It's been an "eye-opening" few years for Lea Michele. Recently, the "Glee" actor and current Broadway star has faced criticism from her former castmates, with accusations ranging from on-set bullying to blatant racism. Now, in a 7 Feb. discussion with Interview, Michele is sharing how she's handled the feedback. "I think these past two years have been so important for everybody to just sit back and reflect," she said. "I did a lot of personal reach-outs. But the most important thing was for everybody to just take a step back."
Around the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Samantha Ware became one of the first people to speak out about Michele's alleged behaviour. Having worked alongside her on "Glee," Ware said in a now-deleted tweet that Michele made her first television role "a living hell." Ware went on to list "traumatic microaggressions," claiming that Michele threatened to "sh*t in my wig," although Michele herself said via an Instagram post she did not recall ever making "this specific statement." Other Black actors of the "Glee" cast, including Amber Riley and Alex Newell, voiced their support of Ware, with Riley later telling Ziwe in a December 2022 interview that Michele "would probably say she doesn't see race."
According to Michele, she is genuinely interested in repairing these relationships. "At the end of the day, what matters the most is how you make people feel. And you have to put aside your feelings," she told Interview. "The conversations that I've had behind the scenes with some people were incredibly healing and very eye-opening for me. I've been doing this for a really long time and I'm not going to ever blame anything on the things that I've been through in my life. But you also can't ignore those experiences or deny them. They are a part of the patchwork of my life."
"At the end of the day, what matters the most is how you make people feel."
In a September 2022 interview with The New York Times, Michele also admitted that her behind-the-scenes behaviour wasn't always a priority for her. "I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader," she explained. "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."
Having taken time to reflect, Michele said she hopes to let her actions speak for themselves. "More than anything, I'm so grateful to have this opportunity to apply the things that I've learned over the past ten-plus years in a positive way," she said.
"What I told myself stepping into 'Funny Girl' was, 'If I can't take my role as a leader offstage as important as my role as a leader onstage, then I shouldn't do this show.' Because that was always a struggle for me," she said. "So to have this opportunity now at 36 years old as a wife and a mother — to step into this job that comes with so much pressure and a huge amount of responsibility — was a very, very big achievement for me."