The runaway favorite show of the season has hit a high note with TV viewers across the country. Glee is the story of a misfit high school glee club with big dreams of ruling the school. But in their never-ending quest to fit in and be show choir champs, the members of New Directions endure endless torment. Led by the dedicated choir director Mr. Schuester, the club has one big hurdle standing in the way of a championship: Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach who has it out for McKinley High's newest stars.
The Glee cast is made up of mostly newcomers to television, but both Matthew Morrison (Will Schuester) and Lea Michele (New Directions diva Rachel Berry) have Broadway backgrounds. In fact, Matthew says Lea has plenty in common with her Broadway-bound alter ego. "She's a very strong woman and she knows exactly what she wants," he says.
"I've been performing since I was 8 years old on Broadway, and I was very much like Rachel when I was younger, so I kind of draw upon that," Lea says. "But I think she's amazing. If I can say I'm like Rachel, you know, she knows who she is and she's proud of that, and I think it's amazing. I'm so honored to play a character like her."
Cory Monteith plays football and glee club star Finn Hudson, but says he'd never sang before being cast in the role. "I mean, in the shower, in the car. But it wasn't really something I did," he says. "I was a drummer, so I never really thought of myself as a singer, so this is all new."
Matthew says it's hard to pinpoint one reason Glee has become such a big hit. "If you asked any one of us, I think we'd have a different answer, and I think that's what makes the show work so well—it works on so many different levels," he says. "For me, I think music is the language that we all speak, everyone in the world speaks. So I think its the universal language, and I think the music is the most important part of the show."
With only half a season under their belt, the Glee cast has already won a best TV comedy musical Golden Globe and a SAG award for best ensemble cast. Dianna Agron, who plays mean-girl-turned-pregnant-outcast Quinn Fabray says attending the Golden Globes was a dream. "The room is full of people that you admired your whole life and, you know, Julia Roberts came up to the table...and I thought just us girls were going to go quiet, but the boys went quiet too," she says. "She talked to us! And Tom Hanks and all these wonderful people were saying they watch the show with their families, and it was outstanding but astonishing at the same time."
Onscreen, the chemistry between the cast is palpable, and Amber Riley says it's the same way when the cameras are off. "We do love each other," she says. "The funny thing is, we were planning a trip to Cabo and then we found out we're going to The Oprah Show. So Oprah trumps Cabo."
Amber says being part of Glee is especially exciting because she gets to do everything she loves. "I get to dance, I get to act and I get to sing, and I do them all equally on this show," she says.
Chris Colfer, who plays the fabulous Kurt, says being on Glee has been vital for him for a different reason. "When I was in high school, I was kind of daily reminded of my imperfections by other students and sometimes the teachers," he says. "To be a part of a project that kind of celebrates your differences and makes your disadvantages your advantages has been very therapeutic."
One of the most surprising things fans may notice when they see the Glee cast live is that Kevin McHale, who plays wheelchair-bound Artie, is not actually in a wheelchair. "I love playing Artie in a wheelchair as he is," Kevin says. "It's an honor to get to play a character like that."
On the show, Artie had a brief love interest with Tina, played by Jenna Ushkowitz. During a typical day, Jenna says the cast is juggling shooting scenes, learning dances and recording songs. "It's quite the mash, but we love it all and it keeps us fresh," she says.
Mark Salling, who plays bad boy Puck, says the busy days, which are usually 14 to 16 hours long, keep him on his toes. "It's just a whole bunch of extremes. Sometimes you're just, you know, tired, and sometimes you're on cloud nine" he says. "But every one of these people is so talented and hardworking, and I'm just so proud of everybody."
If Glee has one scene-stealer, it might be the ruthless Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester, played by movie veteran Jane Lynch. "Sue Sylvester has like that devil on her shoulder that's whispering in her ear that we all have, although we have filters, we don't let it come out. She just lets it fly," Jane says. "It's liberating. It's wonderful. It's delicious to play her. I'm a much nicer person."
Jane says fans never mistake her for Sue, luckily. "They just love it. They go, 'You're so mean!' She's almost cartoonishly mean," Jane says. "If I had a mustache, she'd be [twirling it] all the time."
After playing Sue Sylvester for six months, Jane says she's suddenly hip again. "My demo is 16-year-old boys. They never noticed me when I was 16, you know? I wasn't in the hip crowd. But now all of a sudden there's these cool people in coffee shops going, 'Hey!' I go back to my 14-year-old self," Jane says.
In her own high school days, Jane says she was one of the kids her alter ego would hate. "I sang in the choir for four years and I did plays and I was also in sports and I kind of kept under the radar in terms of being mocked and made fun of."
In his Golden Globe acceptance speech, Glee executive producer and co-creator (and former real-life glee-clubber) Ryan Murphy said the award was for anybody who ever got a wedgie in high school, a statement that resonated with fans across the country. "To me, the show is about celebrating the difference in you. I think when you're that age you think the difference in you is the worst thing, and I think the older you get, you find out that it's the best thing," Ryan says. "So that's what the show is about. That and about that the arts matter."
Ryan says the idea for Glee actually came from a potential movie script, but that he was looking for a show to add a breath of fresh air to the dark and gloomy prime-time lineup. "I had wanted to do something optimistic. I thought that there wasn't anything on television that was really sort of upbeat and had a happy ending every week. There's a lot of crime procedurals, and then I got a script by Ian Brennan, one of our writers, who had written a very dark movie version of Glee and ... we decided to take that and turn it into sort of a celebration of the arts. So I'm as shocked as anybody that it got picked up, but it did."
One of the key ingredients to the success of the show is Lea Michele's voice, Ryan says. "It sort of cuts through you. It pierces through you. It's incredibly moving and soulful beyond her years," he says. "Like that next sort of Barbra or Patti LuPone or just that great, big, universal talent that is so inclusive to people."
Another vital part of the Glee mix is having real people portray the characters. "Usually when you do TV, you cast in two weeks and you're shooting," he says. "We took three or four months and we went all around the country and we wanted unknowns. ... We encouraged people to just come in off the street. I think Chris had to drive down from where he lives and walked into the room and sang and was so unique and we're like, 'We've got to write a part for that guy.' And we did. That was the spirit of the show. New voices, new talent, fresh faces."