It was a good day for Leah Remini.
The King of Queens vet was greeted on Thursday with news that her groundbreaking and controversial A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath had received a 2017 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Series or Special, putting it against the likes of Inside the Actor's Studio and Vice. The nomination is culmination of a successful year that saw Remini's deeply personal and harrowing exploration into the accounts of former members of the Church of Scientology launch as cable's No. 1 new unscripted series for 2016, eventually earning a second installment, set to air later this year.
The Church of Scientology has spoken out against the series, defending itself against Remini and others' claims. "This is yet another of Leah Remini's public attempts to silence the Church of Scientology and its parishioners from exposing her A&E program as anti-religious hate and its subjects as paid liars," a spokesperson for the told E! News. "In summary, Scientologists and the Church of Scientology will continue doing good for the world." For more on the Church of Scientology's stance on Remini's series, you can visit their response website.
E! News spoke with Remini about what the nomination means to her, what the reaction to season one has been like and what's in store for season two.
E! News: Congratulations! How are you feeling in this moment right now?
Remini: Beyond grateful. Beyond great—I don't even have the words. I haven't even, I haven't even processed it yet. Like I am—I am so beyond grateful. And I hate to be so geeky about it, but I am going to be geeky about it because this is amazing.
So how did you find out about the nomination this morning ?
I received a text from our executive in charge of the show from A&E that said "Congrats." And I was like "shut up." I didn't believe her.
So were you expecting this?
No. Honestly, I've wanted it for our brave storytellers. I wanted it for them. You know when you're acting in a show, like I was for Kings of Queens for 9 years, I always wanted Kevin to get a nomination because Kevin [James] is so funny and Jerry Stiller and our writing staff. Every year I go, "if we could just get nominated." First it went from "Yay we should win an Emmy" to "if we could just get nominated you know that'd be nice." You know I wanted so much for them. Like not even for ourselves. Like we all want the moment to thank our moms and our dads and our families, but after a while when you grow up you just kind of want it for other people to acknowledge other people. For me, this project has always been about the people who are willing to speak. And there are repercussions to their speaking. So for me, I was literally on my knees saying "God please. Acknowledge them. Acknowledge them for what they've done or what they continue to do." And I'm just so happy for them. I'm happy for the Amy Scobees and Bonnies of the world who, you know, Bonnie, Amy's mother who was in our first episode, she spoke from her hospital bed. The woman died before the show aired but her message was don't let Scientology or any belief system destroy your life and your family. And for her, for them, for all who spoke, for all who continue to speak or those who speak on behalf of those victims...I'm like thank you to Hollywood, thank you to our peers, thank you for the support of people watching our show. Because without that, their voices wouldn't have been heard. I'm in that moment where it's like that moment that I always wanted to be and feel, but it's not for me and for that it makes it so much greater. It's to them. It's for them.
You kind of went in depth on how you're so thankful that this is happening and for all the people who are involved. But what does it mean for you and Scientology as a whole and all the people who have been impacted by Scientology?
It means, I think what it means is that people went from oh look at that crazy, innocuous you know crazy religion to wait a minute it's not funny and it's very harmful ad look at what they're doing based on their own policy. This is not somebody's opinion, this is not my opinion of what Scientology is, this is your own policy. This is what you believe in. And then they demonstrate that they believe it, by going after anyone who has spoken out. And I think the turn finally has happened where people—You know it started with Going Clear and I think Hollywood and the world watching is saying this is something that is harmful. This is not something that should be laughing about. This is not just disgruntled ex-employees or apostate out to make a dime. This is your actual doctorate.
So you initially weren't going to do a second season, right? But you are now?
I was hoping that what we had laid out in season one would get the FBI, would get the Department of Justice, would get the IRS would get local agencies to take a look at Scientology policy and its doctrine. I was hoping that would be enough. We keep presenting the stories, this is Scientology policy, we hope you now see this is not our opinion, it's actually the religion that it's harmful and dangerous, and no action was taken. Since season one, during season one, after season one we were inundated with emails of people wanting to tell their stories for the first time.
Wow. What can we expect differently from the first season? I mean you're really trying to drill the message of it.
Well the first season we were setting up the policy of Scientology of disconnection. And now we're covering a variety hoping this will be enough to get the attention of the FBI, the IRS, and local agencies to finally look into Scientology...Hopefully something will be done about it, and if not I will do a season three.
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath returns for season two later this year on A&E.
The 2017 Emmys will air Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. on CBS with host Stephen Colbert. As always, be sure to come back to E! News for all your Emmys needs.