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September 2, 2015

Chris Colfer on 'Glee,' His Many Projects & How His Sister Keeps Him Humble

by Joel Keller, posted May 17th 2011 10:00AM
Chris Colfer at the Time 100 galaIf you weren't aware of who Chris Colfer was a year ago, you probably know who he is now. He won a Golden Globe for his role as Kurt Hummel on the smash FOX hit 'Glee,' and Kurt has been featured prominently in a storyline about bullying this season.

But that's not all; Colfer also signed a deal to write a live-action pilot for the Disney Channel called 'The Little Leftover Witch,' and 'Struck By Lightning,' a movie based on his screenplay, is going into pre-production with Colfer as one of the stars. Oh, and he also made the Time 100 list of most influential people. Again, not a bad year for a guy who won't turn 21 until next week.

So between the show, whose New York finale just finished shooting last week, the 'Glee' summer tour, the many interviews he's doing, and his multiple projects, you can understand why it might take some time to pin him down. But pin him down we did, for a 20-minute, jam-packed interview about 'Glee,' what keeps him humble, and where he's going to find the time to do all this stuff.

Last year, you were that intriguing character from 'Glee,' and now you're a Golden Globe winner, and you've got all this stuff going on. Which whirlwind do you think is more crazy: the first year of 'Glee' whirlwind or the second year, where a lot more of the attention is on you?
Oh gosh. I don't know. I mean, I think they're both pretty much the same, because the first one ... maybe the first one was a little more crazy just because it was literally, for me personally, it was like being from obscurity to the middle of Times Square like in a heartbeat. It was quite a trip and quite a whirlwind. And then the second year was just like the perfect year to add to that. So I think altogether, it's been one crazy, crazy adventure.

You've got the Disney show, you've got the movie that you wrote, you've got the awards. At what point do you sit and you just go, "Two years ago, I was a kid going to high school, and now there's this?"
Honestly, I try not to. Because I find whenever I do, I get stuck in this place that I almost don't believe that it's real. And I just kind of go into really this place of shock where literally, who knows, maybe I'm sitting in a nursing home somewhere in my hometown and I've just gone crazy, and I think all these things are happening, but really I'm just insane. But I mean, it's a trip.

I try not to stop and think about it, because every time I do, I literally spend so much time on just reflection, and shock, and awe. I remember when we first started shooting at Paramount, I would literally just walk around and just be completely awestruck at everything that I'd see, like the stage, and this building that was used in 'Sunset Boulevard,' and this bench that was used in 'Forrest Gump.' And I had to tell myself then that I have to keep my head out of the clouds, because I have a job to do. I can't spend all my time being in this surreal state, because otherwise I can't get anything done. So to make a long answer longer, yeah, it's hard to sit around and just be in awe of it all because once I get there, it's hard to leave.

What is the biggest thing that keeps you grounded?
The biggest thing that keeps me grounded? I think unfortunately for me, I am very, very well aware that I'm human, and I'm reminded every single day because I'm just an awkward, clumsy person. I think when I was growing up, every time I'd see someone in a TV show or a movie, I'd think oh, they must be perfect, they must be flawless. And I'm very, very flawed. So that definitely keeps me grounded, my flaws.

Also, I have a younger sister who is never impressed at anything I do. Anything I accomplish, she's never impressed at. So that helps.

Kurt performs with the Warblers on 'Glee'What does she say to you?
Well, it's so funny, because she's a special needs [kid], so she doesn't really understand anything that I'm doing, or achieving, or anything like that. And I'll tell her, "Hannah, guess what, your brother got a Golden Globe!" And she's like, "That's nice, how are the dogs?" (laughs) She's just uninterested. And I remember one time, I was being a good big brother and I took her to Jamba Juice, just her and I, and these people asked for my photo and I took a photo with them. When they asked "Oh, can we get a photo with you," my sister goes, "Why?" (chuckles) Like she just doesn't get it.

It's almost good that she doesn't get it, right?
I know! It's fantastic. And my parents tell me that whenever I have a big episode in 'Glee,' she falls asleep. (laughs) But whenever one of my male co-stars have a big episode, she's all ears, because she has crushes on them.

Which one does she have a big crush on?
Oh, she's in love with Mark [Salling]. So whenever Mark has anything, like a song or anything, she's up for the entire episode. But whenever I have anything, she falls asleep.

What do you think your biggest flaw is?
Oh, God. Where do I begin? Maybe my biggest flaw is always trying to correct my flaws. Maybe that's my biggest one. Any of my co-stars will tell you that I am the biggest klutz in the entire world. I'm constantly dropping my phone, or ... or ... or ... forgetting sentences ... clearly ... exhibit A. (laughs) But I told my friend Ashley Fink who's on the show, we joke that I am a goldfish because I literally will lose track of anything. Anytime I see something shiny, it distracts me and I'll swim over to it.

Which is interesting, because you say you're klutzy, but you're dancing on national TV in front of millions of viewers every week.
Yeah. Yeah. (chuckles) Which probably doesn't help. But at least they can edit that to perfection. You can't edit life.

Kurt's storyline this year has garnered a lot of attention, but you were with the Warblers most of the season. When you heard about the storyline, did you feel that is this a new adventure in the show, or you were worried that the chemistry would be broken?
Well, I think it was a story that I was excited to help tell, because it had kind of hit me on a personal level, because I was bullied in high school myself. I was never bullied for the same reasons or in the same ways that Kurt was. I was always just made fun of for the way I spoke and the way that I ... mostly for my voice is what I was made fun of for. The crazy things that I was doing, you know, trying to run a writer's club, and things like that. But I was definitely excited for it, because I thought it was great material, and it was kind of like candy for an actor. You get really emotional and dramatic.

And I was so excited about The Warblers because we work so much on 'Glee.' I cannot stress to you enough how much the cast and crew works to create the show. I mean, a 16-hour day for us is a breeze. It's like an early release day for us. In fact, we finished at 4:00 in the morning yesterday (Thursday the 12th), finishing season two. So we were constantly working. So when I found out that I was going to another school, I was very excited, because I got to work only twp days a week rather than all day every day. And of course while I was working, the other kids got a break too. So it was definitely mutually beneficial for all of us. And you know, I was excited for Kurt to go to a place of acceptance, and I was excited for that acceptance to be seen on TV, kind of as a utopia of high school, where anyone can be who they are. Oddly enough, in a private school where everyone dresses the same, they can be who they are.

You weren't bullied because you were gay?
Oh god, no. No, no, no, no, no. That was ... no. I was bullied because I was an intense child. (laughs) Because I was like that kid, you know, with his opinions. But mostly, people ... it's crazy ... people really gave me so much sh*t because I had a high-pitched voice. Even now, when I'm walking down the street, I'll get so much crap for it. I still don't understand why it's so fascinating.

I was basically bullied because I was a 40-year-old in a teenager's body. I was a precocious pain in the ass, basically.
Yeah, no, same here. Exactly. I was unapologetically a pain in the ass. (laughing)

You and Darren Criss have very good chemistry on the show. Did the producers get you and Darren together before The Warblers started and gauge what kind of chemistry you had? How did you sense that you and Darren would do pretty well right away?
I don't think they did. I think they just kind of gambled it. I had never met Darren until the first day that he started working on the set. But I don't know, I think we have great chemistry because we're both huge nerds, and we'll both tell you for hours like all the nerdy things that we'll do, and we'll do together, and the same 'Harry Potter' this, 'Star Wars' that, stuff that we're into. So then we kind of bonded over just both being huge geeks.

But I don't know. I think the connection between the two characters was something that both the characters just needed. So I think we just both took it from the characters' place.

Does this season feel more intense than even last year?
Oh absolutely. Absolutely. Because I think the bigger the show gets, the more intense it becomes, and the more people we have to please.

Considering you're also going out on tour this summer for the show, how do you think you're going to fit in those other projects?
I'm definitely bringing my computer on tour with us. And I think, you know, when we're on the plane and the bus, I'll always be busy at work, you know, doing something. But it really is amazing how other projects can ground you. I noticed that when I started kind of branching out, that like when I'm thinking about this project, everything else goes away. And when I'm thinking about that other project, all that stuff goes away. So it really can be amazing how sane you can get from insanity.

Is it a matter of you figure you're young, you can do it, or is it a matter of just grabbing the opportunity because it's here?
I think it's both. I think it's because I'm very ambitious, and also, who knows where I'm going to be next year? Who knows if I'll even ever get the opportunity to do this again? I have a drawer full of projects that I'm doing that just haven't been announced yet that I really had to stop and think, do I need to do this right now? Do I need to add another thing on my plate? And the answer has been yes, because who knows if I'm going to get this opportunity again?

So the Golden Globe: was it expected? Your speech sounded like it was from the heart, but also well prepared. Did you have it running in your mind in case you won?
No. Absolutely not. I'll look at the video of when I won, and people would say, were you really surprised? And I'll say yes! I'm not that good of an actor! That was pure shock you're seeing. But no, if you look at my name and the list of names that I was nominated with, there was no way in hell that I thought I was going to win that. And if I did, there's something wrong with me! And thank God I kind of grew up in high school doing speech, and debate, and impromptu rounds, and kind of knew what to say on the spot, but no, nothing was prepared. If you watch it, I'm literally just naming all the people I can see, and whose names I can remember at the table (chuckles). Because there were some people that, I remember looking from the stage at, and I think I forgot their names and just friggin' thanked them! (laughing).

Yeah, but the message that you put out there about bullying and about being yourself ... how did that come to you? Is it because you knew that the storyline was one of the reasons why you won the award?
Absolutely. I think that was a big reason why I won. And I remember, the little that I can actually remember from that moment ... which, let me tell you, I don't know how people could prepare a speech in that moment. Your adrenaline is out of control. I have never, ever had an adrenaline high like that before in my life, to the point where I literally can remember barely any of it. I just remember where I was, and the little bit of what I could see. But the rest is blurry. But I just remember walking up to the stage and thinking to myself, please don't trip on the table, please don't trip on one of the table chairs, because I will trip and embarrass myself in front of national television. Then all I could remember was just thank the kids, thank the kids, they're the reason why you're here, they're the reason why you're here.

Last week's prom episode obviously had that big reveal of you being prom queen. But when that was leaked out, how did you feel about that, because it's such a big plot point?
Well, I think I was definitely disappointed, because I thought it could have been like a really big shocker, which I'm sure it was for some people who don't read the internet and all that. But one of the things that I've learned from being a part of 'Glee' is that there's really no such thing as a secret, or something private anymore in the world we live in. So I wasn't surprised it was leaked, but I was disappointed.

How are you keeping your private life private?
Well, there's not much of a private life, so it's easy. (chuckles)

'Glee' - 'Grilled Cheesus'Are you being followed around by more paparazzi at this point now?
Yeah. And that is, I think, the worst part, the worst price of it all, because it really does give you anxiety when you know that people are following you around. And the fact that there's no such thing as a private moment anymore, that really anywhere you could be, you could be being watched and photographed. And yesterday I was in the airport, and of course, there's 25 paparazzi guys behind me, or not 25, probably more like 15. I didn't count, because I wasn't looking at them. But of course, they were there, and I was randomly selected to be searched at the airport. So they got all that on camera, which was fantastic.

The pat-down and everything​?
Yeah. My bag was searched, everything. Everything was out and I asked the guard to put me in cuffs, since they were already taking pictures. They might as well just put me in cuffs, because I'm sure it'd make a great story.

Did they do it?
No, they wouldn't, unfortunately.

So what does doing the finale in New York bring to the show that all these other event episodes didn't have?
Well for one, exterior shots. The entire show takes place inside. We're never outside. (chuckling) But in New York, it really is the center of the world. These kids live in their isolated world of their own. So I think it definitely is a best juxtaposition for them to travel outside to. And everyone has dreams of going to New York someday. Everyone. Even if people say they don't, they're lying. Everyone wants to go get to New York and see it for themselves eventually. These kids get to do it, and they get to do it for something they love. So I think it's the most climactic setting they could have chosen.

Chris Colfer shooting the 'Glee' finale in New YorkIs this the kind of thing where being there is going to make some of them change what they think about their lives, or what they think about Glee Club?
Yeah, I think so. Absolutely. I know that my, well once my character gets there, he doesn't want to go, and he plans on coming back one day. Which, I mean, I always knew. But yeah, I think they definitely get bitten by the NY bug.

What can you tell me about the finale, that isn't a spoiler, that people can look forward to?
Oh gosh. Lots of crazy locations Locations that like, I remember when I would watch movies and TV shows and see people filming in these places, and think how is that possible? How is it possible to shut down Times Square to film for a day, which we did. Or how is it possible to shut down Lincoln Center and film for a day, and Central Park, without being attacked, which we were. So I think it's just a big, crazy episode, with lots and lots of amazing, amazing locations and conclusions.

Now where do you think Ryan and Ian and Brad can go for season three, considering how big ... I mean, it almost gets to the point where every episode is such a big event. Where do you think they can go in season three? Do you have an idea where they might be going?
I have no idea. I mean, I can only speak for my character, and I know that I've certainly been pitching tons of controversial storylines and directions to go in, which I know we'll see ... we'll see where they go. But I don't know. Lucky for me, that's not my job. I mean, thank goodness it's not. Because I don't know. It's awesome that we only have to top ourselves.

Alright, give me a possible controversial storyline, if you don't mind, that you've pitched.
Ohhhhh ... I can't tell you ... I can't tell you because I'm really pushing for one, and I can't tell you because I know if I tell you, then it probably won't come true, but it's really good.

Anything you've pitched and gotten rejected?
Not yet. Not yet, no. Well, I mean, I did one like on the tour. I really wanted to fly over the audience in the harness, which they said no to, but other than that, that's about it.

Yeah, because if Spider-man can't do it, you can't do it.
Well I mean, yeah, I know. Exactly. I mean, it's the same insurance policy. It shouldn't be too much for them. But no, I don't know. Fingers crossed. I'm really hoping for it. It would be controversial, but it's something that happens every day.

Ever think that, like at some point, have you gone to the guys and say "Hey, can I write an episode, or can I direct one?"
I mean, the thing about 'Glee' is, it's not mine. I mean, I'm not driving the bus. I'm a passenger. So I never really would think about it. I mean, at this point, if an opportunity came to me that I couldn't pass up, I would definitely take. it. But I mean, I would never ask myself, because I don't feel like I'm in the right place to do that. I feel like they know what they're doing so far ... why test fate with me joining in?

Who was the most interesting person you met at the Time 100 party?
Oh, there was no way I could pick one person. The room was insane. There was not one single person in that room, including the waiting staff that did not impress me so much.

You were on 'Regis and Kelly' downplaying that honor a little bit. What are your thoughts on why they picked you for that list?
I feel like by picking me, they also pick the show. Because without the show, having your creators and writers brave enough to give me the material that I've had, I definitely wouldn't have had that honor. But I mean, I think it's amazing how much a little teeny show can affect people, and that's why that's what I was chosen.

Right. Dianna Agron's passage about you in the piece was quite descriptive, in a short paragraph. She did a nice job on that.
Yeah, no, she, I mean, yeah, she's wise beyond her years. And that was fantastic. I couldn't have asked for something nicer.

'Glee' airs Tuesdays at 8PM ET on FOX.

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This is a really great interview. Nicely done! He gave some really interesting answers to your great questions. I love him. :)

May 17 2011 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So much honesty! It's really refreshing.
Great interview. Now I finally get why he compares himelf to a goldfish. Of course he's a strong swimmer he has seen dark days without a doubt.

And he admits that he struggles with his flaws. "But at least they can edit that to perfection. You can’t edit life."
That's what I call wisdom. I think at the core every human is just a selfish egoist but what's truly beautiful is someone with wide open eyes and a matching strong will. He has ambitions. Good for him, better for us.

"Yeah, no, same here. Exactly. I was unapologetically a pain in the ass. (laughing)" Okay - I love him. :D

May 17 2011 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So he's working on more projects than Lightning and the Disney show? This is exciting! Love Chris!

May 17 2011 at 11:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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