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August 31, 2015

Chris Colfer on the Whirlwind World of 'Glee'

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 27th 2010 3:05PM
Chris Colfer as Kurt in 'Glee'If there is any character amongst the kids on 'Glee' that's poised for a breakout, it's Kurt Hummel, mainly because of the confident acting of Chris Colfer.

A self-professed theater nerd, the 19-year-old Colfer has been having a ball playing Kurt; but along with all the fabulousness, he's also been doing a good job of making Kurt a multi-dimensional character in his limited screen time.

Colfer is featured in tonight's episode, 'Home,' where Kurt schemes to get closer to Finn by pairing up his single father Burt (played by Mike O'Malley) and Finn's mother. The results backfire a bit, pointing out yet again the difficulties Kurt has of being the gay, musical-theater-loving son of a guy who's more comfortable talking about Tim Tebow than Stephen Sondheim.

Colfer sat down with me last week to talk about the whirlwind that's been 'Glee's' first year, going to visit Oprah and the White House, if he's afraid of a backlash, and the weirdest place he's seen the paparazzi.

I'm hearing a lot about how you guys are pretty much non-stop now at this point.

Yeah, it's kind of like we're like in like a big hostage situation. (chuckles)

During this period when the show came back, what is your week looking like, because you're not only just filming, you're also recording the songs for the episode?
Basically, Monday morning, it starts about 5AM. and it doesn't end until about 5AM Friday night. It's pretty much five 16-hour days of either filming, dance rehearsal, pre-records in the recording studio, fittings, makeup and wig tests if we have a big episode coming up. And then on the weekends, it's award shows, and interviews, and photo shoots, and oh gosh, what else? And sleep, if we can.

It's good that most of you guys are young, so you don't need the sleep now.
True, true. We can sleep when we're dead.

At what point did you realize that this is more than your average pilot, it's more than your average show, as far as the attention's concerned?
I think I knew it was special because it was so special to us while we were filming it. It meant to much to us, and it was so magical, and so much fun in just creating the pilot that we were just hoping it would be magical and special for everyone that was watching it.

But when I knew it was going to be what it was, I think I'm still processing that all. Because it just keeps getting better and better, and we keep topping ourselves. And you know, we keep getting the next award, and the next award, and then the next famous person, and the next famous person. I mean, at this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if the Pope like said how much he loved it next week.

He might, in his mass on St. Peter's Square.
Yeah, and I'm sure he loves Kurt. Kurt must be his favorite character.

What have been the moments and times that have stuck out for you this year?
Oh gosh, well, it all started...we finished the first 13 episodes, and during that time, you were like in this huge 'Glee' bubble. No one knew what we were, the pilot had aired and that was it. Some people were looking forward to new episodes, so we really didn't have quite that big of a fan base.

And I remember the pilot aired again, and then like the next day, we all flew to Australia to do promotion over there. And Australia hadn't even aired the pilot yet, so no one really knew who we were in Australia. The pilot was airing like a week after we were leaving. We were doing interviews and stuff there. So while we were in Australia is when 'Showmance' aired (here), and 'Acafellas' aired, and 'Preggers' aired, and all these episodes.

And I'll never forget, we were in Australia, in a different world, and we came back and everything was different. There was paparazzi, there was people looking at us in the airport, people actually knew who we were. It was just pretty incredible coming from an isolated world straight into a world that we left, you know, when we left it, it was how we knew it. And then we came back to a different one.

How did you guys deal with that, the sudden attention and the paparazzi?
You know, I think we're still trying to figure that out. I think we're still trying to find out what the best way is to deal with it. I think just as long as all of us keep good focused heads on our shoulders, and we don't take anything too seriously, but take the important stuff very seriously, we should be fine. But like I said, we are working all the time. So we really don't have much time to be making mistakes.

Is there a weird paparazzi moment you can think of?
Um, there's been a couple times; whenever we're together as a group, it's always the worst. And you know, there've been times when we've been followed through airports, or followed into bathrooms. Or, literally, onto the plane. Those things can get, honestly, they can get a little scary.

And I'll never forget the first time that happened to us. I was absolutely terrified. Because I mean, they were very rude, they were yelling at us that they wanted us to sign (some)thing so they could sell it on eBay. And all of us just kind of looked at each other and we didn't know what to do. We didn't know what was going on. It was pretty scary. But now, you know, we've kinda built thick skin. We're like 'Eh, no,' and we walk away.

Where did that first time happen?
It was actually in the airport of Washington DC. And I'll never forget, we were doing the mall tour, and it was like the fifth stop. And they were kind of coming after us, and it was a little scary. Because you know, there are good paparazzi and there are bad paparazzi. And the good paparazzi, it's their job, they're doing their job. They're taking pictures so they can feed their families. And that's fine. It's their job, this is my job. And then there's some that can be a little scary, and yell, and say horrible, horrible things to you to get your attention and to get maybe like a weird facial expression from you. But it's a different world.

Oprah or the White House? Which one was more memorable for you? Because they came right around the same time.
They were, yeah, literally. We did Oprah on Saturday and the White House on Sunday. So it was one hell of a weekend. I mean, Oprah and the White House are both so similar. I mean, they both have extremely high security, and the most important people in the world, you know, some were inside the building. So I think they're probably equal to me. I think going to Oprah is a huge, huge milestone, career-wise, and then just going to the White House is a huge, huge thing, life-wise.

And you got to meet the President and Michelle and the kids and all that?
Yes. Kids and dog, yes. It was pretty incredible. And it was really, he's actually a very cool guy. And I hate to say that because my Republican family might disown me for saying that, but he's very nice, very personable, and very welcoming. I was very surprised, that the most powerful man in the world right now was so welcoming and so friendly.

Does he watch the show?
I don't know. He's a little busy. So I don't know if he watches the show, but I think his daughters do.

Do you ever get concerned that there might be a backlash, that something might happen creatively on the show that people are going to start to react against?

I worry about that every day. Because, you know, I think we all know that it's going to come to a point when it ends. And we've been so fortunate, we've gotten every award we've been nominated for, we've really had a great established audience, but every show goes through that, where they're hot one minute and the next they're not so hot, and something else comes along and takes its place.

No show has been number one for forever. Otherwise, 'Seinfeld' would still be on the air. So we all know it's going to come to an end someday, but I really hope it's going to be more of a positive ending, maybe like on a 'Friends' note. You know, it ends because it's time for it to end, not like a premature, you know, "pull the plug."

With everybody making a million dollars an episode, I hope.
That wouldn't be too bad either. I'm all for that. (laughs)

When you were looking at the scripts for the second half, did it seem like there was a tonal or content change from the first half?

Not at all. Because I think the story was just able to continue. And I think the best material that we've done so far is all in the back nine. I think back nine episodes are incredible and are going to be the best stuff yet. But I really think the writers and the producers, they really know how to hold onto the integrity of the show. And sometimes episodes come along with such sensitive material, and I think it's always handled so graciously.

Are there more musical numbers now than there were in the earlier part of the season?
Yes. There are about six musical numbers in every episode, rather than the three or four that were in the first 13. And now, because people know who we are, we have really, really, really good music.

Speaking of which, what was it like shooting that 'Vogue' video with Jane Lynch, doing it almost shot for shot? Were you a fan of Madonna's as a kid?
Well, Madonna really wasn't present too much in the media when I was an influential kid. But I definitely was a huge fan of her music, because I mean, everyone knows her music. You'd have to like live in a cave not to know her music.

But that video, it was a very, very long, long day. Because we shot it all in one day. It was actually the last thing we shot of the Madonna episode. And it's like, we finished the episode, and then a few weeks later, we were like already on into the sixth episode of the back nine, and went back and shot the 'Vogue' video for it. It was a very long day, and I remember being so excited that like some of the set pieces we were using were actually used in the original 'Vogue' video. It was kind of like filming on a museum almost.

Since you're 19, does the song feel just like a moldy oldie to you, or does it still feel fresh and relevant now?
Oh, I mean, I'm such like a, I am kind of an old soul, so I still love the music, and I think the song is fantastic. And I love that we recreated it and brought it to a new generation. But I mean, it's a classic, so I think I love classics as much as I love any modern hit.

Oh yeah, hearing that 'Vogue' is a classic, I'm sure a lot of our readers are going to be very happy to hear that. They'll feel very old, but they'll be at least happy about it.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, like yeah, a classic is a classic. And you can't hurt a classic. Well, hopefully we didn't. (chuckle) What I really want to know is like, what's gonna be like my generation's 'Vogue?' Like is 'Single Ladies' that video? Who knows what it's gonna be? The classics, you know, they keep coming.

Neil Patrick HarrisAny information beyond what we know already about what Neil Patrick Harris is doing in the episode he's in?
Actually, his, I don't know what I'm allowed to say or not, but his character... There's so many things that come out of the show that, when I read the script, I think "Oh my God, that's genius." And he kind of plays almost like a villain that has like a musical theater past. It's just brilliant. I think they are just, they take so many elements of the performing arts world, whether it's like community theater or professional, and they just mix it up for the show. And I really think his storyline is pretty genius.

How much of Kurt and you intersect?
Well not little. Sometimes I say a lot, but I think I'm giving myself way too much credit. We're two very, very different people, and I really wish I had his bravery and his kind of superior attitude. But I'm just kind of like a big nerd, not into fashion whatsoever. I really wish I could say there's a lot of Kurt in me, but I'd be lying.

What does Kurt do that you don't, or what do you do that Kurt would never do?
I think, well I could never wear the clothes that he wears. I just don't think I could...I'm just not a fashion person. And even sometimes I don't really like the things that he wears, but it's something that he would wear, so it's great for the character. But I would never be caught dead in it. That and he has a lot of mannerisms that aren't mine. Like he's very 'Vogue,' and Tim Gunn-esque, and uppity, and a little flamboyant, and I'm not really any of those. Like I said, I'm just kind of a big New York nerd.

What is it about the story between Kurt and his dad (Mike O'Malley) that people seem to identify with and hook onto? People saw it in the 'Single Ladies' episode, and it carries over in the upcoming episode, 'Home.'
I think it's a relationship that either people had with their fathers, or they wish they had with their fathers. And it really is the first positive portrayal of a relationship between a father -- a conservative, manly father -- and his gay son. And I think that relationship really means the world to people, because it's the first, it's kind of eye-opening. It kind of shows, you know, it's OK to recognize your differences and love each other. You can do both.

So it's not that he 100% understands what Kurt's all about, but he loves Kurt anyway and supports him?
Exactly. He loves him because he's his son. He loves his son. It doesn't matter what his son is. He's his son, so therefore he loves him. I mean, that's a really strong message that probably should have been portrayed in television, you know, a few decades ago.

Is there anything in the story that you identify with?
My parents have always accepted me from Kindergarten. But like, I'm fortunate enough to have two parents. I think Kurt has so much love and so much admiration for his father, because he really is the only person that he has in his life. So I really don't know how to relate to that, and that's probably why it was so hard for him to be honest with his father, because if he screwed up that relationship, that's the only relationship he had. And it was a flawed one, but it really was the only person that he had in his life. And that's why he's even more scared to come out to his father.

Do you think we're going to see more of that relationship, either later this season, or you think maybe next season?
Absolutely both. There's tons of stuff coming up with more Burt and Kurt stuff. And actually we just filmed our most emotional scene that we've ever done, like two weeks ago. And it's going to be pretty heavy material, and I really think there's going to be good response to it. And of course, Kurt gets a boyfriend next season, so there'll be lots of Kurt and Burt stuff coming up with that.

So you guys know a little bit what's going on for next year already?
A little bit. But not too much. Because I don't know if they know what's going on yet.

That emotional scene between Burt and Kurt, what can you tell me about it, beyond what you just told me?
You know, I think, when I first read it, I had no idea how emotional it was going to be, until I got into it and I started acting it out with them. But it's another scene that I think it could go in a different, a wrong, bad direction. But instead, it goes to the perfect one. Like the best possible outcome. And you know, you think that Kurt is going to take it one way, but then, you know, it's really good. The writers are fantastic. That's all I'll say. Because I don't want to butcher it or give anything away.

Very clever of you to answer in a way that answers it, but doesn't reveal any plot details whatsoever.
Was it? Because I feel like I kind of word vomit a little bit and kind of mumbled. But I hope that was good.

'Glee' on the cover of Rolling StoneI forgot to mention the Rolling Stone cover. What was going on with that interview? It seemed like the writer was setting out to ask you weird questions and make you uncomfortable.
Right. I think he might have kind of come in with an agenda to try to find some, maybe some controversy within us, and kind of find the dirt on us. But we're kind of boring. There really is no dirt. There really is no secret, like any things that we keep private or any of that. So I kind of think that it was unfortunate that he really didn't find anything, because there really wasn't much to find.

I think he's just kind of trying to maybe catch us off guard, to see who we really are, and how we are when we're vulnerable. Me personally, I've had some very, very strange friends in my life, so you know, someone asking me do I pee in the shower doesn't really throw me off a bit. Because I've been asked tons and tons of even weirder stuff. Like what my favorite ant is. I don't know, black red ones, I don't know. So I think that's probably just his tactic, which is trying to get us a little off balance and see how we reacted to it.

Any other things you can mention about what's coming up later this season that won't get you sent to the principal's office, so to speak?
Yeah, right, seriously. Well, Ryan (Murphy) has pretty much kind of said everything that's happening with my character in this season, the back nine.

There's the Lady Gaga episode coming up. That was interesting, because we're all in different, creepy Lady Gaga outfits. Mine included ten-inch heels that I had to dance in. That was quite an interesting experience, I have to say. Because it was actually kind of dangerous. Because those shoes, I mean, they're like stilts. So I really had to be careful. And I'm singing the song 'Roses Turn' from 'Gypsy' in episode five. And more stuff with the parent trap that Kurt kind of set up. And kind of backfired on him. So lots of good stuff.

You're going to be going out on tour soon. The tour is basically all over the country. Is it going overseas as well?
Not as of right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if we do a few stops in Europe in the future.

What's going through your head right before the tour starts?
It's a perfect mix of excitement and nerves. I grew up performing in a community theater, so I love performing for audiences. It's in my blood. It's almost like an addiction. Once you do it, you have to keep doing it. I'm so excited to be able to perform live, and get on the stage again. But then again, I've never performed in front of 6,000 people that are screaming at me. So I'm very, very nervous about it. And I'm just hoping that it all goes smoothly.

Is it all going to be songs that we've seen during this season, or is it going to be some new stuff?
It's going to be stuff from the first 13, stuff from the back nine, and I believe there's going to be a few songs that'll make it that haven't aired yet on the show. As kind of like a sneak peek.

Well if there's any you can mention... if not, that's OK too. But if there's a song...
I really, there's one song that we're doing that we haven't, it's in episode eight, that I cannot wait to perform live. And it was probably one of our favorite songs to do in the show, but I don't know if it's been released yet. But I cannot wait. I'm so excited.

[Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.]

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his "Republican family" eh?

I'm a tad surprised he seems to have such a comfortable and accepting upbringing.


April 27 2010 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

He seems like a sweet kid. Lucky you Joel to have had such a cherry interview! Up and coming star, great thinking on his feet. Managed to say so much without giving away anything, and still remain personable! I could have continued reading, if there were more to read.

I would like to hope this kid continues for the next twenty years doing great stuff.

And of course, as a Gleek, I hope the show stays at least through the next two seasons. And further hope as this cast "graduates" the freshmen manage to hold together just as solidly to keep the show fresh and fun to watch.

April 27 2010 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"No show has been number one for forever. Otherwise, 'Seinfeld' would still be on the air."

great interview, but the kid watches too much Larry King, apparently.

April 27 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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