GLEE’s third-season finale airs tonight, Tuesday May 22, on Fox. We caught up with two of GLEE’s creators/executive producers, Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan (the third creator/executive producer is Brad Falchuk) for a short chat about the journey so far.
ASSIGNMENT X: At what point in GLEE’s life did you realize you had not just a TV series, but a pop culture phenomenon?
RYAN MURPHY: I was out of the country shooting [EAT PRAY LOVE starring Julia Roberts] when it sort of all happened. I think it was the episode [“The Rhodes Not Taken”] that was the first Kristin Chenoweth episode, it was Episode Five [of first season, in 2009]. At that point, we had sort of gotten bigger every week, and bigger every week, and then that one really exploded on the iTunes chart. I think it was that one, don’t you think? That was also the week of the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY first cover, so everything kind of went big.
IAN BRENNAN: It’s still really weird, to be honest. Seriously, I’m an actor, this was all very, very new to me. I was not writing, I was an actor in New York, it was great, but it was not this. This is a whole new thing. It was like when a volcano shoots off and then the bits hit the stratosphere and ash goes everywhere, all over the world, and it’s just kind of that, and we never could have predicted that. At least, I couldn’t. That was just not anything that we had in mind. I thought at best, [GLEE] would be a show that a lot of people liked and [a show that] made its way from season to season. At worst, I thought it would be a failure. I never expected this, ever, in my wildest dreams. It’s bigger than I would have thought.
AX: Is there any downside to this sort of popularity?
MURPHY: Of course. I think everybody feels a backlash, but all we can do is sort of pull the show back and be more intimate and more emotional, as opposed to more bombastic. That’s my quality control. I mean, that’s all I can do. I can’t control what people say.
AX: Mr. Brennan, it’s said that you’ve written a lot of what is said by Jane Lynch in her GLEE character as Sue Sylvester. Is she based on anyone, or is the character sort of like what we’d hear if your id critiqued people?
BRENNAN: It is, yeah. It’s kind of a weird inner voice that you have to in polite company not scream out loud, but yeah. I don’t know what it comes from, and I didn’t really know it was in there [laughs], but she’s great. Sue is sort of like a hamster that just keeps running in the wheel and then occasionally, you just let the hamster out.
AX: How much has Jane Lynch’s performance informed her dialogue?
BRENNAN: Always. First of all, because there’s nothing she can’t do. She’s just brilliant, she’s the perfect mouthpiece for whatever you want to say. I can’t say enough good things about her, and she’s a total peach, the nicest human being in the world.
AX: Kristin Chenoweth was your first dream guest star on the show. Now that you’ve been on for three years, are there any people you’re currently dreaming of?
BRENNAN: I can’t think of [and/or possibly can’t spoil] any right now. Again, it’s just overwhelming to me I’m in a position when casting calls up and they’re like, “Okay, here’s a list of people who want to be on the show.”
AX: Sort of a tweaky question – one of Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway colleagues Raul Esparza – he played her suitor on PUSHING DAISIES – is coming to L.A. later this year to do a concert, “Raul Esparza Sings Sondheim.” Any thought of using him?
MURPHY: I love him. I’ve always loved him. Yes, I would use him.
AX: Do you have a favorite episode that you feel had a big impact on GLEE when the show was finding its audience at first?
BRENNAN: Yeah. They’re all different. The pilot is its own wonderful thing and then the first episode back I feel like we started to set upon a certain tone, we sort of found the show then, but then it really found its feet with the episode “Preggers,” which was Kurt [Chris Colfer] and his dad and the dancing football players, and then Kristin Chenoweth came in and then it sort of raised the bar a little bit, and then we got to the “Wheels” episode, which kind of surprised us that the show could handle a story that emotional and that deep. It’s been a long, wonderful learning process and it continues to pleasantly surprise in the journey that the audience is coming along with us on.
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Article: Exclusive Interview with GLEE co-creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan