'She called us cockroaches': Glee star's apology falls flat as damning new claims emerge

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Lea Michele has addressed the accusation that she made a Black Glee co-star’s life a “living hell” in 2015, but in doing so has sparked even more accusations of bullying behaviour on set.

Since former co-star Samantha Ware claimed the actress targeted her on set when they worked together, others who worked with the Michele have come forward with claims the actress called them ‘cockroaches’, alienated them, humiliated them in front of others and generally treated minor and extra actors terribly.

Lea Michele is publicly addressing the claim she made her "Glee" co-star Samantha Ware's life a "living hell" when Ware joined the cast in 2015. Photos: Getty Images

Originally the response came after Lea tweeted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, only for former Black co-stars to call her out for her terrible treatment of them day to day.

Samantha claims the star threatened to ‘sh*t in her wig’.

Now, former RuPaul’s Drag Race star Willam says Lea’s behaviour was so poor he felt he had no choice but to quit the show before a highly anticipated appearance.

“Lea treated me so subhuman I left the set of Glee,” Willam wrote.

Extras, understudies say Lea Michele called them ‘cockroaches’

Now, other extra and understudy actors who worked with the star in the past have come forward, describing more examples of behaviour towards her coworkers.

Glee cast mates and extras have also come out saying Lea was a 'nightmare' to deal with. Photo: Fox

“I did background on Glee for seasons three and four,” extra actor Chase Edmondson wrote.

“My strongest memory of you was storming out of the Glee classroom set yelling, ‘Does anyone have gum?’”

“I was standing about ten feet away from you and with gum already in hand. When I said ‘I do’, offering it to you, you just looked at me and said ‘ew’ before walking off to crafty on the other stage.”

Another claimed years of working with the star had shown ‘cruel behaviour’ was the norm.

“You were abusive, rude condescending and at many times downright cruel,” actor Marcus S. Daniel wrote.

“Everyone who has worked with you carries those memories with them. .. this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s YEARS of crap you’ve pulled that people are bringing up. You used to call extras on Glee ‘cockroaches’ and got people fired on a whim.”

“You have much work to do.”

Broadway actor Gerard Canonico, who worked with Lea on Spring Awakening, also added his two cents, agreeing the star was a ‘nightmare’ to deal with.

“You were nothing but a nightmare to me and fellow understudy cast member,” he wrote. “You made us feel that we didn’t belong there.”

Lea’s apology falls flat

On Wednesday morning, Michele shared a three-page statement on Instagram addressing Samantha Ware's disturbing claim.

She did not mention Ware by name in the post, nor did she address the fact that her deal with HelloFresh was terminated over Ware’s allegation.

The response has since been criticised by Samantha Ware for using the word ‘perceived’ rather than admitting to wrongdoing.

Samantha also indicated a tangible show of remorse, like a donation to the Black Lives Matter funds, may be more appropriate than a lengthy statement.

“One of the most important lessons of the last few weeks is that we need to take the time to listen and learn about other people's perspectives and any role we have played or anything we can do to help address the injustices that they face," Michele wrote.

“When I tweeted the other day, it was meant to be a show of support for our friends and neighbours and communities of [colour] during this really difficult time," referring to her tweet, posted on May 29, addressing the death of George Floyd and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

She continued, “But the responses I received to what I posted have made me also focus specifically on how my own [behaviour] towards fellow cast members was perceived by them."

"While I don’t remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or [colour] of their skin, that’s not really the point," Michele continued. 

"What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people. 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 [behaviour] and for any pain which I have caused. We all can grow and change and I have definitely used these past several months to reflect on my own shortcomings."

“I am a couple of months from becoming a mother,” she continued. “I know I need to keep working to better myself and take responsibility for my actions so that I can be a real role model for my child and so I can pass along my lessons and mistakes so that they can learn from me.”

“I listened to these criticisms and I am learning and while I am very sorry, I will be better in the future from this experience."

Lea is currently expecting her first child with Zandy Reich.

Ware has not publicly responded to Michele’s apology.

Twitter erupts as Glee stars slams Lea Michele

This all blew up on Monday when Ware retweeted Michele’s post about Floyd and wrote that the Glee star, who played Rachel Berry on the show from 2009 to 2015, made her “first television gig a living hell.”

Ware claimed Michele told other members of the show that she would defecate in Ware’s wig if she had the opportunity among “other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.”

Ware had joined the cast in 2015, the final season of the show, to play Jane Hayward. When she posted her tweet about Michele, there wasn’t a huge rush from other Glee cast members to defend Michele.

In fact, Michele’s co-star Amber Riley shared a series of gifs that suggested she had something to add, including one showing sipping tea.

In response to Ware’s claim, HelloFresh, a meal kit delivery service, immediately ended its deal with Michele, posting on Twitter Tuesday that the brand "does not condone racism nor discrimination of any kind.”

“We are disheartened and disappointed to learn of the recent claims concerning Lea Michele. We take this very seriously, and have ended our partnership with Lea Michele, effective immediately,” the statement read.

Additional reporting by Suzy Byrne.

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