Amber Riley Addresses Lea Michele Controversy: 'I'm Not Going to Say That She's Racist'
"I have no hatred or ill will," said Amber Riley of her former costar, Lea Michele
On Thursday, Riley, 34, spoke with journalist Danielle Young on Instagram Live, discussing racism and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, making a brief comment on her former castmates calling out Michele, 33, for past behavior. Riley said during the chat that she doesn’t think Michele is racist, but she hopes the actress "has grown."
"I’m not going to say that Lea Michele is racist. That’s not what I’m saying," said Riley, who played Mercedes Jones on the musical series. "That was the assumption because of what’s going on right now in the world and it happened toward a black person. I’m not going to say that she’s racist."
She added, "She’s also pregnant and I think that everybody needs to chill. Y’all dragged her for a couple of days."
"But at the same time, in my inbox there are a lot of black actors and actresses telling me their stories and were letting me know they have dealt with the same things being on set, being terrorized by the white girls that are the leads of the show,” she said.
Riley explained that non-white actors typically play the "sidekick" to a white lead — a "culture" in the industry that fosters the lack of diversity.
"We were even told, we were expendable; the colored girls, the black girls are expendable," Riley explained. "I'm talking about the culture of Hollywood right now and how they treat black characters, black men, black women. I’m talking about the culture."
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Stating that this will be the "first and last" time she speaks on the subject, Riley said she wishes Michele well, and that Michele reached out to her and they spoke for the first time in two years.
"I wish Lea Michele well, I hope that she has an amazing pregnancy, I hope that she has grown," Riley said. "... That [statement] she put out, I didn’t read it because I told y’all I don't give a s--- about it. ... She reached out to me, I responded to her and that’s where it ends for me. I ain’t talk to that girl in two years."
She added, "I have no hatred or ill will on that end. I want to make that very clear."
And while Riley — who recently covered Beyoncé's hit "Freedom" at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest outside of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's house — wishes Michele well, she added that Glee was "not the most comfortable environment" to work on and was "proud" that Ware spoke out.
"I'm very proud of her for standing up for herself," Riley said, noting that she had spoken to Ware this week. "I am proud of her not being fearful for speaking her truth ... [Her] feeling was, 'I am not going to allow you to jump on what is happening now when you didn’t treat me right,'" she added, referencing Michele's tweet Black Lives matter tweet.
Michele issued an apology on Wednesday for how her past behavior has been "perceived" by others. Later that day, Ware seemed to reference Michele's statement and suggest the actress should take further action.
Another costar, Heather Morris, 33, also weighed in on the controversy, admitting Michele was "unpleasant to work with" on the musical comedy, which aired from 2009 to 2015. But like Riley, Morris, added, however, that she doesn't feel Michele is a racist.
In her apology, Michele said she did not remember saying the specific comments Ware accused her of making, and said: "I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin." The singer then admitted that she knew "that’s not really the point."
"What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people," she said.