Leah Remini, who has been outspoken about the Church of Scientology since she left in 2013, sat down on Friday, Oct. 30, with Dan Harris on ABC’s 20/20 to give an exclusive interview about her 30 years as a practicing Scientologist — and why she finally decided to leave. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t (all) because of Tom Cruise, though he did appear to play a role.
While Remini covered a lot of ground, some moments were more surprising than others. Here are the nine most shocking revelations that came to light during the hour-long special.
1. Remini’s mother introduced her to Scientology.
Unlike Katie Holmes, who allegedly left husband Cruise to keep their daughter, Suri, away from Scientology, Remini’s mother was the one who got her into the religion. After divorcing her husband, Vicki Marshall found new meaning in the L. Ron Hubbard-founded religion and signed up both her daughters for the Sea Org, which is a group of people who volunteer for the church.
Though Remini had to sign a billion-year contract (Scientologists believe in reincarnation, which enables them to serve again and again), she lasted only one year before being kicked out of the group for fraternizing with boys — well, one boy … who happened to be her boyfriend.
2. She credited Scientology with helping her break into acting.
Despite her failure in the Sea Org, Remini took the teachings of the church to heart and found them to be useful, especially when it came to her career. “There’s tools that are very, very helpful to you in your life, that are helpful to you as an actor,” she explained to Harris. “I walked into a room where some people might cower in front of a casting director — I wasn’t.”
3. She went against Scientology teachings and got an epidural during labor.
It wasn’t the first time Remini broke Scientology’s rules, but it was a significant one she went against. In direct disobedience of the church’s teachings, she opted for medication when giving birth to her child. “I was going to attempt to do it for my church, but when you start feeling a baby coming out of your vagina — if there was a rock, I would have hit myself on the head with it,” she recalled. “So I got that epidural as quickly as possible.”
4. She was “written up” for telling Cruise and Holmes to get a room.
Based on Cruise’s very prominent position in the church, it wasn’t all that shocking to hear that if one was critical of the Jack Reacher: Never Go Back star, it was considered the same as “being critical of Scientology itself” — but it was surprising to hear how seriously that rule is taken.
Remini recounted how one night, an official from the Church of Scientology called her and said, “Tom wants you to come over and teach him salsa dancing.” She and her husband, Angelo Pagan, obliged, but when they got there, they were met by two church officials as well as Cruise, who was all over his new girlfriend at the time, Holmes.
“He was like, forcibly kissing Kate,” Remini recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, get a frickin’ room,’ and I was written up for that.”
5. She was instructed to invite Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony to Cruise and Holmes’ 2006 wedding.
Knowing that Remini and her husband were close friends with then-couple Lopez and Anthony, church officials asked the former The Talk host to extend an invitation to the power couple. “The church was really the one who invited them, on Tom’s behalf,” Remini explained.
For the record, Remini did ask her friends to go and they accepted, but once they all arrived at the lavish, three-day affair, Remini claimed the two couples were actively kept away from each other, being made to ride in separate cars and sit at separate tables. For her part, Remini realized that these complaints sounded petty, but insisted that they were indicative of bigger forces at play.
6. Cruise sang “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” to Holmes after marrying her.
This wasn’t really Scientology-related, but it was certainly interesting. Remini recalled Cruise serenading Holmes with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in an apparent throwback to the iconic scene in his 1986 hit film, Top Gun, noting that even at the time she thought it was an “interesting” song to sing to one’s bride.
7. After Cruise and Holmes’ wedding, Remini set out on a mission to save Scientology.
Remini told Harris that she considered TomKat’s nuptials to be a turning point in her relationship with the religion. Among other grievances, it wasn’t sitting well with her that the head of the church, David Miscavige, had attended the event without his wife, Shelly. Remini asked repeatedly where Shelly was (both at the wedding and in the months after), but instead of receiving an answer, she said she received reprimands.
Ultimately, she filed a wide-ranging knowledge report (a document explaining grievances for others’ bad behavior) complaining about various church members at the wedding. In particular, she took issue with Cruise and Miscavige.
8. Holmes (may have) filed a knowledge report against Remini after the wedding.
It appeared, however, that when it came to filing knowledge reports, someone beat Remini to it: Katie Holmes. In a letter allegedly written by Holmes, The Kennedys actress lamented, “I was dismayed at the behavior of Leah Remini during the events leading up to our wedding and our wedding. The behavior as a guest, a friend, was very upsetting.”
As was previously reported, Holmes has not commented on whether she wrote the letter, but did release a statement on Friday, Oct. 30, saying, “I regret having upset Leah in the past and wish her only the best in the future.”
9. Still, Remini doesn’t regret her time with the church.
Despite all of this, Remini sees value in the three decades she and her immediate family members spent as Scientologists. (When Remini broke from the church, her husband, mother, and sister followed her.)
“I don’t regret what I’ve been through,” she stated to close the interview. “I don’t regret spending my life there because it did really teach me a lot and because we’ve all survived it and we’re living life, it’s like we have a gift of a second chance at life.”
Remini’s memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, hits bookshelves Nov. 3.
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