On the “Pod Meets World” podcast, co-hosts Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle have often given their guests — many of whom are actors who grew up on TV in the 90s — the opportunity to debunk any headlines about them.
“You mean when I woke up one day and I was anointed a cult leader?” he asked with a laugh during the iHeart podcast. Keegan, best known for his roles in “10 Things I Hate About You,” “7th Heaven,” “Party of Five” and for being a “heartthrob” in the early aughts, went on to explain that he moved to Venice Beach in his early 20s, and “got immersed in the culture and the community.”
“There was this interesting group of hippie types, if you will, in Venice. I’m sure if you went on the west side, there’s definitely a lot of spirituality,” he explained. “I was connected with some folks and we had this opportunity. This old Hare Krishna Temple, it was sitting there empty and we were like, ‘Why don’t we get some people together and let’s open this place up?’”
The group had previously partaken in Occupy Wall Street and wanted to “do some positive things for the community” with the group, which they titled Full Circle, beginning in 2014.
“Looking back, it was insane. I was putting down 10s of thousands of dollars, but we opened it up and spent three years and really did build an amazing friend group,” Keegan said. “We went through something really significant from 2014 to 2017.”
Keegan says that it became “click-bait central,” as rumors of a “cult” began after Vice reporter came to visit Full Circle and wrote a story about it in 2014, titled “One of the Stars of ’10 Things I Hate About You’ Started a Religion.” In the story, the journalists wrote that they were greeted by a man named Third Eye, part of the “inner circle” of “enlightened” members, who told them that Keegan is the leader who has the “ultimate say on all things.”
“I probably should have had a little bit more media training at the time,” Keegan said on the podcast. “They just really created a very interesting, colorful story and put it together… we really just got together and did a Sunday thing. We did almost 1,000 events in three years and it was actually really hard. It was really beneficial to a lot of people, I still hear about it now, where people are like, ‘That was such a great time.’”
He says that Full Circle was “the opposite of what you would imagine” from reading the stories, adding, “There was no doctrine. We were just getting people together. ‘The Co-Creator’s Handbook’ was the handbook we used… For all intents and purposes, it was a really cool community center for a bunch of people in Venice for a few years.”
Fishel, who was very close friends with Keegan, stated that what he explained “sounds like a group of people at Burning Man more than a group of people at Heaven’s Gate,” referencing the 70s cult led by Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite.
“But ‘cult leader’ kind of leans unto the Heaven’s Gate,” Keegan responded. “Maybe we should have come up with a different name. I thought Full Circle was pretty good, you know, what goes around comes around. I don’t know. It wasn’t something with such a specific agenda at the time. It just evolved from a group of people. We had thousands of people come through over the years and just a ton of events and dinner parties. There was actually a podcast I heard recently where they were talking about it and trying to figure it out. At the end, they kind of landed on, it seems like a cool place to hang out — and that’s what it was.”
While Keegan has spoken about the rumors before, he took things a step further in the new interview, bringing up the fact that he filed a defamation lawsuit.
“I think at this point we all know, you can’t really believe what you read. Anybody can call anybody anything. I actually did end up filing a defamation lawsuit against AEG and Newsmax for one of the things that happened there,” he said. “They have an ability to basically say whatever they want. Put up a fight and it ends up costing you money and legal fees. Of course, this recent case of defamation worked out for someone.”
Keegan sued Examiner and its parent company Anschutz Entertainment for defamation in September 2015, after a story claimed he was arrested for selling alcoholic kombucha without a permit; he claimed he wasn’t at Full Circle at the time. The case was later dismissed.
“I look back at it now and I’m like, I don’t know anybody else who is being called a cult leader so it’s kind of like a badge of honor,” Keegan quipped at the end of the episode.