There aren’t many people like Leah Remini out there. Aside from being a TV star and having one of the biggest personalities in Hollywood, Remini is best known these days for having spent most of her adult life and career as a staunch member of one of the world’s most controversial groups: the Church of Scientology. After a midlife change of heart, Remini left the Church a few years back. Here are 41 rebellious facts about Leah Remini.
1. Good Catholic Girl
Despite her association with the Church of Scientology, Leah Remini was actually raised Roman Catholic.
2. Fame Comes Quick
Remini played Charlie Briscoe on TV sitcom sensation Who's the Boss; it was one of her earliest roles, and led to the spinoff Living Dolls with Halle Berry. However, this spinoff was short-lived, and lasted only 12 episodes before it met the chopping block.
3. Early Start
Remini was only nine years old when she was first indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology. Her mother became heavily involved in the Church after meeting Remini's stepfather, who was already a member. By the time Remini was a teenager, the family had moved out to Los Angeles to be closer to Scientology's epicenter.
4. School Days
Shortly after the family move to Los Angeles, Remini dropped out of school to focus on her acting career.
5. I’ll Be There For You
Remini actually auditioned for the role of Monica on the classic show Friends, but lost out to Courteney Cox in the end. She did, however, still get to make a guest appearance on the show. What could have been!
6. Bright Lights, Big City
Remini gained early fame for her role as Carrie Heffernan on King of Queens, acting opposite Kevin James on the hit sitcom. She would then go on to a feature film role in the comedy classic Old School.
7. This Is No Joke
Throughout her time in the Church, Remini was asked to convert many of her friends and family. One of her most high profile attempts was comedian Chelsea Handler, but Handler refused all of her advances. When Remini also asked Handler to stop making jokes about the Church, she was similarly rebuffed. Nonetheless, the two women are friends today.
8. The Silence
Since the end of the first season of her former morning show, The Talk, Remini has been in a feud with none other than Sharon Osbourne, wife of Black Sabbath’s legendary Ozzy. After getting fired from the show, Remini alleged that Sharon had too much influence on the production, and that she was responsible for her firing. Osbourne, on the other hand, denies this account.
When in Scientology, Remini did sincerely believe in its teachings and took them very seriously. Because of this, she once wrote up a report against the Church’s most prominent member, actor Tom Cruise, claiming that his widely-publicized antics during an appearance on Oprah did not live up to the high standards of the Church’s policies. It backfired on her, however: she claims members defended Cruise and forced her to move to Florida and submit to disciplinary auditing for speaking out against the actor.
10. Friends in High Places
For many years, Remini has been best friends with legendary diva Jennifer Lopez. Aside from appearing together on talk shows frequently, the two of them also played best friends on the big screen together in 2018, starring in the film Second Act. Is it at least partially based on their real-life relationship? I like to think so...
11. In It for the Long Haul
In her memoir Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Society, Remini claims that as committed Scientology members, she and her sister were forced to sign billion year contracts with the Church. That's right, billion year contracts.
In the Scientology documentary she was a part of, and in other interviews, she also revealed other surprising Church secrets, such as the fact that children are seen "As old spirits in little bodies who have returned to Scientology... children are treated as adults."
She also revealed that Tom Cruise is seen as the Messiah of Scientology in many ways. She writes, "To the Church, yes. Parishioners believe that [Tom Cruise] is singlehandedly changing the planet because that is what the "Church" is telling them."
12. Thin Skin
Ever since her documentary series came out, Remini says that she constantly gets calls from people with tragic personal stories who don’t know where else to turn. Even though she has heard countless such stories by now, she still gets emotional every time she hears a new one for the first time.
13. Hit and Run
Sadly, Remini's stepfather, who got her into Scientology, ended up divorcing her mother just a short time after they were married, and left the family.
14. Double Header
In 2016, Remini reunited with her King of Queens co-star Kevin James for Kevin Can Wait, but the series was cancelled after two seasons.
15. So Close
Remini's only daughter, Sofia, was born the day after her 34th birthday. This means that her family gets two straight days of non-stop celebration every year from now on, not to mention what an awesome birthday present it must have been when Sofia was born.
16. Her Kryptonite
Despite comedy being her profession, Remini says that it's extremely easy to make her laugh, and that she struggles to hold back laughter when she hears anything even mildly funny. She says if something is very funny, she might actually cry or even pee her pants. How did this affect her ability to film a comedy show, you ask? Let’s just say many scenes had to be reshot multiple times before being worthy of airing.
17. Prisoner of Love
Remini’s biological and once-estranged father, George Remini, was not such a positive role model in her early life. He got into some bad habits, and ended up serving prison time in Rikers Island.
18. Better Late Than Never
Despite never having been nominated for a single Emmy award in the entire run of King of Queens, it only took Remini one season of her Scientology documentary to become nominated for not just one, but two of the prestigious honors in 2017.
19. Family Ties
One of the harshest policies that Scientology enforces is “disconnection,” which insists that followers cannot have any contact with anybody who has left the Church—including their own family members. However, Remini's entire family left the Church along with her when they found out she was leaving. Many other ex-members have not been so fortunate, and struggle to this day with missing their loved ones.
20. Work-Life Balance
J-Lo and Chelsea Handler weren't the only celebrities Remini was tasked with trying to recruit. She was often harangued by her Church superiors for not doing enough to try to convert Kevin James and her other King of Queens co-stars during the years she spent on the show. Who knew that this was going on behind the scenes while we were all enjoying the sitcom’s run!
21. All Relative
Remini's husband is the low-profile Puerto Rican singer Angelo Pagan. He starred alongside his wife in their reality show Leah Remini: It's All Relative.
22. In the Food for Love
Angelo and Leah first met in a Cuban restaurant in 1996, and they've been married since 2003. In Hollywood years, this is like a century.
23. I've Got a Confession
That said, every couple has their problems, and in her memoir Troublemaker, Remini confessed, “My husband is a serial cheater." Whatever their issues, the two still seem to be going strong, and Pagan often writes and speaks words of support for his wife.
24. Cash Flow
Over the course of her lifetime, Remini says that the various fees and donations she has paid in order to participate in Scientology totaled a whopping $5 million! Talk about buyer’s remorse.
25. Before Things Changed
Remini's mother is of Austrian-Jewish descent, while her father is Sicilian. A true New Yorker, Remini was Brooklyn-born and raised.
26. Labor of Love
If you thought Doug and Carrie seemed pretty convincing when arguing on King of Queens, it could be because Remini and Kevin James would often argue off camera too, especially on the set of the show. However, Remini insists that the arguments came solely from a place of love for one another, and that their only goal was trying to make the right decisions for the sake of the show.
27. No Baby on Board
You might have noticed that until the finale, the King of Queens producers kept Doug and Carrie away from even the possibility of having kids. Producer David Bickel explained, "The studio felt that if you have a big thing happen to the Heffernan family then it kind of dates the old shows as 'pre-baby' and the new shows as 'post-baby' and it kind of hurts syndication a little bit."
28. Double Dates
While Jennifer Lopez was still with Marc Anthony, Remini and her husband Angelo Pagan were good friends with the couple, which makes sense, since they were both actor-singer duos. J-Lo and Anthony were even invited to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's wedding, though Remini says it was the Church who invited them.
29. Remini to the Rescue
Those who like to just mind their own business may not get along too well with Leah. Remini has described her personality as “always involved,” and says that she goes out of her way to influence situations where she feels that someone is in need, no matter who it is or what kind of problem they’re facing.
30. Clean Cut
Despite her tough personality, Remini has always tried to be somewhat of a goody two-shoes in her actions. She only drinks on rare occasions, and admitted in an interview that she has never tried an illegal substance of any kind.
31. If at First You Don’t Succeed...
Like many actors, Remini’s success only came after a long string of failures and near misses. She spent more than a decade playing minor, inconsistent roles on various shows before eventually landing her big break on King of Queens.
32. Being the Bigger Person
After many years apart from her troubled biological dad, Remini finally patched things up with him in front of the whole world on her reality show It’s All Relative. What made her decide to reignite their relationship after so much time? It was the desire to see her daughter have a connection with her grandfather that made Remini willing to suspend her apprehensions and see beyond her difficult past.
33. Number One Grandma
Remini has cited her grandmother as the main reason she still has a positive relationship with religion as a whole. She recalls the effect that performing Catholic rituals with her grandma as a child had on her, and is now trying to create a similarly warm and meaningful environment for her own family.
34. Childish Rules
Since being blacklisted as an enemy of the Church, believers are no longer permitted to associate with Remini. This means that many of her lifelong friendships no longer exist. Of all the people she has lost contact with as a result of this ordeal, she says the one she misses the most is her goddaughter.
35. What Now?
Often, cult survivors have a hard time finding a healthy relationship with religion. Many of these folks were initially drawn to their groups because they are spiritual people by nature, yet dealing with a religious environment in the aftermath of their experiences can be very emotionally difficult. In Remini’s case, however, she has found that returning to her Catholic roots has been a positive way of coping with the loss of her former belief system.
36. Silence Isn’t Always Golden
As devout as Remini was during the prime of her days as a Scientologist, there were still moments when even she bent the rules a bit. For example, when it was time for her to give birth to her daughter, Remini did it the conventional medical way rather than following the Church’s ritual of a "silent birth," where the baby is born in almost complete silence.
37. Times Have Changed
Although she has very harsh words for Scientology today, Remini felt very differently about these issues during her days in the Church. She even once appeared on CNN to defend her religion from some of the very criticisms she now makes of it, stating that, “If somebody is going to get turned off about something because of what they read or heard, then that person's not smart enough to even enter a church. If you're really against something, then know what you're against.”
Jennifer Lopez's father is actually a long-time member of Scientology. As Remini put it, "[Lopez's] father is a very indoctrinated Scientologist, and has been for quite a long time. He's achieved the confidential levels of Scientology." However, J-Lo remains unaffiliated with the Church, and identifies as Catholic.
39. Till Absence Do Us Part
Remini traces her doubt in the Church back to one moment. At the highly-publicized wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Remini noticed that Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was conspicuously missing from the ceremony. When she asked about Shelly's absence, Remini claims she received “an unbelievable torrent of attack” in response, and misgivings started to swirl in her mind; she would soon file a missing persons report for Shelly, though the Los Angeles Police Department says the report was unfounded. Whatever the truth, Shelly has not been seen in public in over a decade.
40. I'm a Big Kid Now
In Troublemaker, Remini revealed some of Tom Cruise's strange behaviors behind closed doors. She called him “a big kid with his loud laugh, high energy and goofy ideas of fun," like when he invited Remini and some other celebrities over, bizarrely, to play a game of hide and seek. But his jovial energy was also incredibly volatile: he once berated his staff because they ruined his plans to bake cookies, saying, "'LRH [Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard] is here,' holding his hand over his head; 'Dave [Miscavige] and I are here,' placing his hand at chin level, and then with his hand down at his waist he said, 'you are here.'" Ouch, Tom, ouch.
41. No Regrets
Despite all that she has been through, Remini still says that she doesn't regret becoming involved in Scientology, and that she definitely feels like she learned from the experience. She is now at peace with the fact that it happened and takes solace in sharing her story and helping others avoid the same trauma she went through.