The Hollywood Reporter had a reality TV roundtable discussion featuring Leah Remini, RuPaul and Kris Jenner, among others. I’ll just be covering Leah’s responses here but we’ll also have stories today on RuPaul and Kris Jenner, as everyone gave interesting quotes. There’s something about a roundtable discussion that encourages opening up, it must be similar to group therapy and I wish more outlets conducted these type of interviews.
Leah is working on the second season of her Scientology and The Aftermath show for A&E, in which she interviews former cult members. In this interview she talked a little more than we’ve heard from her about how hard that can be for her, and how she’s scared every time she talks to someone who used to be in Scientology. As a celebrity and member since childhood, Leah was somewhat insulated from the worst abuses and/or she was lucky. She said that while she’s not afraid of backlash from the cult (because she’s a total badass) she is scared about what she’ll hear from the former members.
On people understanding how dangerous Scientology is
The Church of Scientology has been in the news, but more so for fodder and a headline. What we are trying to do is show that this is a real thing that’s tearing families apart. People really had no idea. It was like, “Oh, this is that crazy thing where Tom Cruise is jumping on a couch and everybody believes in aliens?” I think that worked for a very long time to sell headlines. But we’re showing how a person actually can get there, and that’s what’s resonating. Also, we’re standing up to a bully and, in a culture where people are feeling apathetic, we’re representing a group of courageous people who are saying, “No, I’m going to do something about it.”
On if she gets nervous
I feel scared every time I sit down with somebody, even though I was in the Church of Scientology for 35 years. I was raised in it. I’m scared to hear what they’re going to tell me. [Question: Like, it’s worse than you think?] Yes.
If she’s scared of the church
Oh, no, no, no. Don’t misunderstand me. People who know me know that I have a very big mouth, and I have been that way since I was a kid. I would go up against men and go, “What, what are you going to do?” They were like, “I’d knock you out in two seconds.” I’m all, “Try it, try it!” But I never want to give the organization of Scientology the idea that anybody is scared of them. We are not. And the more they react in the way that they do, it makes me think we’re doing the right thing.
On if she’s brave
I But it’s not me, that’s the thing. I wish I could say, “Look how brave I am.” I’m telling their stories. When we leave, they go back to their regular lives, and they are the ones the church goes after. When we air a show, I go, “Just know, within minutes your daughter is going to be saying horrific things about you on the church hate website.” Literally every single person who has done a story about Scientology has a hate website on them.
On if she vets the people she interviews
It’s funny you ask that because when we started the show, legal was like, “Do you know this person personally?” I said, “I don’t need to know the person. I just know that they’re telling the truth.” I thought, “How dare you. This is not somebody who is getting paid to be on this show; there are repercussions to them being on the show.” And what the hell fame would they get from saying, “I was coerced by my church to get an abortion”? Or, “I was raped by someone.” … I mean, nobody really wants to tell that story. So there is no vetting. I take their word for it. [Per an A&E spokesperson: “Although Leah does not personally vet the participants in the show, the network and production company legal teams do carefully vet people and stories featured on the program.”]
I really like how Leah frames this every time she’s praised for doing this show. She turns it around, says she’s a loudmouth and celebrity and that she doesn’t feel as brave as the people she interviews, who are bearing the brunt of the cult’s hate and harassment. Leah also said she definitely keeps in touch with the people she interviews and she makes sure she listens to their feedback and honors their wishes about how their interviews should be edited. Plus her team told her not to do this show and she did it anyway. She’s doing incredible work and thanks to Leah and so many former Scientologists who have spoken out, Scientology has been massively weakened. That’s also coincided with the growth of the Internet too of course. It must be nearly impossible for them to get new recruits.
photos credit: THR and Getty