“I’ve been such an ass to people now that I used to work for that no one would hire me back,” Leah said on a radio interview discussing her career. “I mean, I don’t think anyone will hire me at this point.”
Remini’s history of rudeness and bad behavior spared no one in her quest to become the Hollywood “troublemaker” she was born to play. Her corrosive attitude is so innate she can’t shake the pattern that started with one of her first TV roles as a 19-year-old.
Leah worked on 12 episodes of Living Dolls, a show so resoundingly panned it was the only series to receive an “F” grade in the fall preview issue of People magazine that year. Yet her older sister, Nicole, said that even with that bad start to her budding career, Leah turned into “such a snob.”
— FORMER MANAGER
“One of the things I noticed about Leah was that she always wanted to be treated very specially, like she was a big star and this was when she was first starting out,” a former manager recalled. “[She was] a complete bully….She was ugly in the way she behaved to people, in the way she treated people…actually very evil way.”
The “bully” showed up to play a bit part on a single episode of the TV series Blossom in 1992.
“I almost got into a fight with one of the hairdressers,” Leah squealed in an E! Entertainment Television interview explaining her motive for attacking others. “I was telling everybody on the set…hoping that they would stand with me and the producers would go, ‘Wow! She’s really feisty, let’s add her onto the show.’”
Remini admitted other misconduct that crossed a line. In today’s world, it would be a “Me Too” moment, except Leah is not recalling an event she suffered, but rather detailing sexual assault she committed.
“I’m flirting with people on the set,” Leah said, detailing behavior she thought would make her stand out. “[J]oking a lot, usually sexual so therefore I get no respect from the cast and crew as they talk to me that way…and by me going around grabbing girls’ tits and sexually joking around.”
The lack of respect for herself—and others—followed her up the ladder of success. From 1991 to 1996, before The King of Queens put her on the small-screen map, Remini had smaller roles on several shows. Her reputation as “difficult” grew when she bad-mouthed an actress on the set of Evening Shade, calling her a “f--king asshole” and “f--king bitch.”
Remini herself admitted her outrageous insults led to tension and confusion on the set, as the regular cast adored the actress Remini maligned.
“From the time she walked in on the audition with Burt [Reynolds] I saw how talented she was and how Burt and the network and the audience laughed at her and I was really jealous of her talent and how everyone recognizes that,” Remini said. “I was hoping it would make people not like her and see her as an evil f--k and would like me better…which is not what happened. Burt loved her and so did everyone else. As a result, I looked like the bad guy.”
Being the “bad guy,” with an outrageous mouth, nearly cost her the big shot she finally scored when offered a chance to play Carrie Heffernan alongside Kevin James in The King of Queens. An industry insider revealed Remini had to be persuaded into the role because she didn’t think it was believable someone as attractive as she saw herself would sleep with “a fat pig.”
“Leah would call Kevin ‘a fat bastard’ and ‘no talent,’” her father George Remini recalled of that period, adding Leah felt she was the one who ran the show and that James was just the fallback to her jokes. “And I think that was very wrong of her to say that, because Kevin is, again, a nice guy.
“It made no sense. I used to say to her, ‘Leah, the guy gave you a job. He’s trying to make you a star.’ And she would go on again on a longer tirade. She was not really a friend of Kevin.”
Insiders say Leah was not really a friend of anyone on the set. Even the well-liked Jerry Stiller received insults. Stiller, 70, was about to retire when James asked him to join the show’s cast playing the father of Remini’s character. A veteran performer of some 60 years, from Shakespeare to stand-up to Seinfeld, Stiller was admired and respected by all on the show—except Remini, notwithstanding her public praise of him when he passed away.
A source who was close to the production said the actor sometimes had trouble remembering his lines, leading Remini to be rude and make “really, really nasty” remarks. A producer asked her to rehearse with Jerry during lunch break and “she would have a fit,” one show insider recalled, saying she screamed, “Jesus f--king Christ, again! Can’t you get one of the f--king PAs [production assistants] to do this?”
A Los Angeles actress, Shannon, who had a small part on The King of Queens, recalled being in the makeup room with two makeup artists and Remini.
“She was trying to create some energy in the room,” Shannon said, “and she turned to her makeup girl and she said, ‘What do I have to do? Do I have to stick my hand up your “bleep” to get a rise out of you?’
“I was stunned,” Shannon said. “But because she was the star of the show everyone had to kind of pretend that they thought it was funny. It was actually mortifying.”
Once the show went off the air, people no longer had to “pretend” to find Remini’s brand of insults amusing. One crew member recalled being on the set of a film several years after The King of Queens went off the air, and in casual conversation asked an electrician what he thought of Remini. He said the guy got angry, so upset that he started swearing. “She is f--king poison,” the production staffer said. “She is f--king poison.”
Reflecting on her prospects as she exited The King of Queens, Remini said, “It’s been my first real success, and you can’t recreate that.” But she knew how to endlessly recreate a toxic environment on set—making her prediction of unemployment a self-fulfilling prophecy.