Activist and actress also discusses Elisabeth Moss, celebrity hypocrisy
UPDATE: Karin Pouw, a representative for Scientology, has responded to EW’s article. “There was no Scientology boycott of the Emmys. If one individual Jew boycotted the Emmys or a single Catholic boycotted the Emmys, would that constitute a Jewish boycott or Catholic boycott? No,” Pouw writes. “The Church of Scientology certainly had no boycott of the Emmys.”
EARLIER: On the morning of Sept. 9, the only obstacles in the way of Leah Remini’s first Emmy victory for her A&E docuseries were category mates Anthony Bourdain, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and James Lipton… and, according to reports, an alleged boycott of the Television Academy fronted by Scientology supporters in the name of taking the Kevin Can Wait star down. The only problem?
“They thought I was at the Emmys that Elisabeth [Moss] was at,” Remini tells EW, also noting that her victory really belongs to the contributors on the show. “They didn’t realize that I was at the Creative Arts Emmys that happens a week before [the main ceremony]. They sent out a Facebook message going: ‘Well done. We took a bite out of suppressive evil and it was the lowest-rated Emmys in history! We are winning! We’re kicking in the teeth of suppression!’ Meanwhile, it was the wrong f—ing Emmys, dumbass.”
To make matters even more awkward, Moss — who defended Scientology to a fan who drew comparisons between The Handmaid’s Tale and the controversial religion on Instagram in August — won her first Emmy at the same ceremony select parishioners stood against.
Such alleged contradictions have fueled critics of the church for decades, the exposition of which Remini continues to host on the second season of her acclaimed series — a third season of which, she says, might expand its scope to tackle Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s an act she says is vital in the fight to shift the focus onto alleged emotional and familial abuses perpetrated by the tax-exempt, billion-dollar organization she previously championed for 35 years and that high-profile celebrities like Moss, Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, and others continue to support.
“When I was in Scientology, I didn’t know I was part of an oppressive regime, either,” Remini says. “When people would ask me those questions, I’d be like, ‘You’re nuts. Do you know all the good work Scientology is doing?'”
Remini says she doesn’t want the “focus to become about Elisabeth Moss and me,” instead choosing to savor the show’s positive reception and measurable impact as Hollywood’s “acknowledgment that it can no longer pretend bad things aren’t happening [by] looking the other way… not only is Hollywood looking, but [also] people who had no connection to this cult, had no reason to care. All of it has been an amazing tidal wave of love and support.”
Still, she adds that Moss “believes” in Scientology.
“She believes Scientology is saving mankind, until she has her own epiphany,” Remini says. “Elisabeth Moss is not watching my show, she’s not watching [Alex Gibney’s documentary] Going Clear, and journalists should ask why not. [She’ll say]: ‘Well, I don’t watch anything attacking something good.’ If you haven’t seen it, how do you know it’s attacking anything? It’s attacking abusive doctrine… You read these oppressive policies [but] the picture in your mind is that people who are going after Scientology are literally the devil.”
Moss’ team did not respond to EW’s request for comment.
Remini further takes issue with journalists who are afraid to question celebrity Scientologists, citing a recent interview with Ribisi as a prime example.
“I think it’s a p—y move to ask a direct question to a Scientologist celebrity, and then follow it up with a softball question, or allow the celebrity to not answer the question… if you’re going to ask the question, have the balls to follow it up,” she says. “For example, Giovanni Ribisi went on a podcast — a podcast I’d gone on as well — and [the hosts] asked him a direct question about Scientology [controversies], and he used the [typical] Scientology answer: ‘Oh… it’s a new religion, and all new religions are persecuted.’ And these two a–holes were like, ‘Yeah, Christianity was [too].’ Are you seriously letting people get away with that bulls—t because you don’t have the balls to say, ‘Hang on a second, are you saying Scientology is only being persecuted because it’s a new religion? That’s not true.’ When the celebrity leaves, then they have all kinds of things to say about them. And that’s the stuff I call bulls—t on.”
Ribisi’s camp didn’t respond to EW’s email.
Remini additionally stresses the importance of recognizing the alleged hypocrisy of Scientology when it comes to powerful people in the entertainment world.
“They make the average Scientologists disconnect from their own [families] for [something like] going to see a psychiatrist or speaking out publicly against the abuses they’ve experienced. But, when it comes to the entertainment world, of course Elisabeth should go on [Chelsea Handler’s Netflix series] Chelsea, which promotes [The Handmaid’s Tale], which then promotes [Elisabeth’s] success, which then promotes Scientology’s success, which promotes her getting more money, which means she gives [that money] back to Scientology.”
She continues: “The hypocrisy of it is asinine and absolutely maddening. Scientology wants to equate success with Scientology… Now, they [supposedly] stand for religious tolerance and anti-hate; that’s how these celebrities are speaking on behalf of Scientology. They’re attacking me, the show, and every contributor on the show… There are a lot of Scientologist celebrities who aren’t working. Jenna Elfman gets a show, it gets canceled, or she gets a show that goes four or five or six years, but both of those things have nothing to do with Scientology. My failure and success have nothing to do with Scientology… If I didn’t win the Emmy, they would’ve pounced on it.”
The most recent episode of Aftermath explores the monetary relationship between celebrities and Scientology, while previous episodes examined the expensive nature of practicing the faith, which ex-members have claimed involves parishioners paying thousands of dollars for spiritual sessions known as auditing. Remini herself said she often received requests for substantial donations and was able to mingle with perhaps Scientology’s foremost celebrity supporter, Tom Cruise, after giving $1 million.
As for the Emmys, Remini says the boycott campaign was designed to rile up the Scientology base. “They’re talking to each other, going, ‘Look at this, we’re winning! There’s so much suppression with Aftermath, these are evil people stopping our good work. Look what we did, [we caused the] lowest-rated Emmys!'” she says. “First of all, your girl [Elisabeth] was on [the ceremony]. Your girl won… they don’t know what the f— they’re talking about.”
Remini was similarly confused by Moss’ reaction to her Emmy win, which included a profanity-filled acceptance speech (that insiders told the Hollywood Reporter could have roots in the “tone scale,” an alleged practice where Scientologists talk down to their audience) and a middle-fingers-up Instagram post.
“They all thought that was amazing because they think she’s saying f— you to the people who didn’t want her to win,” Remini says. “But nobody didn’t want her to win. Including me! She deserved it!”
Scientology and the Aftermath returns to A&E with new episodes on Oct. 10. Head here for Remini’s season 3 preview. Representatives for Scientology did not immediately respond to requests for comment; the organization has previously slammed Remini’s show in a statement last year.