In an interview on SiriusXM's The Jess Cagle Show podcast, The Disaster Artist actor, 43, addresses the claims made by five women, four of whom were his acting students, alleging sexually exploitative behavior. The allegations were the subject of a 2019 lawsuit, which was settled in June and saw Franco paying $2.2 million. Franco admits he did sleep with students at his acting school. He also reveals he's been in treatment for sex addiction since 2016, and that he's speaking out now — nearly four years later — so his brother Dave Franco and former collaborator Seth Rogen aren't constantly being asked questions about him.
"In 2018, there were some complaints about me and an article about me and at that moment I just thought 'I'm gonna be quiet … I'm gonna pause,'" he said. "It did not seem like the right time to say anything. There were people that were upset with me and I needed to listen."
He said there is a "natural human instinct" to "just make it stop. You just want to get out in front of it and whatever you have to do apologize. Get it done. But what that doesn’t do is allow you to do the work and to look at what was underneath. Whatever you did … there’s probably an iceberg underneath that of behavior, of patterning, of just being blind to yourself that isn’t gonna just be solved overnight. So I’ve just been doing a lot of work. And I guess I’m pretty confident in saying: Four years, you know? I was in recovery before for substance abuse. There were some issues that I had to deal with that were also related to addiction. And so I've really used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was."
Franco said he was in recovery for alcohol addiction since he was 17. Becoming a big star years later, on Freaks and Geeks, he says he filled that inner void by becoming addicted to the attention and success he got from stardom. That morphed into sexual addiction. He said he was never faithful to a partner ("I cheated on everyone") — until current girlfriend of five years, Isabel Pakzad. He's been in recovery for sex addiction since 2016.
He said his sister-in-law Iris Torres (wife of brother Tom Franco) gave him a book on sex and love addiction and it "hit me like a bullet. That's me." That led him to seek help, saying he knew he couldn't solve his issue on his own.
He called sex "such a powerful drug. I got hooked on it for 20 more years. The insidious part of that is that I stayed sober from alcohol all that time," he said. "I went to meetings all that time. I even tried to sponsor other people. So in my head, it was like, 'Oh, I'm sober. I'm living a spiritual life.' Where on the side, I'm acting out now in all these other ways, and I couldn't see it."
Franco said he was "completely blinded by power dynamics," but also "completely blind to people's feelings." He said his behavior "spun out to where I was hurting everybody."
The Pineapple Express star answered questions about his acting school, Playhouse West Studio 4, which opened in 2014 before it was shuttered in 2017. The 2019 lawsuit filed by former students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal alleged Franco — who offered a "Sex Scenes master class" — and his business partners "engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects." It "led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class."
While Franco denied the #MeToo claims when they first surfaced — during multiple interviews and via his attorney — he said on the podcast, “Look, I’ll admit I did sleep with students. I didn’t sleep with anybody in that particular [Sex Scenes] class. But, over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong. But, like I said, it’s not why I started the school and I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class. So it wasn’t a master plan on my part. But, yes, there were certain instances where … I was in a consensual thing with a student and I shouldn’t have been.”
He also spoke about his friendship with long-time collaborator and friend Rogen, who said in May that he had "no plans" to work with Franco following sexual misconduct allegations. Charlyne Yi, who worked with Franco and Rogen in The Disaster Artist, called Franco a "sexual predator" and Rogen his "enabler."
“He was asked about me and, I just wanna say, I absolutely love Seth Rogen," Franco said. "I worked with him for 20 years. We didn’t have one fight for 20 years. Not one fight. He was my absolute closest work friend, collaborator," as they met on Freaks and Geeks in 1999 and worked also together on Sausage Party and Pineapple Express.
“What he said is true," he continued. "We aren’t working together right now and we don’t have any plans to work together. Of course, it was hurtful in context, but I get it. He had to answer for me because I was silent. He had to answer for me and I don’t want that. So that’s why it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you today: I don’t want Seth or my brother [Dave Franco] or anyone to have to answer for me anymore.”
Franco's full interview airs Thursday.