Leah Remini began her career in the 80’s with guest stints on popular sitcoms. One hit comedy left a strong impression on the King of Queens alum, where she shared the screen with acting veterans Judith Light and Katherine Helmond during a temporary role on Who’s the Boss? Yet Remini’s main memory was learning the ropes from series star Tony Danza, who gave her an education in becoming an actor.
Tony Danza became a mentor to Leah Remini
Appearing on Who’s the Boss? in 1989, Remini played teenager Charlie Briscoe from Tony Micelli’s (Danza) old neighborhood in Brooklyn, who pays a visit to her pal, Samantha (Alyssa Milano). While Remini was thrilled to be working alongside the entire cast, she was particularly impacted by Danza.
“No one was more influential for me during that crash course in how to be a sitcom star than Tony Danza,” she wrote in her 2015 memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. “Tony taught me the importance of turning the page before the next line so you don’t ruin the rhythm of the joke. … And always say hello to your crew. Always know their names. Make eye contact. Tony was big-time all about the crew and any people who became part of the set.”
Danza’s kindness extended to those making guest appearances on the show, making a point to make everyone feel welcome.
“He told me that it was important to introduce yourself to the guest cast,” Remini remarked. “Make them feel at home. Don’t ignore people.”
Leah Remini got schooled by Tony Danza
The King of Queens alum described Danza’s consideration of the studio audience while working on the sitcom, where she received a reprimand from the Who’s the Boss? star.
“Tony was very warm and efficient,” Remini explained. “He was strict in the way his set ran, which I learned when I broke one of his cardinal rules: Never keep an audience waiting.”
When Danza spotted Remini taking her time getting to a dressing room for a wardrobe change, he instructed her to be more aware of those waiting in the studio audience.
“‘You can’t be walking,'” Remini recalled Danza telling her. “‘There are 250 people waiting out there, and once the audience is tired, that’s it. There’s no people laughing at your joke. This isn’t about you. You have to think about the audience. You’ve got to run.‘”
After the show, Danza explained to Remini why he corrected her. “You have it and you can be great,” Danza told her. “I’ve got to teach you these things now so you don’t get yourself into bad habits.”
Leah Remini wanted to follow Tony Danza’s example in her own career
Remini praised her former co-star for mentoring her during her short stint on Who’s the Boss? and considered him a role model.
“Tony was very loving and giving in a fatherly way,” she wrote. “He was the one who taught me right from wrong on a sitcom set — and after my time on Who’s the Boss?, I wanted to be just like him.”
From treating crew members with respect to being considerate of audience members, Remini was grateful for Danza taking her under his wing so early in her career.
“I wanted to talk to my cameraman, be gracious to my guest stars, and run my ass off for my quick changes,” she shared. “I wanted to follow his beautiful example. Why not be nice and courteous?”