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October 8, 2015

'Glee' Star Jessalyn Gilsig Talks Madonna, NPH, New Directions & More

by Maggie Furlong, posted Apr 13th 2010 9:00AM
Jessalyn GilsigJessalyn Gilsig is known for playing the bad girl, the beeyotch, the woman you just don't want to mess with. Think about it: 'Nip/Tuck,' 'Heroes,' 'Friday Night Lights,' 'Boston Public' and now 'Glee.'

But changes are in store for Terri Schuester -- looks like it's really truly over with the once conniving, hysterically pregnant Mrs. Schue and her better half, Will. She's seen the light and is supposedly turning over a new leaf ... and, most importantly, she'll finally get to join in the singing and dancing fun.

I caught up with Gilsig to talk dream guest stars, new relationships and all the juice on the much-anticipated final nine episodes of the season -- including the big Madonna episode and a Sue Sylvester moment she says will "go down in history."

Were you surprised at all that the show had such a huge immediate cult following last year?

I was! I thought that it would be more of a niche audience -- I thought it would be kids in glee club, people who love musicals, maybe people who love 'Nip/Tuck,' because it has that dark sensibility that 'Nip/Tuck' had and it's a little subversive. But that it had such a broad appeal? You can't shoot for that, because you'll never get it. So I don't think that we really knew that it would appeal to so many different people with so many different interests.

I mean, the kids are doing mall tours and concerts at the White House now -- it's huge!
Isn't it crazy? It's funny because we did something for the Paley Festival and -- you know, the kids tour and they've been all over the world, but I haven't done as much of that stuff. I couldn't believe it! I was like, "Oh so this is your life ... you're like rockstars!" I usually just have people give me dirty looks. [Laughs] But it's so great because the fans love it for all the reasons that we love it. That's the best feeling.

The episodes we saw in the fall were all shot basically in a bubble. Now that you all know it's a hit, has the mood changed on set at all? Have the scripts changed?
I feel like, in a funny way ... when thinking about the scripts, there's a confidence that, because we have the audience, we can really play now. We can really mix it up and see how different characters interact, maybe in unexpected ways. We don't have to re-hash the first 13 episodes... now we can really grow. I mean, look at the Madonna episode. We couldn't have done that in the first 13.

Oh, the Madonna episode is so amazing ...
I saw the Jane Lynch video. Come on, it's gonna go down in history! It's ridiculous! It's beyond ... it's TV gold.

Last time we saw Terri, it was pretty much over for her and Will -- where do we find her in these new episodes?
We basically have to formalize the end. And when we see Terri again, she has to let go of the anger -- that's sort of what these nine episodes are about [for her]. She's going to try to live a little differently, and open up her heart a little bit. She's actually going to sort of build a friendship and try in that friendship to do it differently than the way she had been with Will ... see if she can kind of access a more honest side of herself, and a more supportive side. It's really cool. I'm having such a good time doing it. It's a stretch for me, obviously. [Laughs]

Terri and Emma have quite a showdown in the first episode back -- how much fun is it playing mean?
It is so awesome. You know, the thing that cracks me up about that scene is, when you're an actor, you're so annoying because in your head, you think your character is the hero. Obviously. So the way I saw that scene was: I walk into my apartment and she's setting my table to have a date and clearly have sex with my husband. I want to kill her! But because everybody loves Emma, they're like "You're so mean!" And I think, "So mean? Get off my silverware! That's my wedding gift!" So for me, I thought there were no rules in that scene ... it's amazing I didn't claw her eyes out. [Laughs]

Do celebs ever come up to you and ask if they can come guest star on the show?

The highest compliment when the show came out, I remember one of my actor friends saying, "I'm just gonna say it ... I'm jealous." That's kind of the most you can say. I will say -- because she's having such a hard time -- that Sandra Bullock, when we were at the SAG Awards, she had just won and she came running over to us. She was saying, "You guys, you won! You so deserve it! I love the show -- you're all so talented!" And she just threw all her excitement and energy into our win, and it was so genuine and so generous. It was like actor to actor ... we were just blown away by how excited she was for us after she had just won her own award.

Do you have a dream guest star?
I keep landing back on Justin Timberlake because he's so dreamy. And he's so talented. [Laughs] I'm sorry -- let's put talented first. I don't want to make him uncomfortable when he comes to set. [Laughs] That would be really cool.

Is Terri gonna get musical soon or what?
Oh, she does! I had the best time! We did a musical number ... I can't tell you with whom, but I mostly did sort of backup. I haven't been a part of the musical numbers -- I already loved my job, and then I got to do the musicals and I thought, "Have I died and gone to heaven? This is beyond." It's so ridiculously fun to dance and sing and just put everything out there, and have no shame -- it was a dream. It was awesome.

Can you spill any details about what she'll be singing?
It's by Beck. And that's all I can say. It's really cool ... it's kind of different from what we've done in the past. Tonally, obviously, it's different from the more poppy stuff we've done.

Any chance she'll get a new guy in her life?
She is forming new relationships, yes ... new friendships.

I imagine her getting along well with Will's nemesis, who'll be played by Neil Patrick Harris -- are you in that episode?
I'm not in it, but there's a lot of reference to Terri because they had a stand-off over me in high school. So I think we're definitely building something there, which'll be really, really fun ... if he comes back. That would be a great way to really burn Will.

Our office is in love with Victor Garber -- when will we see him on the show again soon?
Victor Garber and Debra Monk ... that's where Ryan [Murphy, the creator] is so smart. Like, OK, Will needs his parents to come -- let's get these Broadway legends, and then when we bring them back, we know they have the voices. They haven't appeared in this back nine, but now they're in the arsenal and we can pull them out any time. For the world to see what they can do, if you haven't had a chance to see them on Broadway ... how amazing is that? To create a stage that size for them? They so deserve it! They're brilliant, and they're the reason that people like Lea [Michele] and Matthew [Morrison] and Jenna [Ushkowitz] do what they do. They are their idols, so that was really fun for us to have them there.

Of all the 'Glee' couples, do you have a favorite?
Jenna [Ushkowitz, who plays Tina] and Kevin [McHale, who plays Artie]. Their relationship and the way she takes care of him all the time ... that has been something that's just evolved. I really think that they built that, and it's really kind of sustained. I think that needs to be explored a little more.

Looking at one of your other great roles on another Ryan Murphy show, what'd you think of the way they ended 'Nip/Tuck'?
I have it on my TiVo -- I haven't seen it yet! But it's kind of controversial, right? It's hard to end a show. I mean, I know I love the way that I ended. [Laughs] I always felt that Gina would die -- I always did. For some reason I had it in my head that she couldn't sustain that level of living. It was too much! Someone like that is going to combust. In a way, it couldn't have been more perfect for her. Ryan has said that he always knew how the series would end. When he started it, he always knew the last episode. Isn't that interesting? I wonder if he feels that way about 'Glee.'

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