Lea Michele has been enjoying a comeback of sorts in recent months, partly set into motion by the July announcement she’d be taking over the lead role from Beanie Feldstein in Broadway’s revival of Funny Girl.
However, she still hasn’t quite been able to escape various controversies attached to her name, from allegations of bullying and discrimination made against her in 2020, to speculation over what went down behind the scenes of her casting in the famed musical that starred Barbra Streisand in the role of Fanny Brice. But in a new interview with The New York Times, just days before she’s scheduled to officially step into the role of Fanny on Sept. 6, the 36-year-old performer addressed all of them one by one.
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Claims that Michele was hostile toward her costars on the set of Glee first surfaced when her castmate Samantha Marie Ware called her out for supporting Black Lives Matter while allegedly mistreating Black coworkers on set. In the new interview, Michele attributed her previous negative behavior to the intense, tunnel-vision focus she had on her craft.
“I have an edge to me,” she told the Times. “I work really hard. I leave no room for mistakes. That level of perfectionism, or that pressure of perfectionism, left me with a lot of blind spots.”
Michele said that the claims made by Ware and other colleagues prompted her to do some self-reflecting, and that she now sees how important it is to be a leader. “It means not only going and doing a good job when the camera’s rolling, but also when it’s not,” she told the paper. “And that wasn’t always the most important thing for me.”
As for what went down with her landing the the part of Funny Girl’s Fanny Brice — some were unhappy with the casting, including Ware, who once again appeared to speak out — the musical’s director Michael Mayer explained that Michele had actually been “at the top of the list” for the role when he first began casting the Broadway revival. But the timing didn’t work out, as she had just given birth to her son Ever, and wasn’t ready to return to performing.
Instead, he selected Feldstein, whose performance he said he loved and still stands by, in spite of some critical reviews. Michele revealed she had told Mayer she’d be “honored” to step in for the former lead if her run ever ended. It eventually did in June, and everything was then in place for the Scream Queens alum to take over what she’s long said is her dream role.
Mayer also revealed he hasn’t spoken to Feldstein about Michele’s casting. He explained, “I think it was hard for her once she knew she was going to be leaving and someone else was taking over.”
Finally, Michele addressed a strange internet rumor about her that she can’t read or write. “I went to Glee every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” she said. “And then there’s a rumor online that I can’t read or write? It’s sad. It really is. I think often if I were a man, a lot of this wouldn’t be the case.”