Leah Remini never imagined her Emmy-winning docuseries lasting “more than a season.” She exceeded her expectations, but after three years, 36 episodes, and one Emmy, Scientology and the Aftermath is coming to an end.
“In this current format, we aren’t able to do anything but make the public aware of what’s really going on, and we’ve done that. We need to move on to the second level,” Remini tells EW of wrapping the program, which is a comprehensively detailed takedown alleging abuses by her former religion (all of which the church has called “false” and vigorously denied).
Aftermath will conclude with Remini and former high-ranking church official Mike Rinder‘s two-hour special filmed in front of a live studio audience. The finale focuses on the recent lawsuit filed by four women against actor Danny Masterson and the Church of Scientology. The women claim that the actor and agents of the organization stalked and intimidated them after they accused the former Ranch star of sexual assault (representatives for Masterson did not respond to EW’s request for comment on this story, though the actor has previously denied both the harassment and assault claims. A lawyer for the Church of Scientology tells EW the suit is “baseless” and a “dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt,” that Remini’s show “is full of lies, distortions, and exhortations generating hate and bigotry” and that any further allegations she makes are “absolutely untrue, part of her paranoia, and unworthy of further comment.”)
Here Remini provides a candid interview about Aftermath’s finale (airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET on A&E), which she says is only the beginning of her mission against the church.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel about Scientology and the Aftermath ending?
LEAH REMINI: I don’t want to give anybody the idea this is the end. I never saw it as a program that would need more than a season. When more people came forward, we felt compelled to tell those stories…. Scientology’s response to their speaking out compelled us to continue the series— also because no action was being taken on the federal level or even by the local police departments. There’s only so much we can do on the channel that we’re on.
Mike Rinder’s statement on the show’s end claims there are restrictions to sponsored television. So, was this more of a network decision than your decision?
Without A&E, Disney, and our production partner, The ICP, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done already. We wouldn’t have been able to come this far. People have changed their minds about Scientology being innocuous to seeing what’s truly going on, and how harmful, damaging, and evil it truly is. For that, I will be forever grateful. (“Leah, Mike and all the contributors who have courageously shared their stories with us over the past 30 episodes exemplify A&E’s mission to be a home for brave storytellers to share their truths no matter the obstacles,” A&E’s EVP and head of programming, Elaine Frontain Bryant, said in a press statement. “We can’t thank Leah and the team at IPC enough for creating this groundbreaking series.”)
Do you see the show coming back in different iterations? Maybe one-off specials?
Who knows if we’re going to do specials in the future with A&E. I don’t know! I’m always keeping that door open. I don’t want to disrespect the contributors and the work we did with A&E, ICP, and Disney. But, Scientology has a policy and directive under their Office of Special Affairs, which is the office that Mike formerly ran. It’s the office of dirty tricks. Under the banner of directives that aren’t broadly distributed — they’re online, people can get them — they have policies that call for the utter destruction of someone speaking out against Scientology.
That’s Scientology’s Fair Game policy, which the church says it has abandoned, right? Are you suggesting Scientology’s Fair Game policies played a role in the show’s end?
This isn’t the end, it’s the beginning…. the Fair Game directives say you can certainly cost [someone] their job. In short, the policy says find out what the person seeks to protect…. That usually starts with family. So, they take away a person’s family. Then, if that doesn’t work, go after their job. Now, enter the STAND League, which [I assert] is a front group for Scientology pretending to be an organization protecting the religious beliefs of others. [The STAND League has] written 444 letters to our advertisers. I’ve done the math; there are about seven people writing those letters, all Scientologists working for the STAND League. If you’re an advertiser, wherever you are, receiving 20-30 letters a week saying this show is hateful… they’ve accused me of inciting murder, and the New York Post ran with that headline, so did TMZ, and they can both kiss my fat ass for doing so. You can quote me on that. But, anyone forwarding Scientology’s bulls— is complicit to me. (A source close to the show tells EW that outside pressure from the church did not play a part in the decision to end the show, while an attorney for the church says Fair Game is not in action, and “exists only as a mantra used by anti-Scientologists to generate hate and bigotry against the Church and its members”).
Why end Aftermath with an episode focusing on the Danny Masterson allegations?
When it comes to Scientology, people are scared to go up against because they understand this is a sinister cult that’s vindictive and evil, and they will come after you and victims. Look at Kirstie Alley’s statement. I don’t know if she’s talking about me. [Remini reads the tweet below.] To say what she said is just more evidence of the mentality of a Scientologist.
This is what Scientology teaches: This vitriol to attack viciously those women who’ve courageously come forward and are saying we’ve been victimized and want their day in court.
To answer your question from the beginning, our hands are somewhat tied in this format. It’s hard for Mike and I to sit back and not be active. I can’t sit around and listen to somebody tell me they were molested and raped or physically abused, mentally abused, another mother and father telling me their children believe they can’t be connected to them, another daughter whose parents won’t talk to them because their parents believe they’re saving the planet. I can’t do this work without truly doing something about it. In this current format, we aren’t able to do anything but make the public aware of what’s really going on, and we’ve done that. So, now we need to move on to the second level.
I sensed you felt that way when it was reported that the Danny Masterson episode from season 3 was shelved. Will portions from that episode appear in this special?
We’ve talked to all of [the women in the lawsuit], but only two felt comfortable coming forward at this time. [They allege] they’re being Fair Game-ed relentlessly. Things are going on at their homes. They’re all mothers, so it’s concerning. You have people showing up to your home, on your property, and you’re going to the police and saying this is happening and I’m being harassed…. I understand what that takes to keep your composure, to not be scared, to not feel violated, but Scientology knows how to f—k with people and their mind. They know how to scare people into silence. That’s their purpose: to scare people into not speaking. These are women who are not willing to [be paid off]… I think they deserve their day in court. They deserve to be heard. Hopefully, a jury will decide. I stand by them and I stand by all Scientology victims who are willing to come forward.
So, what’s the next step? Are you working on another project like Aftermath?
We are working on something, Mike and I. Our audience is as enraged as we are. They want to see this cult stopped. We don’t have $3 billion at our disposal to have a knockout punch so quickly, but we’re hoping this next phase we will be more active in taking action…. Their little celebration party will be short-lived, I can tell you that.