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Lea Michele Was "Nothing But a Nightmare" to Work With, Co-Stars Claim

The controversy surrounding the TV and Broadway star is resurfacing amid casting news.

It's one thing for there to be a feud or a disagreement between two celebrities—it's quite another when several actors speak out against one person. In June 2020, that's exactly what happened when Lea Michele's on-set behavior was criticized and called out by multiple co-workers from different projects that she's worked on. Michele, who is best known for starring on the TV series Glee for six seasons, was first told she made work a "living hell" for one Glee co-star in June 2020. Then, other co-stars began speaking out themselves.

Lea's last role was in the 2019 TV movie Same Time, Next Christmas, but she's recently been back in the public eye. In May, she appeared in the documentary Spring Awakening: Those You've Known, about the 2006 musical Spring Awakening, and in June she reunited with her Spring Awakening castmates at the Tony Awards. Now, it's been announced that she'll be taking on the lead role in Broadway's Funny Girl. Amid this news, Twitter users have been resurfacing the claims of Michele's notorious behavior.

Read on to find out more about the allegations of on-set and backstage bullying.

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Samantha Ware set things off.

Samantha Ware at the Fox Winter TCA 2015 All-Star Party
Jaguar PS / Shutterstock

In June 2020, Michele's Glee co-star Samantha Ware claimed that Michele made her life a "living hell" when they worked together. In response to a tweet Michele posted about the killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, Ware wrote (via Refinery29), "Remember when you made my first television gig a living hell?!?! Cause I'll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would '[expletive] in my wig!' amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood."

Michele issued a statement.

Lea Michele at the 2022 Tony Awards
lev radin / Shutterstock

After Ware posted her tweet and others began reacting to it and sharing their own stories, Michele released a statement in which she apologized for her behavior.

"While I don't remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin, that's not really the point, what matters is that I clearly acted in ways that hurt other people," she wrote. "Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused."

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Other former co-stars chimed in.

Amber Riley and Lea Michele on "Glee"
FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

After Ware spoke out, other co-stars of Michele's spoke out or let their thoughts be known by "liking" posts or sharing reaction GIFs. These included Melissa Benoist, Abigail Breslin, Dabier Snell, and Alex Newell.

Glee star Heather Morris tweeted, "Let me be very clear, hate is a disease in America that we are trying to cure, so I would never wish for hate to be spread to anyone else. With that said, was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so; for Lea to treat others with the disrespect that she did for as long as she did, I believe she SHOULD be called out."

In an interview on Real Quick with Danielle Young, Glee star Amber Riley said (via Variety), "I'm not going to say that Lea Michele is racist. That's not what I'm saying. That was the assumption because of what's going on right now in the world and it happened toward a Black person … But at the same time, in my inbox there are a lot of Black actors and actresses telling me their stories and letting me know they have dealt with the same things on set, being terrorized by the white girls that are the leads of the show."

One actor said she was a "nightmare". 

Gerard Canonico at the premiere of "Spring Awakening: Those You've Known" in April 2022
Bruce Glikas/WireImage via Getty Images

Gerard Canonico, who was also in the musical Spring Awakening, commented on Michele's Instagram apology (via Variety). "You were nothing but a nightmare to me and fellow understudy cast members. You made us feel like we didn't belong there," he wrote. "I tried for years to be nice to you to no avail. Maybe actually apologize instead of placing the blame on how others 'perceive' you. You'll probably just delete this though."

READ THIS NEXT: Actor Defends "Unacceptable Behavior" on Set: "I Have Been Canceled."

Another star took issue with Michele much earlier.

Naya Rivera at the premiere of "Judy" in 2019
Featureflash Photo Agency via Getty Images

Naya Rivera, who co-starred on Glee, expressed her feelings about Michele in her 2016 book Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up. Rivera wrote (via E! News) that when her character got a bigger storyline, Michele "didn't like sharing the spotlight" and said that "it seemed like she blamed me for anything and everything that went wrong."

"If I'd complained about anyone or anything, she'd assumed I was [expletive] about her. Soon, she started to ignore me, and eventually it got to the point where she didn't say a word to me for all of Season 6," the late actor wrote.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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