Fresh from a successful premiere as Fanny Brice in Broadway’s Funny Girl, Lea Michele sat down with Drew Barrymore to talk about how starting a family changed her views on life and her career.
“Here now, as a mom and wife, living back in New York on Broadway playing this role, for me, it just feels this timing was right,” Michele, 36, told Barrymore.
Michele shares 2-year-old son Ever with husband Zandy Reich. Looking back at her career, she acknowledges that becoming a mother has put everything — life, love and past mistakes — into a grander perspective.
“I just couldn’t see things clearly,” she said of her life before starting a family. “It was all about my career. I’ve been so career focused my entire life, I think to a fault. I think that I had, you know, just this sense of drive that created a lot of blind spots for me in my life.”
“When I met my husband, it was a real sense of grounding for me," she continued. "Having our son and experiencing the challenges that we did throughout the pregnancy was something that, you know, unfortunately created a stronger bond in us that I would never wish on anybody — but it did.”
Michele has spoken about her pregnancy complications in the past.
In March 2021, she opened up to Katherine Schwarzenegger during an Instagram Live series, sharing that being pregnant brought unforeseen challenges set off by her polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that affects the way a woman's ovaries work due to the abnormal control of hormone levels in the body.
Those difficulties nearly led her to give up on trying for a baby altogether.
"I really felt like maybe this isn't meant to be for me right now," she recalled to Schwarzenegger at the time. “Always my biggest fear in my entire life [is] that I wouldn't be able to become a mom. It's what I've wanted more than anything. And, emotionally, it just started to build and build."
Michele later opened up to Yahoo Life, in April, acknowledging that she had Ever via Cesarean section and that any mom who's had the same experience ought to be "so proud of themselves."
"I think that women feel a sense of failure from having a C-section, [thinking] we didn't do all the same work," she told Yahoo Life. "I think that any woman that has a C-section or has had a C-section should be so proud of themselves."
Making her pregnancy even more stressful were multiple allegations of on-set harassment brought upon by her former Glee cast mates.
In June 2020, actress Samantha Ware claimed that Michele made her life a “living hell” while Ware was working on Glee, which ran from 2009 to 2015. Fellow Glee alum Heather Morris also spoke out in support of Ware and others, explaining that many folks on set were too scared to address Michele's alleged inappropriate behavior at the time.
But, as Michele tells Barrymore, going through those experiences alongside her husband and newborn baby proved to be a major test.
“The fact that we were able to sort of get through all of that, and how it then transformed us into this new life here,” she explained. “When you’re given a great opportunity as I have been with this, which I’m so incredibly grateful for as a performer, as a person, I just feel like what I do now with this is on me and how I handle this.”
“I’m really ready to take all of this on and do a great show every night, but also have fun with my cast then come home and celebrate with my family, which is something I never did before,” she continued. “I’m really enjoying being able to open my eyes to everything that’s going on around me because it’s all good and if it’s not fun, then why do we do it?”
Michele publicly addressed the allegations in an Instagram statement in June 2020, writing that she “clearly acted in ways which hurt other people” while apologizing “for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused.”
Soon after it was announced that she would be replacing Beanie Feldstein in Funny Girl, Michele addressed the accusations again with the New York Times.
"Everyone here has been through a lot,” she said ahead of her first performance. “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.”
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