Julianna Margulies recalls ‘traumatic’ hotel room encounter with Steven Seagal

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·6-min read

Julianna Margulies is opening up about her "traumatic" hotel room encounter with Steven Seagal when she was auditioning for her first film role.

While appearing on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast, the ER and The Good Wife actress, 54, talked about meeting with the action star, who was armed with a gun, alone in his hotel suite ahead of appearing in 1991's Out for Justice — after the female casting director was a last-minute no-show. Margulies said she ultimately "got out of the room unscathed," something she also details in her new memoir, Sunshine Girl.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  Julianna Margulies attends Tribeca TV: The Hot Zone during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on April 30, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Julianna Margulies recalls her "traumatic" hotel room encounter with Steven Seagal, which she also writes about in her new memoir, Sunshine Girl. (Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

"I was straight out of college and all I wanted was my SAG card," Margulies recalled, setting the scene. "I had given myself five years" to make a living as an actress. If it didn't happen, she recalled saying, "I'll quit and do something else — something worthy of my time. But I'm not going to beg. And I'm not going to live on a futon for the rest of my life. So right out of college, I had this agent and they sent me on the Steven Seagal audition. I didn't know who he was. I didn't go to see those kinds of movies. That wasn't my jam."

The aspiring star did well at her first audition, which Seagal wasn't there for, and got a callback — after being told Seagal liked her audition tape. The night before her second audition, she got a call from the casting director saying Seagal requested she go to his NYC hotel suite to prepare their scene for the next day. When she got there, there was no casting director — just the hulking 6-foot-4 star who was casually holding a gun as they spoke in the living room. Soon after, he asked her to move to the bedroom to continue discussing her character, "a hooker with a heart of gold," because he was tired after a long day.

"He asked me to come to his hotel room — at 10 o'clock at night," Margulies said. "And then read my palm and told me that he was a healer and that I had 'weak kidneys,'" noting he could help with her pain (that she didn't have) and heal them for her. 

"I think that was his schtick with women," she said. "He would tell them he is a healer."

Margulies first shared the story in Nov. 2017 amid the #MeToo movement. Seagal was also accused of sexual harassment by Portia de Rossi, Jenny McCarthy and Eva LaRue, and sexual assault, including by Bond girl Rachel Grant. He denied the allegations and was never charged with any crimes. In 2018, he stormed out of a live interview when being questioned about the allegations.

Shepard remarked on how "preposterous" the action star's line about being a healer sounded. Margulies said she can find some humor in it — now.

"Listen, I'm fine," she said. "I got out of the room unscathed. And I wrote about it because... Well, for several reasons. One, it's a very funny story," she said of her overall interaction with Seagal. "I don't mean to to belittle it in that it wasn't traumatic because it was. But nothing happened to me. I did not get sexually assaulted."

She added, "When the #MeToo movement happened and I heard women talking about things he had done, I was like, Yeah, I was in that hotel room." However, she said "his shtick" about being a healer "gave me the courage to stand up and get out of there." 

Margulies recalled not being invited to the film when it came out.

In Sunshine Girl, Margulies details the full story of the hotel encounter, writing how when she first arrived in Seagal's suite and sat on the couch, she felt something hard beneath the cushion. It turned out to be the gun, which he told her he kept to be safe from "crazies," but proceeded to hold it while they spoke about the film role, which she felt he did to intimidate her.

"Pretending I wasn't shitting myself was the best course of action," she wrote of that moment. "Just start talking, say something, deflect..."

While they discussed her sex worker character, he told her "he had a really long day and needed to lie down" and wanted to finish the conversation in the bedroom. She said her "stomach was lurching and I could feel my skin getting clammy. He ushered me into the bedroom, which compelled me to talk faster. I was trying to buy time. I had to talk my way out, that much I knew. I had no chance of survival against a giant with a gun."

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In the room, he rested the gun on the table, took her hand in his and "in all seriousness" said, "Julianna, I am a healer. I can read your palm and tell you what kind of pain you're in. I can help you out of your pain. "

She declined, noting it was nearly midnight and she had to get home, and then "backed out of the room" and then "headed for the door as fast as I could without breaking into a sprint. He followed me a few steps but seemed to find the whole scenario amusing as he leaned one arm on the doorjamb of the bedroom and watched me scurry." 

And on her way down to the lobby, "my heart was pounding so hard I thought my head would explode."

The next day at the audition, she was greeted with a "smarmy smile" from the actor. However, "I shrugged it off, acted my heart out, and got the gig."

While in L.A. for the two-week shoot, she said she asked the hair and makeup professionals to make sure "one of them was always with me. I didn't want to be left in a room with Seagal, ever... I wasn't about to make the same mistake again." She made sure someone was always around when the cameras cut.

She noted, "Seagal gave me a hard time" on the set, "making jokes at my expense." But "I paid no attention," she wrote. "I wanted the [SAG] card. I needed this job, and the truth is I was having a blast with the other actors. I loved being on a set, and getting paid to act was the dream I had been waiting for. I wasn't going to let him spoil that."  

A rep for Seagal has not yet responded to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment for this story.

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