Leah Remini was assigned a role on the inaugural season of the CBS daytime show The Talk that proved to be her downfall: be herself.
The concept was five women—Remini, Sara Gilbert, Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne and Holly Robinson Peete as cohosts—sitting around a table chatting about the headlines and events of the day from the perspective of mothers at a neighborhood coffee klatch. Remini knew it would be a strain.
“Sometimes I’m very unlikeable as a person,” she admitted while doing promotional interviews before the show premiered. “I can’t blame my character or say it’s the writers’ fault,” she told the Toronto Sun. “There is that fear of, ‘I could be hated.’”
Before the season reached midway, Remini’s fears were being realized, as viewers shelled the show with negative comments around her strident behavior. After the season finale, she was fired.
How Leah Remini talked herself off The Talk, however, began before the cameras were turned on in the CBS studio.
“She was trouble before the show even began,” recalled one show insider about the early days of production. “She wanted to have a very specific hair and makeup person, not use the show’s hair and makeup people,” they said. Then she disapproved of the catered food, which all other hosts ate, and insisted on bringing her own. Remini was also reportedly in a huff about not getting first choice of the dressing rooms, and even lashed out at a sound technician sent to pin on her microphone.
“Leah was difficult in every way on The Talk,” the insider added. “In this industry things like that are conceived as just being ‘hard to work with.’”
On the set, Remini repeatedly attempted to single herself out as the standout host, with coarse antics and gestures.
Off the set, she sought out different hosts to befriend—usually aiming for the woman she felt had the most power.
“The problem was she was talking negatively about them to each other,” a person close to the production said. “She wasn’t really liked by them. There was weird tension.”
The friction boiled over after Remini had an impulse to stage a fake fight. She floated the idea at a production meeting and it was resoundingly rejected—but Remini secretly persuaded Holly Robinson Peete to do it anyway.
During taping, Remini gave Robinson Peete a look, and the female wrestling match was on—the two rolling around on the floor.
“It was just trashy,” a witness recalled, “and not at all the concept of what the show was about.”
Remini’s repeated attempts to hijack The Talk with her antics led to “vicious behind-the-scenes battles” and earned her the labels of “a total terror” and a “disruptive force,” according to show insiders who spoke out in a series of press and tabloid reports.
In August 2011, after the season finale, Remini was fired, followed by Robinson Peete. Leah was convinced that one of her cohosts was responsible for her firing and was determined to avenge herself. In December, when Remini heard Sharon Osbourne on The Howard Stern Show answer a question about Remini getting canned, she was livid.
In her 2015 memoir, Remini reflected on the Stern show and said she had been angered by her ex-cohost’s statements, but claimed she “took the high road and didn’t comment in return. It would have just added fuel to the fire.”
In reality, three months after the Stern show, Remini ignited a firestorm on Osbourne that played out on Twitter. TV Guide picked up on the barrage and quoted Osbourne’s reply: “[I] have no idea why she continues to take to Twitter to spread this false gossip….“[M]y only wish is that Leah would just stop all this negative, unprofessional, and childish behavior. It’s been seven months. It’s time to move on.”
Remini did, eventually, move on. Or so it seemed.
In November 2015, an article appeared in People magazine, headlined: “The Talk was ‘Absolutely’ Right to Fire Me.”
“I have a big mouth and I have a temper, so that’s not good for people,” Leah explained. “I think it’s because I wasn’t my best self there, I don’t know how to conduct myself.…I have to take responsibility for the shit that I did. I was a pain in the ass, I’m a pain in the ass.
“Here’s what you can say about me,” Remini offered in a third-person confession: “Leah’s judgmental, she’s an asshole, she flies off the handle for no reason.”
It was the talk many waited years to hear. Unfortunately, there was no sincerity in it—Remini never did get over her simmering grudge against Sharon Osbourne, the person she blamed for her firing from The Talk.
As soon she saw a chance to exact her revenge, Remini struck.
The opportunity came in March 2021, when Osbourne—then in her 11th season on The Talk—got into a heated on-air exchange with cohost Sheryl Underwood, leading to accusations of racism against Osbourne.
Remini immediately piled on, accusing her perceived rival of using racist and homophobic language behind the backs of their cohosts a decade earlier.
Remini’s venom was instrumental in what followed. She had bided her time for years, and it was finally Osbourne’s turn to be out of The Talk. Commenting on her impending firing, Osbourne said, “what’s happening now is ‘revenge’ [by] people who’ve got axes to grind,” stating that Remini “makes her living out of outing people.”
In a reiteration of her previous false mea culpa, Remini said: “Not only did I do nothing about the racism and bullying I was receiving and witnessing, I was party to it. I had to own up to my own ugly.”
She never did own up to anything. In fact, according to an insider close to the production, it was Remini herself—in what the knowledgeable source called “one of her signature moves”—who had repeatedly wielded the very bigotry she accused Osbourne of leveling at their cohosts.
Contrary to what she claimed, during her one season on the show Remini was not “easily manipulated into a web of high school vitriol, hatred and bullying”—she created it.
And because of it, there was no more talking for her on The Talk.