Consider 2015 the year that Leah Remini audited Scientology right back.
The actress’ raison d’etre for awhile now has been to lift the veil on the controversial and infamously secretive Church of Scientology, which counts among its members a host of celebrities, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Beck.
After a couple of years of speaking out about her own experience, it seemed as though Remini’s mission was reaching its peak with the release of her 2015 memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, about what she believed to be Scientology’s manipulative ways and its harassment of ex-members who ultimately rejected the church’s teachings, herself included.
But it turned out that Remini was just getting started.
A year after her book earned her the widespread scorn of the church (two years after her leaving had already made her persona non grata), her journey continues to play out on the A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, which premiered last night.
And just as Remini surely anticipated, the church hasn’t eased up on its portrayal of the actress as a has-been desperately using Scientology to stay relevant.
So have unfolded the ups and downs that Remini has faced since her book was published a year ago:
Remini first opened up about leaving Scientology after more than 30 years around the time she competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2013. In the TLC series Leah Remini: It’s All Relative, which lasted for two seasons, she continued to expound upon her decision to leave the church and the repercussions she faced.
And then came the book in which she claimed, among other things, that Kirstie Alley–who had publicly bashed Remini in 2013 as a “bigot” for criticizing what was still Alley’s faith—gave her former DWTS partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy the cold shoulder after finding out he had been socializing with Remini during her time on the show.
“She needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion, her former friends and other celebrities for money and attention to appear relevant again,” the church said in a lengthy statement in response to the book.
Moreover, “when her firing from The Talk erupted into a public embarrassment for her in 2012, we tried to help pick her up off the floor. But she treated everyone around her in a degrading, bullying manner. Her behavior was intolerable.
“Leah Remini knows the truth she conveniently rewrites in her revisionist history. The real story is that she desperately tried to remain a Scientologist in 2013, knowing full well she was on the verge of being expelled for refusing to abide by the high level of ethics and decency Scientologists are expected to maintain. Her repeated ethical lapses and callous treatment of others led to an ecclesiastical review which resulted in her being expelled.”
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Tom Cruise, who inevitably factors into a high-profile conversation about Scientology whenever there is one, never publicly responded to any of Remini’s reminiscences about his status within the church or her experiences being around him and his then-partner Katie Holmes.
A source claimed to Us Weekly, however, that Cruise considered Remini’s memoir and her equally explosive press tour a “major betrayal.”
Holmes, meanwhile, said in a statement,” I regret having upset Leah in the past and I wish her only the best in the future.”
Buoyed by the inherent drama in her own story, as well as mass interest stirred earlier in the year by the much-discussed HBO documentary Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright‘s book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, Remini’s memoir hit No. 3 on the hard-cover non-fiction sales chart in its first week out.
Once her book tour was over, Remini carried on with her day to day business of being a working actress, filling in for Erin Andrews as guest co-host on Dancing With the Stars, appearing as a panelist on Match Game and shooting a few movies, including the upcoming comedy The Clapper with Amanda Seyfried, Adam Levine and Tracy Morgan. She also shared a pic of herself on the set of the Crackle-bound movie Mad Families with co-star Naya Rivera.
Remini and husband Angelo Pagán also celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary in July, and their daughter, Sofia, turned 12 in June. Leah and Sofia went to Universal Studios earlier this fall and the whole family did a Disneyland trip a couple weeks ago.
But as it turned out, for most of the year Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath was in the works at A&E. News of their planned collaboration didn’t break until September, on the very day Troublemaker came out in paperback.
The docu-series premiere featured clips of Remini praising her surroundings back when she was a full-fledged Scientologist in the 1990s, her words all the more striking when juxtaposed to what she would go on to say.
Throughout the show, there are numerous reminders of where to go online to read the church’s heated rebuttals to Remini’s claims.
“Leah Remini’s ‘reality’ show, like her last one, is nothing more than a scripted, rehearsed, acted and dramatized work of fiction,” begins a statement published Nov. 26 on Scientology Newsroom. “She and the other anti-Scientologists in her program have been expelled from the Church for unethical conduct.” It called those participating in Remini’s show “a cast of admitted liars” and stated that A&E’s participation “smacks of bigotry.”
So Remini is once again on a whirlwind promotional tour, much like last year, sitting down with Ellen, Dr. Oz, Today, E! News, The Hollywood Reporter and more in her continued endeavor to speak her truth.
She told us that the two most famous Scientologists around, Cruise and John Travolta, won’t reach out to her, first of all, because they’re “not allowed” to reach out to her.
“They wouldn’t want to reach out to me,” she added, “because what they’ve been taught is that I mean them harm, that I am an anti-social personality that means them harm, that I literally wake up in the morning and want them to fail in life. That is the mentality.”
With seven more episodes of her show slated to air on A&E, the antagonistic back-and-forth between the two parties isn’t expected to abate any time soon, though it isn’t far-fetched to think that the church is not-so-secretly praying for Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath to be a ratings loser.
In a response to the church’s claim that she tried to extort $1.5 million from them in exchange for staying quiet, Remini told The Hollywood Reporter that any ask for money on her part “was a response to the horrific and libelous letters that they sent me. They were trying to stop this show from happening. They were trying to disparage my name and my reputation with 20/20 and ABC and the public at large. So that was my response to what they were doing. I actually haven’t sued them, so I’m not going to see one red cent.”
But Remini insisted to E! News that she isn’t doing the A&E show for her own benefit, financially or otherwise.
“The people who are just average people who dedicated their lives to this organization and are willing to tell me their stories, these are the brave people of the world,” she said. “With the series, they will hopefully get the acknowledgement they deserve.”