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Lea Michele responds to allegations of toxic work behavior and ‘sad’ rumor she can’t read

The 36-year-old actor candidly addressed the viral social media conversations that surround her, involving speculation she can’t read and allegations of her toxic behavior on the set of “Glee.”
/ Source: TODAY

Lea Michele's casting in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” has prompted some people on Twitter to ask one wild question: Can she read?

Her casting was announced July 11, when jokes about whether she can read or write went viral on Twitter.

The 36-year-old actor framed the social media banter as sexist in an interview with The New York Times published Sept. 1

“I went to ‘Glee’ every single day; I knew my lines every single day,” she told the newspaper. “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.”

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Lea Michele on June 15, 2022, in New York City.Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for alice + olivia

Rumors that Michele is illiterate seemingly originated in 2018 when two superfans, Jaye Hunt and Robert Ackerman, said on their podcast, “One More Thing,” that she never learned to read or write because, when she began her career at age 9 in “Les Misérables,” she’d learn lines by hearing and memorizing. Hunt and Ackerman said a deep dive into her social media patterns and found she usually captions her posts with emoji, and the pair speculated that meant she cannot read or write. Their assertions created an uproar on Twitter.

Michele responded on March 22, 2018, tweeting, “Loved READING this tweet and wanted to WRITE you back😛 literally laughing out loud at all this😂 love you!!! 😘❤️”

Still, the rumor that she can’t read has persisted over the years, becoming a running joke made on social media.

Another reason Michele has been in the news cycle is due to previous accusations by made by her “Glee” co-stars in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in 2020. Michele owned up to past errors in her New York Times interview as well. “I have an edge to me,” she told the newspaper. “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 she has since grown as a leader and that camaraderie on set is more important to her now than it was before. “I really understand the importance and value now of being a leader,” she said “It means not only going and doing a good job when the camera’s rolling, but also when it’s not. And that wasn’t always the most important thing for me.”

The accusations came after Michele tweeted May 29, 2020 (and has since deleted), “George Floyd did not deserve this. This was not an isolated incident and it must end. #BlackLivesMatter.”

Samantha Marie Ware, a recurring cast member in Season 6 of “Glee,” rebuffed Michele’s support in a response posted to Twitter June 1, 2020 (that is now deleted), saying in all caps, “LMAO REMEMBER WHEN YOU MADE MY FIRST TELEVISON GIG A LIVING HELL?!?! CAUSE ILL NEVER FORGET. I BELIEVE YOU TOLD EVERYONE THAT IF TOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY YOU WOULD “SHIT IN MY WIG!” AMONGST OTHER TRAUMATIC MICROAGRESSIONS THAT MADE ME QUESTION A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD.”

Dabier Snell, who guest-starred in a 2014 episode of the show, tweeted June 1, 2020, “GIRL YOU WOULDNT LET ME SIT AT THE TABLE WITH THE OTHER CAST MEMBERS CAUSE ‘I DIDNT BELONG THERE’ F--- YOU LEA.”

Michele responded and apologized to her co-stars in an Instagram post on June 3, 2020, saying, “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 behavior and for any pain which I have caused,” she continued. “We all can grow and change and I have definitely used these past several months to reflect on my own shortcomings.”

“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,” she concluded. “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.”

Michele starts a new experience Sept. 6, when she debuts as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.” The production released a first-look at Michele in character last month.

“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 said, referring to numerous reports of backstage drama at “Funny Girl” amid middling critical reviews and just one Tony nomination (for supporting actor Jared Grimes).

There’s a good chance Michele is going to knock it out of the park. Even so, because she didn’t originate the role, she isn’t eligible for a Tony Award. She said that factor isn’t going to phase her.

“You might think that’s the biggest piece of bulls--- that I’m going to say to you all day,” Michele said. “But I really don’t care about that at this point. It’s just about being able to play this part.”