Long before she became famous teaming with Kevin James and Jerry Stiller on The King of Queens, Leah Remini was a teenager from Brooklyn who followed her mother into Scientology. After finally leaving the organization in 2013 and publishing a controversial memoir, Troublemaker, two years later, she has become a true thorn in the side of the controversial religion through the A&E documentary series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Armed with her wit and a street-tough charm, Remini describes in nine episodes her own long experience with a religion she lost faith in.
With ex-Scientology international spokesman-turned-pariah Mike Rinder as her wingman, Remini collected shocking testimony from ex-members who lost their families because of Scientology’s restrictive covenants, which ostracize members who question authority.
Former members and higher-ups in the faith’s elite Sea Org arm made startling allegations of mental and physical hardship, and chief executive David Miscavige’s own father was among those telling stories about essentially being forced to escape from a bunker-like compound to find their freedom.
A binge-watcher’s dream, the show became A&E’s highest rated series, and was renewed for a second season. While Scientology has called Remini a “spoiled, entitled diva” and accused her of discriminating against and making a living off a worthy faith, Remini has, in turn, aired every allegation against her in the series.
Our read? Remini invested 35 years of her life, including millions of dollars in donations, to become a figurehead for a religion that, at the end, left her empty and feeling betrayed. Enough that she is hell-bent on delivering her side of the story to the widest possible audience in the hopes others will not repeat what she and many ex-Scientologists consider the worst mistake of their lives.
“This is not about religious beliefs,” she says. “This is about a doctrine that calls to destroy people’s lives once they speak out.”
* The Church of Scientology disputes this accusation, and insists its statements about Remini “began only after she launched an incendiary campaign of hate and bigotry for profit”.