After blowing the whistle on NXIVM, the personal development company founded by Keith Raniere revealed to be a pyramid scheme and cult that forced its female recruits into sexual slavery, survivors Sarah Edmondson and Anthony “Nippy” Ames have chronicled their experiences in the captivating HBO docuseries, The Vow, and spoken out against Raniere and other key members involved.
While promoting the second season of their podcast, A Little Bit Culty, the couple spoke to ET about filming new footage for upcoming episodes of the HBO series and how they feel about the recent sentencings handed down to the likes of Allison Mack and Nancy Salzman.
First debuting in August 2020, The Vow ran for nine episodes as it detailed the inner workings of NXIVM, its senior members and how the cult was able to recruit so many people, especially people in Hollywood, like Mack, who was cast member of The CW series, Smallville, at the time. Season 1 ends with Raniere’s arrest as he awaits trial.
Edmondson and Ames revealed that they have filmed a lot of footage for season 2. “I just don’t know how much of it is going to be used,” Edmondson says, adding that anytime anything happens in the case, “there are cameras here to capture our reactions.”
And, at least for them, their story is about “moving on with our lives. I wrote a book. We’re doing a podcast,” she says, while Ames adds that “it’s a continuation of how you can recover and get your life on track.”
“But I do think that the rest of season 2 will probably be more interesting to people,” Edmondson says. “They have, from what I've heard, more inner circle stuff, more stuff focused on Mexico and lots of stuff with the trial... I know they have stuff that they can't even tell us.”
While the series is expected to pick up with the trial, the season 1 finale has led fans to believe it has new interviews with Raniere, who is heard speaking from jail, and Salzman, who is seen with an ankle monitoring and holding one of her sashes in the finale.
When asked how they feel about the two former leaders speaking out in the series, or if they should have a voice in the project, Edmondson has two thoughts about it. “On one hand, it’s like, ‘F**k you, Keith.’ This is our story... He’s trying to have a trial through the media,” she says. “But at the same time, I’m like, ‘Go ahead. What could you possibly say?’”
As for Mack and Salzman both getting roughly three years in prison for their participation in NXIVM, Edmondson and Ames have a very balanced perspective on it. “People who maybe don’t know all the nuances of the case, they might go, ‘Wow, that’s not enough,’” Edmondson says.
“But, I think, ultimately for us, we really trust the judge and we think that he got the fact that Keith started all of this. Keith is the mastermind and he’s at 120 years in prison. The people around him, who woke up but also committed crimes, are being held accountable for those crimes. But they’re also victims.”
And as a result, some, like Mack, have taken responsibility for their role and apologized whereas others, like Clare Bronfman, who was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for financing NXIVM, maintains her support for Raniere. “She said Keith is still a good person,” Edmondson says. “And she's in prison for longer.”
“Clare wasn’t willing to admit that she was a perpetrator as well,” Ames says. And when it comes to the judge, Ames thinks he’s done a good job of “measuring the balance with compassion and accountability.”
“Ultimately, the people who are the most dangerous, Clare and Keith, I think have the longest sentences,” Edmondson says.
In the meantime, the couple gets even more into recent decisions in the NXIVM in season 2 of A Little Bit Culty, which premieres Oct. 18. And one of the conversations they have is with former prosecutor Moira Penza about the implications of the case.
Penza “really embodies this is how it works. This is how you put people away. This is justice,” Ames said of getting into the legal components. “And it was just really interesting for me to have a conversation with someone who can explain all the nuances of that.”