HBO's new documentary series The Vow has been tremendously compelling in its telling of the story of the NXIVM cult, whose founder, Keith Raniere, was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking and racketeering. Presenting itself as a self-help, purpose-driven organization, NXIVM was in fact a multi-level marketing (a.k.a. pyramid) scheme, selling intensive seminars on ridding oneself of "limiting" behaviors, bad career paths, and psychological hangups, among other things. Having followed the Scientology blueprint, one of NXIVM's objectives was using Hollywood star power as a recruiting tool, and much of this was done via the Vancouver-based chapter of the organization.
In the docuseries, former NXIVM members Sarah Edmondson and Mark Vicente discuss how their circle of friends in Vancouver — including several famous television actors — were active in the cult, and The Vow has been meticulously peeling back the layers of how some of them became involved in DOS, a secret society within the cult where women were made subject to master-slave relationships and branded.
While familiar faces — especially if you were a fan of either Smallville or Battlestar Galactica — pop up up with some frequency in The Vow, some have received more attention than others. Here's a quick look at all of the celebrities known to have been ensnarled in NXIVM to date [NOTE: This is all public information that may or may not ultimately be revealed on The Vow, sp proceed with caution if you wish to remain in the dark.]
Allison Mack starred for nine seasons on the WB/CW series Smallville, playing Clark Kent's best pal Chloe Sullivan. The character — and Mack in turn — was a fan favorite, and was one of only two cast members, alongside with Tom Welling as Clark, who appeared as a regular cast member throughout the full series run. In 2010, Mack began her involvement with NXIVM, and by 2017, when revelations about the cult began to go public, she had risen to a high level in the group and was reportedly at the head of the DOS organization. The brand that the women in DOS were given is reported to have been a combination of Mack's ("AM") and Keith Raniere's (KR) initials. On April 20, 2018, Mack was arrested by the FBI on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy.
Kristen Kreuk played Clark Kent's main love interest Lana Lang for the first seven seasons of Smallville (with a recurring role on the 8th). The Vancouver-born actress was one of the earliest celebrity recruits into NXIVM, but it's not clear whether Kreuk was the one who brought Alison Mack into the organization or whether they came to it at the same time. Some time after this and before the FBI crackdown, Kreuk left the organization, and after federal charges were filed, she released a statement that disavowed any participation in the upper levels of NXIVM or DOS. She claimed that she took part in intensive seminars to help combat her crippling shyness, but that she was never a part of DOS and had left the organization behind years before. Other reports on the cult have alleged that Kreuk's involvement was more significant.
Park was one of the most popular stars of the acclaimed Syfy original series Battlestar Galactica, playing multiple roles as clones involved in an uprising against humanity. After BSG, Park took a lead role on CBS's Hawaii Five-0 for the show's first seven seasons. While Park has been shown in passing on The Vow, she hasn't been the focus of the story, and like Kreuk, she appears to have left the organization before the Feds cracked down. Still, as shown briefly on The Vow, Park did take part in what appear to be recruitment videos with Raniere.
Park's Battlestar Galactica co-star Nicki Clyne appears to have had a much more intense involvement in NXIVM. Clyne's BSG character, Cally Tyrol, was incredibly popular with fans, and when she was killed off early in the show's fourth season, an unexpected development that didn't appear to have much build-up to it, there was a fan uproar. In fact, Clyne would end up quitting acting altogether to devote herself to NXIVM full time, including involvement in the DOS sex cult. When charges came down on Raniere and Mack, Clyne was accused of marrying Mack under false pretenses in order to evade U.S. immigration laws.
Oxenberg starred in the 5th and 6th seasons of the landmark ABC primetime soap Dynasty, playing Amanda Carrington, daughter of Joan Collins' Alexis. The daughter of Yugoslavian royalty, with blood ties to any number of European princes and princesses, Oxenberg would later briefly be married to Hollywood mega-producer Robert Evans, and in 1999 she married Starship Troopers star Casper Van Dien. In 2011, Oxenberg introduced her daughter to Keith Raniere and brought her into NXIVM for self-help purposes. After India became heavily involved in the cult, Catherine tried in vain to get her out; India did leave the organization after the FBI indictments.
Australian actress Bonnie Piesse is probably best known for playing Aunt Beru in the second and third episodes of George Lucas's Star Wars prequels, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Piesse married Mark Vicente and was one of the earliest to exit NXIVM after she began to hear about DOS, since then becoming a vocal detractor of the organization.
The Vow airs weekly on HBO Sunday nights at 10:00 PM ET through mid-October.
People are talking about The Vow in our forums. Join the conversation.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.