary Elwes, Richard Dreyfuss, Kevin Pollak and Everett Osborne as the titular character, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton.
While fans of “Entourage,” and those that believe people should not face repercussions for anything that hasn’t been proven in a court of law, might be lining up to see the film, Piven’s return to relevance is troubling for others.
Amy Meador, one of Piven’s accusers, told Rolling Stone that the actor’s resurgence is drumming up old trauma that she is trying to move past. She accused him of biding his time and waiting for the general public to forget about the allegations before poking his head out to resume his career.
“He blew the whole thing off,” Meador told the publication. “He thought, ‘I’m going to ride it out,’ and kept his head down for a little while until the storm had cleared and then came back.”
She says she is also trying to move on with her life, but says the alleged assault still affects her “on a daily basis.”
Meador accused Piven of sexual assault in 2017, saying he forced himself onto her at her home in Laurel Canyon in 1995.
Reality star Ariane Bellamar publicly accused Piven of groping her in his trailer on the set of “Entourage.”
In a 2017 Instagram post, Cassidy Freeman, who stars on HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” and portrayed Tess Mercer in the Superman drama “Smallville,” implied that Piven had attempted some form of sexual misconduct upon her at a young age.
“Predatory behavior is a chronic way for you to seek power. Do you feel powerful?” Freeman wrote.
In total, eight women have come forward to accuse the actor of some form of inappropriate conduct.
Piven has attested to taking a polygraph test to prove his innocence, although lie detectors are not considered to be reliable science and are generally not admissible in court proceedings.
To listen to Frank Buckley’s complete interview with Jeremy Piven, click here.