Lea Michele sat down with The New York Times ahead of her opening night on Broadway playing Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” and confronted accusations of bullying made over the years by her former “Glee” cast members. Samantha Marie Ware came forward in 2020 to accuse Michele of making “traumatic microaggressions” against her on the set of the Fox musical comedy. Ware said Michele threatened to get her fired, among other forms of bullying. “Glee” star Heather Morris supported Ware, writing on Twitter that Michele “should be called out” given “the disrespect” with which she treated others “for as long as she did.”
“I knew from day one when I attempted to introduce myself. There was nothing gradual about it. As soon as she decided that she didn’t like me, it was very evident,” Ware told Variety in a 2020 interview. “It was after I did my first performance, that’s when it started — the silent treatment, the stare-downs, the looks, the comments under her breath, the weird passive aggressiveness. It all built up.”
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Michele told The Times that the allegations of bullying against her prompted an “intense time of reflection” about her conduct at work. The actor traced a line from her set behavior to her early days as a child star on Broadway, where perfectionism was drilled into her.
“I have an edge to me. I work really hard. I leave no room for mistakes,” Michele said. “That level of perfectionism, or that pressure of perfectionism, left me with a lot of blind spots.”
The bullying accusations cost Michele her spokesperson gig with HelloFresh, which said it “does not condone racism nor discrimination of any kind.” According to the actor, being able to reflect on her conduct following the accusations equipped her to take on a leading Broadway role in “Funny Guy.”
“I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader,” she said. “It means not only going and doing a good job when the camera’s rolling, but also when it’s not. And that wasn’t always the most important thing for me.”
Michele declined to speak further about Ware’s accusations, adding that she does not “feel the need to handle things” through the media. One media topic Michele did address, however, is the ongoing social media rumor claiming she can’t read or write.
The rumor first gained traction after “Glee” star Naya Rivera wrote in her memoir that Michele refused to improvise during a scene. “One More Thing” podcast hosts Jaye Hunt and Robert Ackerman joked that Michele must not be able to read since she never commented on Rivera’s story. Social media picked up the joke and turned it into meme fodder, the circulation of which continues.
“I went to ‘Glee’ every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” Michele said. “And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. It really is. I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case.”
Head over to The New York Times’ website to read Michele’s latest profile in its entirety.
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