Glee has a large ensemble cast but there’s no doubt who the big stars are – of the kids, anyway. Standing out from the rest of the class are Lea Michele, who plays prodigious, uptight diva Rachel Berry; and Chris Colfer, aka waspish soprano Kurt Hummel.
When the pair meet Radio Times, all the talk is of whether series three will see Rachel and Kurt graduate from high school. Glee’s producers said first that they will, then that they won’t, and most recently that they will, but that Michele and Colfer will remain in the cast.
“Is this our last season?!” Michele exclaims, doing comedy theatrical shock. “Who said that? Let’s fail! Let’s do really bad in school!”
“Legally in the United States,” adds Colfer, “you can’t be in high school once you turn 25. You have to get out. We can be held back until Kurt’s 25!”
“We’ve loved this experience so much,” Michele goes on, with a touch of the exaggerated, showbiz earnestness of her screen character. “Everything has gone so fast. So to hear the word graduation is so unbelievable at this point. It’s obviously inevitable, but could we and would we be 25 and still in high school? Probably! We love it so much.”
Will Michele be disappointed if Rachel doesn’t fulfil her dream and become a big star? “People always ask me that: where do you see Rachel? I definitely see her going to New York and going to a musical theatre college. Past that point: undetermined, but she obviously has the potential.”
Will we ever see Rachel’s gay dads? “I’m hoping, I really am. But what would be really smart would be at the end of the season when we’re at our big competition, if she’s just taking a bow, she waves and it’s Elton John and someone incredibly famous. That’s it. You never see them again.”
Glee has brought musical theatre to a new, young audience in America, thanks largely to Michele and Colfer, for whom belting out a number from Gypsy, Wicked, Chicago or Funny Girl has become a trademark. So do they want more show tunes in Glee or have they done enough now? “More!” they both shout in unison.
“It’s all I can do,” says Colfer. “So: more! The bigger and more female, the better.”
How about guest stars? Last year, when famous names made appearances, it led to some of the series’ best moments and helped to make the show even bigger than it was already. Who should be next?
Michele says she’d rather wait and see. “It’s the same as when people ask which songs I’d like to sing. I love being surprised. I love hearing, oh Gwyneth Paltrow’s going to be in next week’s episode, and then I pee my pants. It’s so much more fun that way.”
Colfer does have a wishlist, but there’s only one name on it. “I want Julie Andrews to play my grandmother. I think it could happen. That’s why Kurt is called Kurt, because [as I child] I played Kurt in The Sound of Music.”
However, Colfer claims to be hopeless at mixing with megastars. “When I met Lady Gaga at the White House, I embarrassed myself so much. I bowed! I said, ‘No one has talent but you.’ Then I left. She was like, why is this kid bowing at me?”
Michele also struggles with meeting her idols, she says. “We just had Patti LuPone [the Broadway star, as a guest in series two] which, for Rachel Berry and Lea Michele, was insane. When I met Barbra Streisand in real life it was too much to handle. It was so incredible, I was glad it only lasted ten seconds because after that I probably would have been face-down flat on the ground. If I did that, I can’t even imagine what Rachel Berry would do.”
But hang on a sec. Why are you so starstruck? Glee is huge now. People should be excited to meet you.
“We should start behaving more like big stars,” says Colfer. “But I think we’re too busy to feel famous.”
”They should make that into a t-shirt!” laughs Michele. “‘Too busy to feel famous.’ They would sell that at Urban Outfitters.”
“We’re working constantly.,” Colfer goes on. “When you think of celebrities you think [prestige New York department store] Saks, dinner reservations. We don’t have any of that.”
“We have not had a hiatus since we started the show,” says Michele. “After the first year it was signing tours, now it’s concert tours. Non-stop. Maybe three weeks here or there for a holiday or summer break. We are constantly in a Glee bubble. When we have those breaks, we go out and feel the effect that our show is having on the world, and the difference in our lives. Also when we do things like going to the White House and singing for Obama. Those are moments when you go: “Holy…”. You feel this big wave of oh my god, I can’t believe how much our show has grown. But 95% of the time we’re on set working with each other and we really don’t get to feel the enormity of Glee.”