The topless protester who confronted Bill Cosby on the first day of his sexual assault retrial at Pennsylvania's Montgomery County Courthouse on April 9 isn't just an activist. She is also an actress who recurred on The Cosby Show, the disgraced comedian's most famous TV comedy, two and a half decades ago. Under the name Nicole Leech, the now-38-year-old played Davinia — a friend of Rudy, Keshia Knight Pulliam's character — across four episodes between 1990 and 1992.
In the wake of her courthouse protest, Nicolle tells People she only experienced a family-friendly atmosphere during her time on the show, but she empathizes with Bill's alleged victims. "The protest wasn't about me knowing him, but there's a part of me that feels betrayed because I can understand what the victims were feeling," she says. "Like, that could have been me. I could've undergone the abuse as well."
As footage from the courthouse shows, Nicolle ran toward the 80-year-old with the words "Women's Lives Matter" and the names of his accusers on her body. She tells People she wanted him to feel uncomfortable, saying, "He's a man who's disempowered women's bodies for decades. It doesn't seem to be recognized. The case is being publicized with this narrative of race. He's being painted as the victim. I wanted to emphasize that this is about rape. I wanted to make him uncomfortable and to make people think about women's bodies."
She elaborates, "People are like, 'Why is she naked?' I hope this causes people to engage more. Of course, I have no idea what Bill Cosby was thinking but I would hope that he stops for a minute and think about his own truth. At the moment, 61 women aren't allowed to testify against him. That's pretty appalling. The very least I could do is lend my body to this cause."
Before her Cosby Show appearance, Nicolle starred in all 13 episodes of The Babysitter's Club; and afterward, she guest starred in four episodes of Clarissa Explains It All, two of Law & Order, and one of Law & Order: SVU. In recent years, she has embraced activism alongside acting. "My action today was first and foremost an action lead by the group I joined in Europe about a year-and-half ago called Femen," she explains to People. "Femen is an international Women's movement of topless female activists painted with slogans and our mission is protesting the patriarchy and reclaiming our bodies."
Nicolle was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for the protest. Meanwhile, Bill is on trial for the alleged sexual assault of former Temple University staffer Andrea Constand in 2004. According to The Washington Post, a total of 60 women have accused the comedian of rape or sexual assault.