Leah Remini opened up exclusively to Us Weekly about her past as a Scientologist and said that she is “considered an enemy of the church” three years after leaving the controversial organization.
“I was an activist in the church, for the church. That part of me hasn’t changed. What I have a problem with is a $3 billion organization bullying people,” the 46-year-old actress — whose 8-part docuseries, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, premiered on A&E on Tuesday, November 29 — told Us. “And that bothers me, whether it’s scientology in a store. If I see bullying, I get involved. It’s the Brooklyn in me. It is!”
In her new show, Remini helps other ex-church members tell their stories about their decision to leave the religion. “This is not a show about my pain,” the mom of Sofia, 12 (with husband Angelo Pagan), tells Us. But it has been painful to film at times. According to the King of Queens alum, it was tough to hear each of the subjects’ varying accounts.
“It was upsetting. I’d sit in silence,” she told Us. “When the cameras stopped, I’d be on the phone yelling, ‘What can we do? How can we help?’”
Asked how the project came about, Remini explained that another former church member reached out after they read her 2015 Scientology tell-all, Troublemaker. “We spent hours talking about our experiences, as ex-Scientologists often do,” she recalled to Us. "I said, ‘I want to tell your story.’ I spent my own money on a camera crew.”
In Remini’s show, participants recount their experiences as Scientologists. One accuses a church elder of rape, while another alleges physical abuse. Remini is hoping that giving these ex-members a voice will inspire others to seek change within the church.
“I’m hoping we start that conversation. I can’t do it alone,” she told Us. “When something is seemingly abusive, that needs to be looked into. I’m hoping I can do these stories justice and do a service to the people who are brave enough to speak out.”
For the church’s part, they have repeatedly and previously denied Remini's allegations, telling Us in a statement after the release of her book in November last year: "Desperate for attention with an acting career stuck in a nearly decade-long tailspin, Leah Remini needs to move on with her life. Instead, she seeks publicity by maliciously spreading lies about the Church using the same handful of bitter zealots who were kicked out years ago for chronic dishonesty and corruption and whose false claims the Church refuted years ago, including through judicial decisions."
UPDATE: The Church of Scientology tells Us in a statement: "Leah Remini is doing this show for the money, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she attempted to extort the Church by first demanding $500,000, followed by an additional $1 million, because the Church invoked its First Amendment right to respond to her false claims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology. For the Church’s perspective and the truth about the bullies she now supports, go to www.leahreminiaftermath.com."
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath airs on A&E Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!