It was just over one year ago when actress and musician Samantha Ware spoke out about the toxic culture she experienced on the set of “Glee,” particularly her interactions with series lead Lea Michele — who issued a public apology last summer that sidestepped Ware’s specific accusations.
Speaking to TheWrap as part of its “Conversations on Cancel Culture,” Ware explained exactly why she chose to speak out when — and how — she did, and why people need to be held publicly accountable for their actions rather than being canceled. “That was a very human moment for me. One that was rooted in trauma and unresolved issues with the said person who was involved,” Ware said, reflecting on her social media posts from 2020 about Michele.
Last June, after Michele tweeted “George Floyd did not deserve this. This was not an isolated incident and it must end” with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, Ware was blunt in her response: “Remember when you made my first television gig a living hell?!?! Cause I’ll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity you would ‘s— in my wig!’ amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.”
Looking back, Ware marveled at how quickly her response went viral. “It was all emotion-based until I realized that I was in an evolution of a digital world where you literally can say one thing, and five minutes later, it’s trending No. 1 on Twitter.”
Ware admits being shocked by the reactions and discourse that followed, but one year removed, she also admits there’s nothing she would do differently. “I’m coming at this from being a human I’m not really concerned with like, being politically correct in any way right now,” she said. “This person in my life was abusive.”
Michele, who gave birth to her first child last August, has announced no new projects since the 2019 ABC holiday movie “Same Time, Next Christmas.” The actress’ reps did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“I don’t regret anything,” Ware said. “If I were to go back in a time ship, I would just probably sit on the couch and watch myself do it again. I’m not going to apologize for anything I said or did, because all it was was my truth. Maybe people disagree with the way that I express myself. But I’m/we’re in the middle of a very interesting shift within social politics and identity. And our old ways, obviously, were not serving us in any way. So, yeah, I definitely would do it again. Period.”
When she originally reported Michele’s behavior on set, there was a sense that’s just the way things were. But in a post-George Floyd environment about race and a culture where abusers are called out on their actions, Ware said many of her “Glee” colleagues felt able to step up and defend her. “Because we live in such a state of political correctness, or we’re evolving out of it slowly but surely, I think it [opened] the door a little bit for those people to come forward, and be able to slightly stick up for me in a way that is appropriate,” Ware explained.
At the end of the day, Ware doesn’t necessarily believe in cancel culture — but believes people should learn from mistakes, adapt and grow. “I don’t think that we should always be dragging everyone. I think there’s certain ways to approach conversation that may help engage the other party,” she said. “But nobody likes being wrong. And as we do move into the future of individuality, it gets a little bit more difficult for those who have reached their full expression to have to be forced to peel it back. So it’s — we’re talking about a whole new creature, a nucleus of new conversations.”
In a statement last summer, Michele said she didn’t remember making the comments that Ware reported, but said she was taking the time to “reflect” on her actions. “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,” Michele said. “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.”
For Ware, the apology still did not go nearly far enough. “With this specific case, the front end was great. ‘Look, I’m reflecting now, I realize that after seeing that 55 other people who have worked with me in the past … have literally come out of the crooks and crevices to share their stories.’ It’s like, this is bigger than just between you and I. You shouldn’t just be apologizing to me,” Ware said.
“You should have a conversation about, as a white woman, why it’s important for you to be called out. Because right now I’m doing all the labor. I’m the one talking about why these things matter. Black, dark-skinned Black women should be the figures for this conversation, but I had to be the one that was like, ‘Hey, this person is destructive and abusive.’ What incited the tweet was that [tweet] ‘Oh, George Floyd was not an isolated incident.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s funny how you can reflect and see that, but I wasn’t afforded my humanity when I was right in front of you.'”
She also observed that Black people are also told to approach conflict with a “Kumbaya” or “come with peace” approach or just told to wait for a resolution that may never come. “It’s always Black people who have to wait and see, right? We have to stand by or be the bigger person,” Ware explained. “For this situation. I think I gave that up when I made that tweet, this idea of being the bigger person.”
Still, Ware is open to evolving or changing in the future.
“At this point, I can only come as myself and speak as myself. My mind could change and my vocabulary could change and this conversation could change and how I feel about it could change, but in this present moment, that’s how I feel. I don’t really have anything nice to say.”
To watch TheWrap’s full conversation with Ware, where she weighs in on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” as another case of accountability, watch via the video above.
Lawrence Yee contributed to this story.