Yes – finally, ‘Glee’ is back!
Tomorrow after work I can go home and plop myself on the couch in anticipation for the premiere of the spring season. It’s my new favorite show and apparently many others. Attracting between 7 and 8 million loyal viewers each week, ‘Glee‘ is doing quite well among the 18-49 year-old bracket. Ryan Murphy (of ‘Nip/Tuck’) creates a world filled with drama, geeks (or should I say ‘gleeks’) vs. jocks, teen pregnancies and high school crushes. This one hour musical-satirical program has shown it’s stuff with performances ranging from ‘Push It’ to ‘Proud Mary’ to ‘Endless Love’ and everything in between. The cast is brilliant, the show is refreshing and most importantly it’s a huge hit!
I got the chance to talk to Jenna Ushkowitz, one of the shining stars of ‘Glee.’ Jenna plays Tina, the punk chick who faked her stutter to impress her fellow gleek Arty who is confined to a wheelchair. Jenna grew up on Long Island, New York. She attended Holy Trinity, a performing arts high school, studied musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College, has appeared on Broadway in productions such as ‘The King and I’ and ‘Spring Awakening’ and has also dabbled in independent films as well as television prior to getting cast in ‘Glee.’ Jenna Ushkowitz is a name you will be hearing more of; she has a great deal of talent along with a warm, bubbly personality and a ton of promise.
Let’s get started…
CM: How did you get into acting at such a young age?
JU: I was one of those kids who would walk up to strangers tables at a restaurant and say hi, so my parents put me into modeling at 3. I started off doing Commercials and Print ads like Jello, Hess Truck.. then i got into Musical Theatre and that sparked my love.
CM: Do you have a say in Tina’s wardrobe?
JU: I really trust our wardrobe ladies but sometimes, since Tina has so many accessories, they’ll pick out the outfit and I’ll be able to choose what jewelry goes with the outfit. But, they are really great and would never make me wear something I wasn’t comfortable in.
CM: So, how do you feel about Tina lying about her stutter to impress Artie? Do you think they will eventually get together?
JU: I wouldn’t say it was to impress Artie, she just thought she found a real friend in him and thought he would relate to her but I don’t think she saw the consequences or how he would truly feel after the reveal. I thought the revealing that the stutter was fake was done in a tasteful manner and I really trust the writers with the writing they give us. We hope they get together, we’ve been calling it Team Artina or Tartie, Kevin and I love working together.
CM: Tina was pretending to have a stutter to be ‘different’, can you relate to that, to feeling different?
JU: Absolutely. The first thing that comes to mind was being in 4th grade and doing a Broadway Show and auditioning. Other kids were playing sports and doing afterschool activities and I was working a professional job with adults. It was such a wonderful world but the kids at school didn’t really understand it so- it was weird being torn between two completely different worlds.
CM: Did you do anything like ‘Glee’ in High School?
JU: Yes, I was in “Select Choir” and I did all the school Musicals. Select choir was very much like Glee. We performed numbers and put on reviews at the end of the year.
CM: Seeing as it is typical for older actors to play younger characters on television, is it funny to be back in the world of High School? Bring back memories?
JU: It’s really great as an actor to be able to pull from real experience, as ‘Glee’ is pretty similar to my high school experience. I feel like I’ve gotten to go back to school in someone else’s shoes. It brings back memories but I was not like Tina at all, so its really fun to relive it differently.
CM: How is working on a hit TV show different from working in musical theatre? Similarities?
JU: They are completely different. TV is pretty new to me. I love working in Musical Theatre and that’s always been where I feel most at home, but I’m really enjoying being a sponge and watching people like Jane Lynch work. It’s much smaller for the camera, all your moves and actions and faces. But we get to sing and dance on TV so it’s a whole new genre we are experimenting with. I can’t really say which I like better. I love aspects of both.
CM: Are people starting to recognize you? How does that feel?
JU: People are beginning to recognize me a little. It’s weird and rewarding at the same time. People actually care about my life and our show which is weird but so cool at the same time. But it doesn’t really change things, I just appreciate the acknowledgment, I guess.
CM: How are your cast members? Does everyone get along? Any funny stories from on set?
JU: We are one big happy family. Everyone is so dynamic and different, but it works. We all love each other and actually hang out all the time on and off set. There are so many good times on set but in between takes we all sit in “club cast,” and play mafia since there’s usually about at least 8 of us on set at a time.
CM: Are Corey and Lea dating in real life?
JU: No, Cory and Lea are NOT dating in real life haha.
CM: You have known your castmate Lea Michele for a while now, right? How did you two meet? (It must be nice having someone from ‘home’ out in LA with you..)
JU: We met when we were both working on Broadway around the ages of 8-9. She was doing Ragtime and I was doing King and I and the ‘Broadway Kid’ community is pretty small. So we’ve known each other for a long time. It was very comforting having someone around in LA when we first came out and not knowing anyone else. I joined Spring Awakening and our time there overlapped– so we got to do that together and then she got Glee and then not long after, I got Glee!
CM: Have you enjoyed the musical selection on ‘Glee’? What has been your favorite song to sing?…Your performance of ‘True Colors’ was great! It was really nice to see you do a solo. Should we be expecting big things from Tina as the show continues? Will we find out more about her background, her story?
JU: I hope in future episodes you will learn more. The musical selection has been quite incredible and I’m so grateful for the amazing classics we’ve been able to do, but ‘Somebody to Love’ is one of my favorite songs in general, so be able to do a really great rendition of it was very cool. We also felt like that was one of our group numbers that really brought us together and we felt like a group.
CM: I really love how diverse the cast of ‘Glee‘ is, you guys really cover a large spectrum. How do you feel about this?
JU: I think that’s what makes it work so well, our chemistry and dynamic is made off of us all being so different. None of us look or act the same. Our personalities are so different and we are so lucky because it really works. The show reaches out to so many different people and I think its great that people see themselves in us.
CM: Do you all film Monday-Friday every week? What is your schedule/a typical day like for you?
JU: When we got to the last few episodes, we were working 5 days a week, 12 hour days. Typically, it takes 8 days to complete an episode and if we are not shooting a scene, we are in dance rehearsal or in the recording studio putting down a song. It’s hectic and crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Luckily, we usually have our weekends to ourselves.
CM: What type of music can we get excited for upcoming episodes? I heard there will be an all Madonna episode which sounds awesome…
JU: Yes, there will be a full Madonna episode which will be A LOT of Madonna music!
CM: How does it feel to be working alongside 3 guys voted on People’s ‘Sexiest Men Alive list?’
JU: Haha – Well, they are more like brothers to me, so ….weird. No – haha – its awesome, im so happy for them and they look great!
CM: Have you ever been starstruck? Met anyone cool?
JU: Of course, Everyday! haha. Josh Groban, Kristen Chenoweth! All of our guest stars! but they all end up being amazing and so lovely. I also met Terri Hatcher who is a Gleek which was amazing!
CM: How was singing at the World Series? (Yankee fan right??)
JU: I am a Yankees fan! And it was INCREDIBLE! a dream come true, really. It was surreal and amazing! We sang the day of the rain delay, so we were like down in a basement locker room with no cell service and then they were like, ok rains done! GO! haha! So much fun.
CM: How is LA compared to NY?
JU: LA is sunny! haha – No LA you drive, it’s a different vibe. It’s really chill and just everyone is really lax. NY, your heart beats differently there. It’s so cool to be in the city and be in the middle of chaos and it’s just home for me, so they both have their perks.
*Sidenote – I really like that, ‘You’re heart beats differently there’ [in reference to NY]… It’s true :)
CM: What was the first major difference you noticed about LA (vs. NY) when you arrived?
JU: Driving! Because I lived in NYC for so long and was so used to the numbered streets and walking everywhere!
CM: What do you miss most?
JU: The busy vibe. Everyone is always moving and everything is always open.
CM: How do you deal with homesickness? Do you do anything to feel connected to home?
JU: It’s so interesting, because you leave for college and home is never really the same, but then you move across country and home seems so far away but I am lucky enough to be able to get back and I have an amazing support system and family that keep in touch with me always so its been a lot easier. When I first moved it was really hard but I get back enough now to NY. I come as often as I can and when I need to go, I do, even just for a weekend. I use email, facebook and my phone to keep me in touch and I have also gained a new foundation of family and friends here from Fox and Glee, So I’m doing alright.
CM: Do you have any siblings?
JU: 1 older brother, Gregg. He’s 33 and he’s the best.
CM: What do you do to stay healthy?
JU: I eat well, I drink a lot of water, I exercise as much as possible (Yoga, Running) I try and walk as much as possible, since I tend to use my car everywhere haha.
CM: What are your vices?
JU: I’m a total coffee snob, I can’t go without it. I occasionally love my sweets and I eat a lot of sushi, probably more than I should.
CM: What do you do to relax and unwind?
JU: I am addicted to my DVR, so I tape all my shows, sit on my couch with my snuggie and just read or watch TV. I also love twitter and facebook, so it’s a nice time to just surf the web and not think about anything else.
CM: Do you have any favorite new shows on TV right now?
JU: Flashforward, Modern Family…
CM: Where do you go to have fun?
JU: We love hanging out at each others’ apartments, I love wine bars, karaoke, bowling or the beach.
CM: Who do you go to to tell your secrets?
JU: My best friends. I have an incredible base of friends who I tell everything.
CM: Who do you look up to?
JU: My dad.
These are a few of my favorite things…
Favorite Movie? Dirty Dancing
Favorite Singer /Band? Right now? Lady Gaga
Favorite Play? Play – Hamlet or Steady Rain (I just saw both) and musical is anything Stephen Sondheim
Favorite Actor/Actress? Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep
Favorite Color? Black
Favorite Athlete? Jorge Posada
Mr. Schue with Terri or Emma?
Mr. Shue and Emma of course.
Do you think Sue should have a love interest? What about Kurt or Mercedes, do you think they will eventually have love interests? And of course Tina and Artie will happen!….
I think Sue should have a few love interests but nothing substantial, it’ll kill it for now i think. I’m sure in the future she will. I hope that Mercedes and Kurt each get boyfriends. I can’t wait to see what they do with Tina and Artie! We have no idea! I’d love to see Mercedes’ get a boyfriend and Kurt maybe a sugar daddy haha.
Should Tina wear less black? How do you feel about it? Will she be trying other colors in her hair or just sticking to blue?
I hope she can try some new colors eventually but I’m loving the blue right now. Tina has “pops” of color. I like the black base. I’m a fan of black, grey and white though as Jenna, so I don’t mind it!
Should Artie miraculously be able to walk?
No, I don’t think so. I think that Kevin is a great dancer, but it would take away the reality that Artie really is in a wheelchair and that would kind of be an insult to what he’s representing. I was almost scared of Tina faking the stutter but I think it was done tastefully.
Should Quinn keep the baby?
I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Lastly, a few random factoids…
I’m actually shy
I love rollercoasters
I love to clean
I’m a Vegetarian
I am terrified of spiders
What a year it has been for Jenna along with the rest of the cast of ‘Glee‘! I mean, Golden Globes, performing at the White House, going on Oprah?! ‘Glee‘ has become a total phenomenon. It’s a great show with a ton of tricks up their sleeve for the spring season… Stay tuned!
Glee premieres tomorrow (Tuesday, April 13th) right after American Idol on FOX at 9:28pm!