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My worst moment: Leah Remini and laughing through a bad audition for Norman Lear

By NINI METZ • Nov 28, 2018 at 1:00 PM

The Emmy-winning A&E docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” is back for a third season and according to Remini: “We’re really focused this year on presenting our case to hopefully the FBI and local police departments and the IRS as to why this is an organization that needs to be looked into, certainly to have their tax-exempt status revoked.”

Three seasons in, “It’s been a lot,” she said. “It’s been exhausting. It’s been disheartening. It’s been heartbreaking … And so you see in Season 3 I’m a little more exhausted, a little bit more irritated, a little bit more in your face.”

Remini also co-stars in the upcoming romantic comedy “Second Act” with longtime pal Jennifer Lopez. “It’s a really cute movie. It’s uplifting and it’s about friendship and love and believing in yourself and going up against the obstacles that are put in front of you,” Remini said.

“It was a lot of improv so it’s our real friendship on screen. Working with your friends could not be great because you know each other so well, but that wasn’t the case here, it was really fun. With a perfect stranger you’re very cordial, you’re on time — but with your best friend, you’re like: ‘Yeah, shuddup.’ So we’d be like: ‘Yeah, you could do that better.’ Or: ‘No, that wasn’t great.’ We were probably harder on each other because we know we could talk to each other like that.”

When asked to share a worst moment from her career, Remini’s response:

“OK, so listen: This is probably gonna be a little bit different because it’s not easy to embarrass me. And part of the ridiculousness of Leah is that I should be embarrassed — and I’m not.”

MY WORST MOMENT …

“Oh geez, we’re going back. It was probably right after ‘King of Queens.’ One of my heroes — Norman Lear — was holding auditions for a new television show. And when I heard ‘Norman Lear’ from my agent, I was like: ‘I don’t care what it is, I’m going in. He’s my hero.’ I don’t remember what show it was, I don’t think it got picked up. The role was a secretary who was very offbeat and quirky.

“It was a very early audition and I’m not the best person in the morning without coffee. I’m running late. I get to the studio where Norman Lear is, I get the sides — which is the portion of the script that you have to read for the audition — I go in, I’m a little nervous but I read the part and I’m thinking: ‘I’m amazing!’ I’m thinking that Norman Lear is going to get me, as a person.

“So, I finish the read and he looks over his glasses and he goes, ‘What the F is wrong with you?’

“I go, ‘What do you mean?’

“‘That was horrendous,’ he said. ‘Do you need to leave the room and come back? I don’t understand how you could be so funny’ — let me back up, because before the actual read, we were just talking and (goofing around) and he was laughing at everything I was saying, so I was like: Oh my God, I’ve got this. This is a done deal. But then he had me read. (laughs)

“And he goes, ‘How could you be so funny in real life and suck at reading these sides like you just did?’

“I almost peed in my pants from laughing so hard. I don’t know why it made me laugh! I love brutal honesty. Now, not brutal honesty where it’s meant to hurt you, there’s a big difference to me. Like saying, ‘Hey, you look fat in that’ — that’s not brutal honesty, that’s just being cruel to someone. But him, Norman Lear, saying that I was so horrendous — I’m laughing on the floor, I’m trying to catch my breath and he’s like, ‘And look what you’re doing now, you’re just a mess.’ Which was making me laugh even more.

“He was like, ‘Pull yourself up off floor, stop laughing” — and now he’s laughing. (laughs) And now I’m laughing because he’s laughing. And he goes, ‘Can you read this again? Because it was so bad.’

“And I get off the floor and I’m wiping the makeup off my face because I literally have tears coming down my face. And he goes, ‘Come on, stop now. Stop with all this nonsense. Go get some coffee!’ And I’m still laughing — (laughs) I can’t even stop laughing to tell you this story! So he goes, ‘Go and get yourself some coffee and pull yourself together and then come back in.’ And I go, ‘OK, great, Norman Lear!’ (laughs) For some reason I kept calling him ‘Norman Lear’ as opposed to just ‘Mr. Lear’ or ‘Norman’ — I had to say the whole thing.

“So I leave, I go get coffee at the commissary. And there’s other girls auditioning for this, so I gotta wait. I go back in an hour later and I read my sides again and I go, ‘Was that any better?’ And he goes, ‘No!’ (laughs)

“And I can’t stop laughing! And I said, ‘OK, listen, I can’t do this show!’ (laughs) He said, ‘What do you mean, you’re an actress!’ And I go, ‘I don’t know, I just can’t do it!’ (laughs) I just could not get it together.”

WAS REMINI LAUGHING OUT OF EMBARRASSMENT OR NERVOUSNESS?

“No, it was like: I get it! You’re right, I suck!

“Because when I really heard myself read the sides after the coffee I was like, ‘This does suck.’ And I guess I was laughing because I agreed with him. She wasn’t street smart, she was sort of an oddball, so it really wasn’t the role for me.

“But it was just that he was honest with me: ‘You cannot be this funny in real life and suck at these sides! I don’t get it!’ And by the way, I was like: ‘I know! Help me, Norman Lear!’ And he was like: ‘I don’t know what to tell you!’ To me, that was just an amazing moment. (laughs) And I loved that I was like, ‘I know!’ — I was seeing it from his perspective.

“By the way, I don’t want to make Norman Lear seem like a complete (jerk). This sometimes happens when (an interview is) being written and you don’t hear how I’m telling the story. We had talked quite a while prior to me auditioning and I was talking about the truth and about people not being bull(crap) artists. And we were talking about East Coast people where, there’s a way to talk to them where you’re busting their (chops) but they know you’re loving on them. So he wasn’t saying, ‘Leah sucks.’ He was saying, ‘You’re not doing great at this part.’

“So I had kind of opened the environment for him to be honest.

“Most actors might be devastated by this. Which I was not. I think probably because you go on so many auditions as an actor and get told so many times, ‘Oh, it’s not going any further, they’re going in a different direction’ — you know, you always hear some bull(crap) like this. I guess it was the honesty, that I wasn’t sitting at home waiting for the call telling me how did I do? He told me right then and there.

“I don’t think casting directors understand how much an actor obsesses about an audition. It takes up your whole day. After the audition, you still have those sides next to you in the car or in your purse and you’re looking at them going, ‘Crap, should I have said it this way?’ And you’re obsessing: What did they think of me? And then you just hear from your agent, it’s not going any further, they’re going in a different direction. And you never get the truth — which is: You weren’t great.

“But that audition was probably the best experience I ever had! He was saying: ‘You’re too funny to not be doing this well,” and I was like: ‘Agreed. Agreed.’”

THE TAKEAWAY …

“It’s OK to not be great at everything. You’re not going to be great all the time. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or bad — it just means not everything is meant for you.

“And you can only do what you can do in the room under the circumstances. I used to say to myself, ‘If I get nervous, that has to be OK.’”

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