Lea Michele came under fire last year over past alleged mean-spirited behavior on the set of Glee, for which she later apologized.
Now her former co-star Heather Morris is speaking up about why she thinks she and other accusers took so long to come forward with their allegations, which surfaced nearly one year ago exactly.
"It's like, we absolutely could have stepped up and gone to the Fox execs and said how we felt about the situation and nobody really did. So now we are living in a culture where it's acceptable to go do things like that, whereas I think many people were very scared," Morris, who played Brittany on all six seasons of Glee, said on the podcast Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino on Wednesday, May 26. "I know, genuinely, I didn't feel like it was my place and I don't know why, because I was a cast member just like everybody else, and we all deserve to feel comfortable on a set."
The allegations against Michele, who played main character Rachel Berry on Glee, first surfaced in early June 2020. Samantha Marie Ware, who played season six recurring character Jane Hayward, spoke out against her on Twitter after Michele expressed outrage about the killing of Minnesota man George Floyd by a police officer and used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
"LMAO REMEMBER WHEN YOU MADE MY FIRST TELEVISON [sic] GIG A LIVING HELL?!?! CAUSE ILL NEVER FORGET," Ware tweeted in response. "I BELIEVE YOU TOLD EVERYONE THAT IF TOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY YOU WOULD 'S--T IN MY WIG!' AMONGST OTHER TRAUMATIC MICROAGRESSIONS [sic] THAT MADE ME QUESTION A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD..."
After Ware's tweet went viral, meal kit delivery service HelloFresh ended their partnership with Michele. And Ware inspired other past Glee stars to speak out against the actress, including Morris, who wrote on Twitter, "Let me be very clear, Hate is a disease in America that we are trying to cure, so I would never wish for that hate to be spread to anyone else. With that said, was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so; for Lea to treat others with the disrespect that she did for as long as she did, I believe she SHOULD be called out."
Morris continued, "And yet, it's also on us because to allow it to go on for so long without speaking out is something else we're learning along with the rest of society. But, at the current moment its implied that she is a racist and although I cannot comment on her beliefs, I think we're assuming, and you know what happens when we all assume..."
On the Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino on Wednesday, Morris said she was criticized over this statement about Michele. "I remember getting so much shade," she said on the podcast, "because people were like, 'This is so f--king cryptic,' like, 'Why don't you just go and say it?'"
"I'm like, 'Guys, she's pregnant, and all this stuff is going around, and,'" Morris continued, before pausing and saying, "It's true." She did not elaborate.
"And I don't know if maybe we were victims of bullying and that's a typical victim thing to do, is to blame yourself, which is what people were saying," the actress added. "But it also is very true and the only person who was honest about it was Naya [Rivera]. And it was something that was very hush-hush on set. And now you see all these things coming out with these bigger names, who were very disrespectful and mistreated a lot of people and people allowed it to happen."
The late actress wrote about Michele in her 2016 memoir Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes and Growing Up, claiming that she "blamed me for anything and everything that went wrong" on set and later, "she started to ignore me, and eventually it got to the point where she didn't say a word to me for all of season six."
On the Everything Iconic with Danny Pellegrino podcast, Morris said, "We all got close with Lea at certain points and then we all weren't as close with her. So there's that human element to it to understanding who this person is, growing with that person, seeing her try to become better and, you know, taking care of herself after Corey [Monteith] passed."
Monteith, who dated Michele on the show and in real life, died in 2013 of mixed drug toxicity involving heroin and alcohol. He was 31.
Rivera died in a drowning accident at age 33 last June, less than two weeks after Morris and other former Glee stars posted their allegations against Michele. Days before her body was found, after she was reported missing after boating with her son, many fans took out their feelings about her disappearance on Michele on Twitter, prompting the actress deactivate her account.
After the allegations were made against Michele last June, the actress issued an apology on Instagram. "When I tweeted the other day, it was meant to be a show of support for our friends and neighbors and communities of color during this really difficult time but the responses I received to what I posted have made me also focus specifically on how my own behavior towards fellow cast members was perceived by them," she wrote. "While I don't remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin, that's not really the point. 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 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."
Michele, who was in the third trimester of her pregnancy with her son at the time, also wrote, "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."
Despite the controversy, Michele still keeps in touch with at least a couple of her former co-stars. She is BFFs with Jonathan Groff, who played her love interest Jesse St. James and also starred with her on Broadway's Spring Awakening years before Glee debuted in 2010. And on Thursday, May 27, she shared on Instagram a photo of Darren Criss, who played Blaine Anderson, holding her 9-month-old son Ever.
Morris said on the podcast on Wednesday that she has not heard from Michele since the controversy. She added, "But I always wish her the best of luck."