Leah Remini is calling it a day on Scientology and the Aftermath. The actress and activist, who's been an outspoken critic of the deeply controversial organization since her own exit in 2013, has decided to wrap A&E's Emmy-winning docuseries after three seasons.
Scientology and the Aftermath's final episode, a two-hour special filmed in front of a live studio audience of former members, will focus on testimonials alleging that Scientology policies have hindered members from reporting instances of sexual assault and physical violence to the authorities. It is set to air Monday, Aug. 26.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the accusations of rape against actor and Scientologist Danny Masterson will be included in the two-hour special, as will footage of interviews with two of the women who've accused him. This is the widely reported segment that producers were working on earlier in the year, though Masterson is not said to be the focus of the finale. (Masterson has denied any wrongdoing, calling it "beyond ridiculous," and has not been charged with a crime — but, on late Wednesday, four women filed a lawsuit against him and Scientology alleging stalking and a conspiracy to cover up the alleged assaults.)
Over the course of 36 episodes, Remini and fellow Scientology defector Mike Rinder have confronted the the rampant allegations of condoned and often sanctioned abuse and harassment in Scientology. Speaking with THR on Wednesday — see the edited Q&A below — Remini said that meddling from the organization had become problematic and she now intends to prevent further abuses via a new, yet-to-be-announced effort. "They can believe whatever the fuck they want," says Remini. "But they can’t just do whatever the fuck they want."
Scientology and the Aftermath, again Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Informational Series or Special, was produced by The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) and Remini's No Seriously Productions. “Leah, Mike and all the contributors who have courageously shared their stories with us over the past 36 episodes exemplify A&E’s mission to be a home for brave storytellers to share their truths no matter the obstacles,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, A&E Network executive vp and head of programming. “We can’t thank Leah and the team at IPC enough for creating this groundbreaking series.”
The finale includes a number of ex-Scientologists sharing stories of abuse allegedly at the hands of other Scientologists as well as a panel of legal, psychological and law-enforcement experts to advise the former Scientologists on how to both seek justice and effect change.
Remini, who does not have final edit on the show, also spoke to THR about how she wanted to handle the Masterson segment — including her belief in a Los Angeles District Attorney's office cover-up — and why she thinks the writing is finally on the wall for the Scientology.
Tell me about the decision to end the show.
We’re exposing so much, but we need to do some other things to bring the fight to a different level. We did not plan on more than a season or two. I always thought it would be six or eight episodes and that would be enough for the FBI, local police and the IRS to start doing something about it — or at the very least revoke their tax exemptions. People kept telling us more stories, and we had to tell them, but there’s only so much you can do in this forum and in this way.
Do you feel Scientology has taken a hit since you started?
Oh, they’re definitely challenged, as evidenced by their hate websites and picketing A&E and Disney. The things they’re doing are right up their alley. They’re feeling it. I mean, who wants to let go of $3 billion? But their time is up — in terms of what they’ve gotten away with for five decades.
You spoke earlier this year about Scientology meddling in the show. What effect does that have on production?
In television, you have advertisers. When you have employees of Scientology writing 444 letters by seven people, it’s not like whoever advertises on our show is going to take the time to go, “Hey, this is the same person and they work for the Office of Special Affairs at Scientology.” That department has policies that say “Destroy them utterly or at the very least cost them their job.” I’m quoting the policy. They did this with Richard Behar and Time magazine. They spent $25 million trying to destroy him and the magazine. They did the same with Going Clear. Advertisers are not sitting there going, “Are these real religious people? Is this religious bigotry?” They don’t want any of this bullshit nonsense. They don’t want to be known as bigots. So their first instinct is to say, “Look, we know this is a crazy organization, but we don’t want any part of that.” They want advertisers to say that. It’s all a charade. I mean, what person wants that in front of their office building?
What made you decide to focus the final episode on accusations of sexual assault and physical abuse within Scientology?
| don’t know ultimately what they’re going to air — which is part of the issue when you’re not 100 percent in charge of your own show — but I can tell you what the intention was. I don’t remember the number of people in the audience, but they were all ex-Sea Org members. When I asked, “How many of you had a sexual crime committed against you in Scientology or SeaOrg or know of somebody who was molested or raped,” every single person raised their hand. That’s just the 75 or so people who were in the audience. One girl stood up told me she knows of 11 people who committed suicide in the Sea Org. Most people are blessed enough to not know any in their life. To raise your hand and say, “11,” it shows you what kind of organization we’re dealing with and how they obstruct justice. The work’s not done — whether it’s with A&E or another outlet, we’re not going to stop working.
There still haven’t been any charges filed against Danny Masterson. How did you want to address the allegations of rape against him?
We filmed with three [alleged] victims. The [alleged] victims were concerned and felt hurt and betrayed by [the delay in airing], and I understand that. They also feel hurt and betrayed by the [Los Angeles] District Attorney. I wanted to open up the whole thing. If it was any other organization but Scientology, the D.A. would at least be investigating. I’ve heard nothing.
How has your experience making the show affected your own recovery from three decades as a member?
I don’t know that it’s helped my recovery. Most people, when they get out of an abusive relationship, hopefully start doing the work to heal. I just haven’t been able to do that. It’s opened up a can of worms for me. I didn’t know, as a parishioner, that these things were going on. Obviously I understood the policies of Scientology, because we all read the same things, but you don’t truly understand what’s going on. You see me, I’m shocked in these episodes. You’re not allowed to talk to each other in a way that people can talk to each other in the free world — and I say that because it’s like a prison. You’re not allowed to tell someone you were molested or raped in Scientology. You’ll get a report written on you internally. You get in trouble. There’s not that free communication among parishioners.
But there’s an awareness in other circles?
The church certainly knows that there are rapes, molestations and physical abuse going on — which is why I keep saying I think the FBI would be successful if they conducted a raid, as they did in 1977. Every crime that Scientology has ever committed or hidden is contained in their folders. I don’t know that I’ve begun the healing process. When Scientology’s tax exempt status is revoked and people are in prison, that’s when I’ll start healing. Until then, I’m still in the fight.
Where do you want to focus that fight?
We’re going down another avenue that we feel will bring real justice to victims of Scientology but also prevent it from happening in the future — particularly with children. They need a voice that their Scientology parents aren’t providing. I’m not dumb enough to give Scientology a heads up on what we’re planning exactly.
What do you think the tipping point would be for Scientology to lose its tax exempt status?
They don’t have the truth on their side. And when you don’t have the truth on your side, and you talk shit and bully more than anything, you don’t have much strength. I think people are much smarter than Scientology believes. And that’s part of the problem, the ego and believing the doctrine that they’re an elevated species. [laughs] The public knows the truth and what’s bullshit. Scientology has proven itself to be bullshit. There are lawsuits and I think they’re going to lose in the courts. They’ll have to pay for their sins. I believe that with every piece of me.
So what’s next?
More than telling another story, I want to focus on protecting its future victims. We’ve done our job. The public is seeing what a truly evil organization it is. It’s not about religious beliefs. They can believe whatever the fuck they want. But they can’t just do whatever the fuck they want — because that’s what they’ve been doing.