Leah Remini has been “making trouble” for the Church of Scientology since she left the controversial religion in 2013. The former “King of Queens” star outwardly slammed the church before releasing her memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, in November 2015, in which she dropped bombshell allegations against high-ranking officials and celebrity members alike.
After telling her own story, the actress still isn’t done speaking out. She’s back with an eight-part docuseries on A&E called “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which gives a voice to those like her who want the world to know why they no longer call themselves Scientologists.
Not that the church wants anyone to hear those voices. The church’s opposition to the show is strongly felt via the multiple disclaimers that appear throughout the first episode, disputing many of the statements made by former members. The opposition is one thing, but the way the Church of Scientology expresses its fervent displeasure sets it apart from other religions.
A preview for the series features Remini reading a letter penned by church spokeswoman Karin Pouw that includes personal and petty jabs at Remini’s celebrity status and the state of her career. “A program about our religion, hosted by Miss. Remini is doomed to be a cheap reality show by a has-been actress now a decade removed from the peak of her career,” the letter reads. “Miss. Remini is a bitter ex-Scientologist she needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion, her former friends and other celebrities for money.”
The premiere episode, debuting Tuesday, recalls Remini’s own story of growing up in the church, explaining that the “promise of Scientology is that you will reach your full potential in all areas of your life ... Not only are you fixing yourself, but you’re also helping mankind.”
It’s an attractive promise, and for years Remini was an active member who publicly promoted the church, this is, until she attended Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ wedding in 2006. By all accounts, including Remini’s, Cruise and Holmes’ nuptials were “a big deal” and heralded as “the wedding of the century” for the church. That’s why it struck her odd that Shelly Miscavige, the wife of church leader David Miscavige, wasn’t in attendance. She found it even stranger that she was told she shouldn’t be asking about Shelly’s whereabouts. That incident prompted Remini to start questioning the church and researching allegations of abuse from former members, before finally leaving in 2013.
Remini expected that she’d be able to move on after she wrote her memoir, but said the response from others who had also left the church was overwhelming. Those who’ve seen Alex Gibney’s “Going Clear” or Louis Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie” will be more than familiar with the onslaught of allegations of physical and sexual abuse and fraud against the church (all of which the organization denies). “Aftermath” invites viewers to hear more of those allegations from people the Church of Scientology now call “heretics.” What’s more, there’s no shortage of them.
“We’re hearing the same story over and over again,” Remini says in a teaser for future episodes. Under normal circumstances, the same story over eight episodes would make for a tedious and boring show, but “Aftermath” is telling a horror story, and the repetition is powerful.
“Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST on A&E.