Glee Cast Biography
The show's creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan first conceived of Glee as a film. Murphy selects the series' music, maintaining a balance between show tunes and chart hits. Songs covered in the show are released on iTunes during the week of broadcast, and a series of Glee albums will be released through Columbia Records, beginning with Glee: The Music, Volume 1, which was released on November 3, 2009. The music of Glee has been a commercial success, with over two million digital sales.
Critical response to the show has been generally positive. Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times highlighted the pilot episode's unoriginality and stereotyped characters, but praised the showmanship and talent of the cast. David Hinckley in The Daily News opined that the show was imperfect and implausible but "potentially heartwarming", while Robert Bianco in USA Today noted casting and tone problems, but commented positively on the show's humor and musical performances. Mary McNamara for the Los Angeles Times wrote that the show had a wide audience appeal, calling it "the first show in a long time that's just plain full-throttle, no-guilty-pleasure-rationalizations-necessary fun." The series was nominated for four 2010 Golden Globe Awards including, Best Comedy Series, Best Actress (Lea Michele), Best Actor (Matthew Morrison), and Best Supporting Actress (Jane Lynch).
Glee was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan - who has also written episodes. Murphy drew inspiration from his childhood experience as a lead actor in all of his high school's musicals. Brennan and producer Mike Novick were also highly involved in their own schools' glee clubs. Brennan originally wrote a script for a Glee movie based on his own experiences at Prospect High School in suburban Chicago, but Murphy believed the concept would work better as a TV series. Fox picked up the series pilot within 15 hours of receiving the script, which Murphy attributes in part to the success of the network's American Idol, commenting: "It made sense for the network with the biggest hit in TV, which is a musical, to do something in that vein". Glee is set in Ohio. Murphy chose a Midwest setting as he himself grew up in Indiana, and recalls childhood visits to Ohio to the Kings Island theme park. Although set in Lima, the show is filmed at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.
Although Glee has been compared to film series High School Musical, Murphy commented that he has never seen a High School Musical film, and that his interest lay in creating a "postmodern musical," rather than "doing a show where people burst into song," drawing more heavily on the format of Chicago. Murphy intended the show to be a form of escapism, explaining: "There's so much on the air right now about people with guns, or sci-fi, or lawyers running around. This is a different genre, there's nothing like it on the air at the networks and cable. Everything's so dark in the world right now, that's why Idol worked. It's pure escapism." With regard to Glee's audience, Murphy intended for it to be a family show which would appeal to adults as well as children, with adult characters starring equally alongside the teenage leads. Murphy has mapped out plans for the series covering a potential for three years of broadcast.
The series features covers of numerous songs sung on-screen by the characters. Musical segments typically take the form of performances, as opposed to the characters singing spontaneously, as the intention is for the series to remain reality-based. Murphy is responsible for selecting all of the songs used, and strives to maintain a balance between show tunes and chart hits, as: "I want there to be something for everybody in every episode. That's a tricky mix, but that's very important — the balancing of that." Song choices are integral to script development, with Murphy explaining: "Each episode has a theme at its core. After I write the script, I will choose songs that help to move the story along."
Murphy was surprised at the ease with which use of songs was approved by the record labels approached, and explained: "I think the key to it is they loved the tone of it. They loved that this show was about optimism and young kids, for the most part, reinterpreting their classics for a new audience." Another reason for the ease of song use is monetary: Columbia Records, the company producing the soundtrack for the show, also owns the rights to many of the songs used. For example the artist with, by an incredibly large margin, the most airtime is Beyonce with three songs of her own and one as Destiny's Child appearing in just the first season. Songs used from Cabaret and Grease are in a far second, with two songs a piece. Journey's hits were also recorded by Columbia Records. Composer Billy Joel offered many of his songs for use on the show, singer Rihanna offered her single "Take a Bow" for use at a reduced licensing rate, and other artists have offered use of their songs for free. Madonna granted the show rights to her entire catalogue, and a 2010 episode will feature Madonna performances exclusively.
Murphy has planned an episode utilizing original music, to air in spring 2010. He explained: "I've had a lot of calls from songwriters, to the point where it's kind of embarrassing and ridiculous. So we're writing an episode called "Original Song" where the teacher asks the kids to write their own piece of music. Diane Warren is going to do two big ballads, and if it works, we'll see what happens ... but we won't do it all the time."
There will be a series of Glee albums released through Columbia Records. The first, Glee: The Music, Volume 1, was released on November 3, 2009. Songs featured on the show are available for digital download through iTunes up to two weeks before new episodes air, and through other digital outlets and mobile carriers a week later. The score of the show features a cappella covers of instrumental songs, provided in the pilot episode by The Swingle Singers.
Glee is choreographed by Zach Woodlee, and features five to eight production numbers per episode. Once Murphy selects a song, rights are cleared with its publishers by music supervisor P.J. Bloom, and music producer Adam Anders rearranges it for the Glee cast. Numbers are pre-recorded by the cast, while Woodlee constructs the accompanying dance moves, which are then taught to the cast and filmed. Studio recordings of tracks are then made. The process begins six to eight weeks before each episode is filmed, and can end as late as the day before filming begins. Each episode costs at least $3 million to produce, and can take up to 10 days to film as a result of the elaborate choreography.
Prior to the premiere of the second episode, the cast of Glee went on tour at several Hot Topic stores across the nation. The cast sang the national anthem at the third game of the 2009 World Series. Originally, the cast were invited by Macy's to perform at the 2009 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but host broadcaster NBC rejected the plan due to Glee airing on a rival network. Co-creator Ryan Murphy commented on the cast's exclusion: "I completely understand NBC's position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float.". Due to the success of the show, the cast will go on a concert tour following first season wrap up. "We're going to do what American Idol has done and put the kids on the road," Murphy told the New York Post. In addition, the cast recorded an exclusive cover of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" that will not be featured in the show. Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer will reprise their roles as Will, Rachel, Finn and Kurt respectively for a cameo appearance in an upcoming episode of The Cleveland Show.
Glee - Pilot Episode: Director's Cut was released on Region 1 DVD in the US on September 1, 2009, exclusively to Walmart. It was released on Region 4 DVD in Australia on November 25, 2009. The DVD included an advanced preview of the episode "Showmance", plus a deconstruction of the series by creator Ryan Murphy. It is scheduled to be released on Region 2 DVD in the UK on January 25, 2010.
Glee - Volume 1: Road to Sectionals contains the first thirteen episodes of Glee season one. It was released as a four-disc box set on Region 1 DVD in the US on December 29, 2009. Special features include full length audition pieces from the pilot episode by Lea Michele as Rachel Berry and Amber Riley as Mercedes Jones, plus casting and choreography featurettes.
Glee features 12 major roles with star billing. Matthew Morrison plays Will Schuester, McKinley High's Spanish teacher who becomes director of the Glee Club, hoping to restore it to its former glory. Jane Lynch is Sue Sylvester, head coach of the cheerleading squad or "Cheerios", and the Glee Club's arch-nemesis. Jayma Mays appears as Emma Pillsbury, the school's mysophobic guidance counselor who has feelings for Will, and Jessalyn Gilsig plays Terri Schuester, Will's demanding and amoral wife of five years.
Lea Michele plays Rachel Berry, talented star of the Glee Club who is often bullied by the Cheerios and football players. Cory Monteith plays Finn Hudson, star quarterback of the school's football team who risks alienation by his friends to join the Glee Club. Also in the club are Amber Riley as Mercedes Jones, a fashion-conscious diva who resents having to sing back-up; Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel--a role that was written-in to the show's cast after Colfer's audition--a gay male soprano who is bullied by the football team, and struggles in early episodes with his identity; Kevin McHale as Artie Abrams, an electric guitar player and paraplegic; and Jenna Ushkowitz as Tina Cohen-Chang, an Asian American goth student with a fake speech impediment. Mark Salling plays Noah "Puck" Puckerman, a friend of Finn's on the football team who at first disapproves of Finn joining the Glee Club, but later joins the Glee Club himself. Dianna Agron plays Quinn Fabray, Finn's girlfriend, who also joins the club to keep an eye on Finn. Quinn was also the head of the Cheerios and celibacy club, until she is cut, when Coach Sue Sylvester discovers she is pregnant. In order to maintain her relationship with Finn, Quinn claims the baby is Finn's, even though they never had sex; however, Puck is the real father, though Finn and most of the cast remains unaware until the mid-season finale of season one.
Recurring roles include Patrick Gallagher as Ken Tanaka, head coach of the football team who is in love with Emma, Iqbal Theba as Principal Figgins, the high school's unenthusiastic principal, and Stephen Tobolowsky as Sandy Ryerson, Will's Glee Club directing predecessor, who was fired for inappropriate behavior towards male students. Naya Rivera plays Santana Lopez, a competitive member of the Cheerios, and Brittany, played by Heather Morris, completes the featured triumvirate of Cheerios. Harry Shum, Jr. and Dijon Talton appear as Mike Chang and Matt Rutherford, football players who join the Glee Club in the fourth episode. A regular 'background' performer is an ever silent teacher/piano accompanist played by Brad Ellis (Rachel calls him Brad in the episode "Ballad"), who in reality is a member of the show's music production team.
The show features Broadway stars in recurring or minor roles, including John Lloyd Young as "a retired wood shop teacher with an excellent singing voice", Victor Garber as Will's father, and Debra Monk as Will's mother. Kristin Chenoweth plays April Rhodes, a former member of the Glee Club who never finished high school and ended up hitting rock bottom, and Josh Groban appears as himself. Other guest stars include Mike O'Malley as Kurt's father, whom Kurt comes out to in the episode "Preggers"; Sarah Drew as Suzy Pepper, a senior with a crush on her teacher; Michael Hitchcock as the Haverbrook School for the Deaf choir director Dalton Rumba, and Eve, who was cast after Whitney Houston declined to appear. In the second half of the first season, Jonathan Groff will play the male lead of rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline. Olivia Newton-John will appear, singing a duet of "Physical" with Lynch. Idina Menzel has been contacted about appearing in the series. Fans lobbied for her to be cast as Rachel's biological mother due to the strong resemblance between Menzel and Michele, but Murphy has yet to decide on a role for her.
In casting Glee, Murphy sought out actors who could identify with the rush of starring in theatrical roles. Instead of using traditional network casting calls, he spent three months on Broadway, where he found Morrison (Will Schuester), who had previously starred on stage in Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, and the Broadway revival of South Pacific; Michele (Rachel Berry), who starred in Spring Awakening; and Ushkowitz, who had been in the Broadway revival of The King and I, and in Spring Awakening, with Michele. Colfer had no previous professional experience, but so impressed the casting director that even though he did not fit any of the roles then being cast, the casting director asked Murphy to see Colfer with an eye to possibly fitting him into the show in the future. Murphy was so taken with Colfer that he created the role of Kurt Hummel for him.
Auditioning actors with no theatrical experience were required to prove they could sing and dance as well as act. Mays (Emma Pillsbury) auditioned with the song "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" from The Rocky Horror Show, while Monteith (Finn Hudson) initially submitted a tape of himself acting and playing "drums" with a set of tupperware and glasses. He was requested to submit a second, musical tape, in which he sang "a cheesy, '80s music-video-style version" of REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling"." McHale (Artie Abrams) came from a boy-band background, having previously been part of the group Not Like Them. He explained that the diversity of the cast's backgrounds reflects the range of different musical styles within the show itself: "It's a mix of everything: classic rock, current stuff, R&B. Even the musical theatre stuff is switched up. You won't always recognize it."
Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) was originally supposed to have a recurring role in the show, but became a series regular when a Damon Wayans pilot she was working on for ABC fell through.
On January 11, 2010, it was announced that the show's producers would be holding auditions for three new roles to be introduced in the second season. Auditions, which begin in February 2010, are open to amateurs and professionals aged 16 to 26, and will be the subject of a multi-part television special, set to air in the lead-in to the second season premiere in fall 2010, with the new cast members revealed in the first episode. Murphy commented: "Anybody and everybody now has a chance to be on a show about talented underdogs. We want to be the first interactive musical comedy on television."
The first season of Glee will consist of 22 episodes. The pilot episode was broadcast on May 19, 2009. The series returned on September 9, 2009, airing on Wednesdays in the 9:00 P.M. timeslot until December 9, 2009. On September 21, 2009, more episodes were ordered for the first season by Fox, which will air from April 13, 2010, with the show moving to Tuesday evenings. On January 11, 2010, it was announced that Fox had commissioned a second season of the show.