What to Know About 'The Vow,' NXIVM and Allison Mack's Trial

Allison Mack NXIVM
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It’s hard to reconcile that Allison Mack, the former CW star currently facing prison time for her involvement in an apparent sex cult, spent 10 seasons playing Chloe Sullivan, Smallville’s intrepid reporter with a heart of gold.

But Mack was seemingly a high-ranking member of NXIVM, an organization prosecutors say was a pyramid scheme self-help program hiding a secret sorority of female “slaves.” And now NXIVM is getting a closeup in the HBO docuseries The Vow (premiering Aug. 23), which will undoubtedly cover Mack’s role in the saga.

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According to The New York Times, it was Smallville costar Kristin Kreuk—the actress behind Lana Lang—who in 2006 brought Mack to a weekend seminar for Jness, a women’s group under the auspices of NXIVM (pronounced NEX-ium). After attending the seminar and befriending NXIVM cofounder Nancy Salzman, Mack started using NXIVM courses to work on her relationships, acting skills and perceived faults, and she even started insisting that her team take NXIVM classes, the newspaper reports.

“She just went from being an amazing, wonderful friend to being someone who was brainwashed, and I didn’t know how to get her back,” former pal Frank Martorana told the Times.

Kreuk left NXIVM in 2013, but Mack got more involved. In 2015, prosecutors say, Mack joined a secret NXIVM society called DOS, in which women allegedly served as “slaves” to “masters” and were ordered to have sexual relations with NXIVM leader Keith Raniere. According to prosecutors cited by The Hollywood Reporter, Mack was a “master” and the second in command in DOS, and she recruited “slaves” who were held down and forcefully branded with a hot cauterizing pen so that the resulting scar showed “an amalgam of Mack’s and Raniere’s initials: K, R, A and M.”

Former NXIVM members also alleged that Mack was romantically involved with Raniere, though she married Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne, another NXIVM member, in 2017.

In April 2018, Mack was indicted on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy, and she was arrested in Brooklyn. Nearly a year later, she pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, and she admitted to state law extortion and forced labor. She’s awaiting sentencing, facing up to 40 years in prison, per CNN.

“I joined NXIVM first to find purpose,” a sobbing Mack explained during her plea hearing in April 2019, the Times reported. “I was lost and I wanted to find a place, a community in which I would feel comfortable. … I believed that Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people, and that my adherence to his system of beliefs would help empower others and help them. I was wrong.”

That June, Rainere was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking, and he faces life in prison. “Raniere, who portrayed himself as a savant and a genius, was in fact a master manipulator,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said after the conviction, according to the Times. “His crimes, and the crimes of his co-conspirators, ruined marriages, careers, fortunes and lives.”

Now, the full NXIVM story will be told in The Vow, a nine-episode docuseries from Oscar-nominated filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer.

“With remarkable access to insiders and former members, The Vow follows a range of people who joined NXIVM, a self-improvement group that disintegrated with criminal charges brought against its highest members,” HBO said in a press release. “The show takes a deep, nuanced look at the experiences of many of the group’s participants, spotlighting their universal desire for personal growth and their internal conflicts over events as they unfold.”

The Vow, Series Premiere, Sunday, August 23, 10/9c, HBO