After six years belting out cheery musical tunes as Artie Abrams, Glee star Kevin McHale has crossed the pond for a change of direction. As host of Channel 4's new comedy panel show Virtually Famous, the 26-year-old American actor will oversee team captains Seann Walsh and Chris Stark as they celebrate the weird and wonderful world of internet sensations.
We caught up with Kevin to chat cream teas, the joys of social media and life after Glee...
Welcome to British shores, Kevin. How's Blighty treating you? Enjoying our fine cuisine?
It’s a cliché but I do actually like going to get high tea. The first time I ever came here four years ago, my old family friend who’s British came into my room and said we need tea. I didn’t know it was a thing where it comes in the different racks of sandwiches so ever since I’ve tried to get that as much as possible.
So, what can you tell us about Virtually Famous?
It’s like a regular panel show in terms of how it’s run but the content is completely different. We show the biggest videos, tweets and vines that went viral and sometimes we actually bring the people behind those huge videos into the studio and talk to them and play games based around that. We get to meet these online legends.
Are you relishing the chance to play boss?
I’m not used to being a host. We don’t have panel shows in the States so this is such a different thing for me to be doing. To me, hosting is doing an awards show or something like American Idol or X Factor – a little more straightforward. Whereas with this, I just get to sit there and laugh at the comedians and celebrities who come on the show and watch these hilarious videos. It feels like what I would do in regular life with all my friends but we happen to be recording it.
So, now you're well-versed in British humour, whose is weirder? Ours or America's?
I think the British sense of humour is a lot funnier - it’s a lot dryer, smarter and more sarcastic. The US does have that sometimes but I think the majority of it is a bit slapstick – a bit over the top or obvious to me. That was a big selling point for me coming over because I’ve always loved British humour. To me, the dryer the better. I love when people can't even tell you're kidding.
Glee made musical theatre cool again (something this Les Misérables aficionado is very grateful for) - you must be proud to have been part of that?
Yes, completely. When we started it we were hoping people felt that way. When it first came out, it wasn’t huge from the get-go. It took a couple of months and it was basically by word of mouth. It's a testament to Ryan Murphy and everybody who put the show together because they really did create something special. When you’re doing something like that and people are responding in such an overwhelmingly positive way, it makes you feel great about what you’re doing. It’s not an easy show to do and the crew worked their asses off and we worked our asses off and it’s nice when people are so into it and still so passionate about it. It went above and beyond anything we could have imagined.
When you head back to film the sixth and final series (*sob*) this July, the cast is slimming down to focus on the originals - does it feel good to finish where you started?
It’ll be nice to end the show in a full circle kind of way where we all come back together. Because we worked our asses of at the beginning of that show, even just promoting it, and it’ll be a bittersweet thing to be coming to an end so it’ll be nice to all be together for it.
Are you ready to say goodbye to Artie?
In some ways yes, in some ways no. I can’t imagine not doing it – it’s going to be weird. I’ve been doing it for going on six years so that will be the biggest change when I don’t have to go there every day and get in my wheelchair. But at the same time, the show has given all of us amazing opportunities and we’ve gotten to experience a wide variety of once-in-a-lifetime, amazing things. All good things must come to an end. We knew two years ago it was going to end in the sixth season so we could mentally wrap our heads around it and I think we’re ready for it. It’s the right time.
A world without Glee is a dark, dark place. D'you reckon you'll reunite one day in the future?
There definitely won't be anything soon because we’re still not done. We’ve always joked about when we’re fifty we’ll have a reunion tour, although nobody’s going to want us to sing Don’t Stop Believing after that long. I definitely won’t rule out anything.
Do you have plans to stay here in the UK or are you scooting off home to sunnier climes?
I’m here for the show - I’ve got to see a lot of my friends and hang out which has been really nice but after that I’m going to head back home.
And finally, give us three words to describe Virtually Famous...
Unexpected, hilarious and current.
Lovely stuff, Mr McHale. Great to chat. TV lovers, check out Kevin's brand new panel show Virtually Famous on Mondays at 10:00pm on E4