The Glee gang — Darren Criss, Lea Michele, Ashley Fink, Jenna Ushkowitz, Amber Riley and Chris Colfer — gathered recently at the W Hotel in Westwood and chatted to Movie Fanatic about the journey from TV smash to big screen sensation in Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.
Glee 3D captures the essence of the sensation and brings it to the masses. The cast of the Fox hit show toured the country this summer and the film is a moment-in-time capturing of the glory that is Glee.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie also breaks down the fourth wall of film and TV by showing the audience the immediate impact the show has had on a number of fans. Although only on the air for two seasons, Glee has managed to bust barriers between the youngest generations and show them that at the end of the day, we all share the same hopes and dreams. Glee’s cast embodies that sentiment and hearing them attest to that fact in person, was downright inspiring.
Movie Fanatic: While you’re filming Glee: The 3D Concert Movie as the characters from Glee, did you ever feel like you slipped into your own persona while performing in front of 20,000 people?
Lea Michele: I feel like I did a nice blend of Rachel and Lea while I was on stage performing. We are our characters but at the same time when we walk off stage we are ourselves. Also, we got to shoot these really fun, little backstage things with Ryan Murphy where he was interviewing us in character.
Darren Criss: I definitely blew it a couple times. I was in San Francisco making shout-outs to my parents and Blaine’s probably never even been to San Francisco [laughs].
Chris Colfer: I had to be in character. There’s no way I could’ve done Single Ladies every night [laughs]. That’s when you just leave yourself behind.
Movie Fanatic: One of the best aspects about the Glee movie is we get to see the impact you have made on your fans. Where do you guys get most of your fan feedback?
Amber Riley: One of the great things about this show is social media: Twitter and Facebook. We continually get letters and tweets from fans telling us how each character has touched them in some way and how they changed them in some way. I don’t know about them [gestures to her castmates], I can’t take the credit. We have really great writers. I think those kids are just brave by watching the show and identifying with it, coming out and being themselves.
Movie Fanatic: Were there any songs that didn’t make it to the film’s final cut that you wish had?
Ashley Fink: Towards the end Jenna (Ushkowitz) was singing True Colors, which was amazing. But we hadn’t even put that in (to the set list) before we filmed the movie.
Darren Criss: The boys (The Warblers), we did Friday at the beginning of the tour.
Jenna Ushkowitz: Single Ladies… we did that. I don’t think we did it the nights we filmed for the movie.
Lea Michele: There were a lot of versions of the concert — because we do songs some nights and not others. Some nights we wouldn’t be feeling particularly well, so we would take one song out and put another song in — it was constantly growing and changing.
Movie Fanatic: And Lea, have you met Barbra Streisand? Do you have the same obsession with her as does your Glee character?
Lea Michele: Oh, yeah, for sure [laughs]. I did get to meet her and I held it together and cried when she walked away.
Movie Fanatic: Chris, the gay community is a big part of your storyline. What does it mean to you to inspire today’s youth?
Chris Colfer: It’s crazy when you represent such a select community. They always thank you so much when it’s really them who are brave and the strong ones. The stories that you hear are heartbreaking and inspiring.
Movie Fanatic: What can fans look forward to in the upcoming third season of Glee?
Lea Michele: They’re really doing a back-to-basics season — really focusing on it being very similar to Glee’s season one. That’s so exciting. The first script was amazing. I absolutely love it — with a lot of songs that haven’t been on the charts in a while but were hits from the past. I love doing stuff like that. It’s, for some of us, our senior year. We want to make it great, to see what it’s like to be a senior in high school.
Movie Fanatic: You guys usually shoot on a closed set with a few crew members watching. Many of you have worked in theater or on Broadway, but this film is a concert film. These are bigger arenas providing a more immediate response from tens of thousands of people. How did you find the experience different?
Darren Criss: To experience all these people in real time is a pretty cathartic moment. There’s this huge fan presence that is undeniable. But, when it is on social media, it isn’t as immediately tangible because it’s inherently disconnected. You have all these people that you feel on your phone, but to have them cheering and dancing — it’s a very symbiotic thing where they’re celebrating this show with you and we’re celebrating what they’re celebrating. You’re right. It’s very different than a set. Crowds are more forgiving than your script supervisor [laughs].
Jenna Ushkowitz: [Laughing] It’s instant gratification. We get the energy and we feed off of that. Gratefully our crew is dancing along with us with every number that we do and they’re amazing. But other than that, it’s a small group of about 20 of us so it’s just a totally different vibe.
Movie Fanatic: What’s the most thrilling part of this Glee experience for you?
Amber Riley: I get to watch what I think are the future’s brightest stars. I’m getting a personal performance. When everybody’s watching it on TV, I’m actually in the room. So, I’m listening to Broadway’s next biggest stars and our next great singers. I’m their biggest fans.
Movie Fanatic: This summer Glee has been in the news almost constantly. How is working amongst all the speculation?
Amber Riley: I think that the great thing is that this movie is going to put a lot of things in perspective for people. They’ll get back to what the show is really about. It’s not about gossip. It’s not about drama. It’s about these kids that are connected to every one of our characters. Our characters have literally grown up with them and we are helping them through adolescence, junior high and high school. So, I’m hoping that’s what this movie is going to do.
Movie Fanatic: Any advice for the people out there who are yearning to be singers?
Darren Criss: Do it.
Jenna Ushkowitz: Work hard, practice. It doesn’t appear overnight. It takes a lot of work and honing your craft. Also, don’t give up because people may say you’re not good enough. I had so many teachers in college and high school, saying, “You’re not going to make it.” “You can’t.” Luckily, I had enough people around me who said I could.
Darren Criss: I would say utilize a lot of the technology that’s available to kids now. Unfortunately we live in a country where the facility to perform isn’t as available. I was very blessed with an arts education and it’s not so easy for everybody in parts of our country and elsewhere to get that. But, kids today are finding ways to perform. Obviously YouTube is the forefront for a lot of performers we find, myself included. And there are ways to meet people and surround yourself with like-minded people who will support you. It’s a smaller world now. I would embrace that to nurture your own love of performing.
Lea Michele: I think it’s also important for kids who know that they want to be performers to find what you’re particularly good at and discover your unique talent. I think that our television show really focuses on each person’s individual talent, whether you’re a singer who can move well or a fantastic dancer who sings well. Find what you’re good at and then go for that. People in this world right now are craving people’s uniqueness.