Lea Michele Addresses Past Bullying Claims Ahead of ‘Funny Girl’ Debut: ‘I Have an Edge to Me’

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US-ENTERTAINMENT-THEATRE-TONY-AWARDS - Credit: AFP via Getty Images
US-ENTERTAINMENT-THEATRE-TONY-AWARDS - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Don’t rain on Lea Michele’s parade on this of all weeks. The actress has addressed her past controversy in a new interview with The New York Times ahead of her debut as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway on Sept. 6, claiming that it boils down to her work style being too intense for some of her coworkers.

“I have an edge to me,” she said in the interview, responding to claims from Glee co-stars in 2020 that she was exclusionary and demeaning. “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.”

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Michele is taking over the role from actress Beanie Feldstein, who departed the production two months earlier than planned. Rumors flew that Feldstein was leaving partly due to Michele, however, in the article, Funny Girl director Michael Mayer claimed he is “unsure” why Feldstein decided to depart earlier than expected.

“I haven’t spoken to her about it,” Mayer told the Times. “I think it was hard for her once she knew she was going to be leaving and that someone else was taking over.”

Also departing early: Michele’s former Glee co-star Jane Lynch. The Times noted that Lynch “ended her run as Brice’s mother earlier than planned, ensuring that the former Glee co-stars would never perform together onstage.”

Elsewhere in the article, Michele also responded to the wild online rumor that she is illiterate. “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.”

But in the spirit of blocking out the noise and leaving the past in the past, Michele said she is focusing on being as considerate as possible of her onstage co-stars and behind-the-scenes crew as she joins the production of Funny Girl. “Everyone here has been through a lot, and I just have to come in and be prepared and do a good job and be respectful of the fact that this is their space,” Michele noted.

As the Times points out, even though Michele is finally realizing her dream of playing Fanny Brice on Broadway, the actress will not be eligible for a Tony for the performance. That potential honor belongs to Feldstein.

“You might think that’s the biggest piece of bull that I’m going to say to you all day,” Michele claimed of the reality that she won’t win an award for the role. “But I really don’t care about that at this point. It’s just about being able to play this part.”

Michele’s Glee character Rachel Barry dreamt of playing Fanny on the show, originally performed by Barbra Streisand. (Michele also performed “Don’t Rain on My Parade” during the 2010 Tony Awards.) Michele’s role in the Broadway show marks her first since leaving Spring Awakening in 2008.

In July, Michele reacted to the news on her Instagram, sharing her excitement about being cast in the role. “A dream come true is an understatement,” she wrote. “I’m so incredibly honored to join this amazing cast and production and return to the stage playing Fanny Brice on Broadway. See you September 6th.”

Feldstein announced her departure from the role on June 10, saying that playing Fanny Brice was a “lifelong dream of mine.” But after the production decided to “take the show in a different direction,” she decided to step away.

“I will never forget this experience and from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every single person who came to the August Wilson for the love and support you have shown me and our amazing cast and crew,” Feldstein wrote. “The people I have had the great joy of bringing Funny Girl to life with every night, both on and off stage, are all remarkably talented and exceptional human beings.”

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