If you’re anything like me, you were totally obsessed with The Glee Project this summer. Oxygen’s reality show to find the next guest star of Glee had all the makings of great summer television: great music, harmless drama, and some amazing talent. On Sunday’s finale, all four finalists – Samuel Larsen, Damian McGinty, Lindsay Pearce, and Alex Newell – won guest roles on the upcoming third season of Glee (Lindsay and Alex will get two episodes, while Samuel and Damian are each slated for a seven-episode arc). We sat down with the bunch of winners, along with some other reporters, to get the scoop on what they thought about the show, the winners, plus who they’re hoping to smooch with on Glee.
When you were waiting to find out the result, who did you think had won?
Samuel: “I thought it was going to go to Alex.”
Damian: “Honestly, I think all three are more than worthy but I thought it was between Lindsay and Samuel. I thought Lindsay.”
Lindsay: “I thought it was going to be Alex or Damian, but I wasn’t actually able to listen fully to everyone’s performance. But after watching the finale I changed my opinion.”
Alex: “I thought it was going to be one of the three of them!”
Damian, how shocked were you when you found out that you’d won as well as Samuel?
Damian: “It’s really hard to explain but it was a huge shock to the system. Standing there with Samuel, and when Ryan [Murphy] announces that Samuel has won The Glee Project it’s a real sinking feeling to think that you’ve got so far yet you’re still a million miles away! But when Ryan told me I had also won… you do forget how to function and you lose all sense of reality and you forget where you are. It was just the craziest feeling, and the best. It was a phenomenal moment in my life.”
Can you tell us anything about your characters on Glee?
Samuel: “All we really have to base what our characters might be like on is whatever Ryan spitballs at us when we sing for him. I know for me personally he’s considering me being that indie rocker guy that you don’t expect to be a Christian but is, which is really, really cool and I hope he follows through with that. But at the end of the day they’re incredible writers and they’ve created the best show ever, so whatever they want.”
Damian: “We don’t really have any idea of what character we’re going to be playing – what we picked up was always on the show. Ryan said to me that he sees me going into the school as an Irish exchange student who starts off very lonely, very vulnerable, but ends up growing – I suppose a little bit like I did in The Glee Project. Ends up growing and becoming the leader of the glee club. It’s interesting to know that Ryan is planning out for you in his head on the biggest show in the world. It’s really crazy, but crazy in a good way, and I think we just can’t wait to get started. Right now it’s a waiting game and we’re just waiting for an email to come through to say, ‘You begin work on such-and-such’.”
Lindsay: “I don’t really know much at all, but I’m really excited to see what they’re going to have me sing and what they’ll have us do and who we’ll be working with. Regardless it’s all going to be incredible and it’s going to be a pleasure and an honor and a fantastic ride.”
Alex: “I don’t know anything but as long as I can sing with Amber Riley I’m alright! I would love to play her counterpart. She’s so fierce and I know any song they threw at us, we’d absolutely murder the song.”
Do you know when you’ll start filming or when your characters will appear?
Samuel: “It’s really up in the air when we start filming. I know that they’re talking about bringing our characters in not right at the beginning. I know they’re still working on the first few episodes. I think it’s just going to be like, ‘Here’s your scripts, see you tomorrow’, so we’re just waiting in limbo pretty much. But we’re obviously excited and we can’t wait.”
What are you most looking forward to about joining Glee?
Samuel: “Getting some real experience on my favorite TV show ever. The best TV show, in my opinion. Just the character that Ryan spitballed to me that I could potentially play is the character that I’ve always wanted to see on Glee, so I’m really honored to be able to embody that. I’m excited to do that.”
Alex: “Mine would probably be getting to work with everyone.”
Damian: “Yeah, I feel getting to work with all of the professionals. That’s incredible and not many people at all get to do that. But I think all four of us are just looking forward to… we all have a chance to get a full-time role on Glee, we all have this big chance, and we all want to grab it and that’s what we’re excited about. That’s the challenge and we’re under no illusions that the hard work starts now.”
Lindsay: “I’m excited to work hard. It’s funny that people are so excited about us because we’re excited. We are Gleeks, we’re such big fans of the show, so to meet the people that we’ve been looking up to and watching week by week on this incredible TV show that Ryan’s created, it’s just a complete honor and it makes me wonder, ‘What the heck did we do right?’ because it’s awesome. I can’t believe it.”
Who are you most excited to meet on set?
Lindsay: “Chris Colfer!”
Samuel: “Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch. It’s a tie.”
Damian: “Yeah, i have to admit I’m very excited to meet Matthew and Jane Lynch also. They’re really experienced professionals and knowing that we’re all going to be working with them pretty soon, it’s a real ‘pinch me’ moment.”
Alex: “I want to meet Lea [Michele] because she is what I want to be – a Broadway actor.”
Who’s would you like to see your character pair up with??
Samuel: “Just based on what Ryan has already spitballed to me about my character I think with the storyline it would make sense that I’d end up with Quinn because she’s like the church girl. I think I like the idea of that.”
Alex: “Karofsky! Karofsky, Karofsky, Karofsky. Because he’s so adorable and… I don’t know. I just want to be with Karofsky.”
Lindsay: “Alex says that I’d be paired well with Artie, but I don’t know. I really have no idea. Maybe Jesse St James if he comes back from college again.”
Damian: “I came to the realization earlier, and it was quite upsetting, that if they bring me in as a freshman – which is what they’ve talked about – then me being with Rachel or Quinn is like them pushing a pram. It’s kind of weird. It’s incredibly upsetting because I was looking forward to that! But the only one that would possibly work would be Brittany, I suppose, which has been talked about. So maybe that might happen.”
Did it bother you being judged on your personalities? Did you ever just want to yell, “I can act whatever you want me to act?”
Lindsay: “We wanted to!”
Alex: “We wanted to but we were all scared to!”
Samuel: “I think when I was thinking about going up for the role I went up for two years ago, the Sam role, it was different because he knew what he wanted the character to be like and I’m sure Chord [Overstreet] isn’t that way in real life, that’s just his character. So it’s really weird going into a role that is tailor made for you. I hope that they keep it so it’s easy to relate to, but I want there to be some freedom to play around with it and actually act it out. I don’t want to just be myself completely.”
Damian: “I think Ryan was so interested in personality because personally I think in Glee, Ryan casts people because of who they are and the way they’re acting is 90% of them. I think some of them aren’t really acting, they’re being themselves, and I think that’s why he was interested. And I think that’s also why there were just a few acting challenges on the show because maybe they had clear plans in their head that we’re going to be our own personalities on the show.”
Were you surprised by the amount of work that went into each week on The Glee Project, and do you think Glee will be that hard?
Lindsay: “I definitely wasn’t surprised. You can’t watch Glee and think that they don’t work their butts off. But it was kind of awesome to get the feel of what it would be like to work on the show and the blood, sweat and tears that goes into it!”
Samuel: “Obviously through the competition we knew it was a reality show to get on Glee but I think after a while it just felt like our own show. There were moments when it felt like we were making our own product as opposed to just trying to get on someone else’s.”
Damian: “For me, I’m under no illusions, I know it’s going to be incredibly hard work on Glee, but I do not believe for a split second that it’s going to be as hard as The Glee Project. Four or five days was an episode on The Glee Project and we had to learn the homework assignment, the music video, do last chance performances, the pressure. I know Glee‘s going to be hard but I don’t think it’s going to be that hard.”
Alex: “I can’t imagine it being that hard. Hours upon hours upon hours of filming. We’re filming everything we’re doing and then putting something on. They’re just rehearsing the whole entire time and then putting on a finished product.”
Damian: “And they’re going home to television, computers, phones…”
Lindsay: “Yeah, they have constant connection with the outside world whereas we didn’t at all. Worth it, though – I’m never going to say it wasn’t worth it.”
How did performing in the finale with returning contestants affect your performances?
Damian: “At the beginning of the week, the four of us were talking because the four of us had become so close. We felt that there was a bit of – obviously you kind of expect it, but we felt there was a bit of envy there and a bit of jealousy from a few of the contestants. But as the week went on they realized that this was the biggest week of our lives and they quite quickly rallied behind us and gave us a lot of support. And walking out on that stage for the finale, I think we all agreed that it was really flattering seeing the cast of Glee and then the rest of the contestants cheering you on.”
Alex, you showed a lot of courage, performing in drag on the show. Is that something you’d done before, or something you want to do again in the future?
No, I’ve never played Effie White. But If I ever get the opportunity to play Effie White, I would murder the show. It’s something that I probably do look forward to doing because I don’t want to sound you know, whatever, but – I do it well. I do play a female well.
What advice would you give contestants trying out for the second season of The Glee Project?
Samuel: “If there is a season two, I think my advice to them would just be, ‘Get out of your head and don’t try to please Ryan, just try to top yourself. Be the best you can be and if he likes it, it’ll work, and if he doesn’t, it’s not your fault’. You’ve just got to be you, that’s what it’s all about.
Are there any things that you want to work on now that you’ve seen the whole season?
Samuel: “The biggest bit of advice I kept getting was just to get out of my own head because I do tend to think too much. I think it’s because I care a lot but you have to learn how to be carefree to perform to your best. I think that’s something I’d like to work on.”
Alex: “For me, it was more of learning how to be more subtle because I am a stage actor and I know how to fill a stage with just my personality, and I guess there’s the contrast of how to look natural when you’re on TV or on screen or on film. And I find myself doing that now on stage and directors yell at me for it but at the same time they commend me on it because it shows me embodying the character more than trying to be the character.”
Lindsay: “I definitely feel that I really had to get out of my own way. I had to learn that it’s okay not to do everything exactly right – sometimes the flaws are the best thing. And I learned how to act in front of a camera – it’s definitely different.”
Damian: “I would just echo Alex to be honest. I came in being quite a big performer and I didn’t realize that didn’t work on television until we did ‘Firework’. From then it was almost like I had to strip down the performance I’d learned in the last four years and build up a new one. Definitely subtlety is something I had to work on.”
Anything you want to change?
Samuel: “With the outcome, I personally wouldn’t change anything!”
Lindsay: “Honestly, no. I don’t know if the rest of the top four feels this way, but I look back and I have no regrets because every single bump and every single rollercoaster ride of the show created what we are right now and so I can’t say that I would change anything.”