12:45pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'The Glee Project' Runners-Up: Two Episodes Isn't a 'Consolation Prize'
Oxygen’s The Glee Project finalists Lindsay Pearce and Alex Newell may not have won a seven-episode arc on Glee, but Ryan Murphy couldn’t part ways with the duo, offering both two-episode guest turns on the Fox hit.
Throughout The Glee Project’s 10-episode run, Pearce had been viewed as a potential mean girl and rival to Lea Michele’s Rachel Berry, and if the buzz the 19-year-old from Modesto, Calif., is hearing, that could very well happen. For Newell, meanwhile, impressed Ian Brennan with his second drag performance of the competition, with the Glee co-creator declaring the 18-year-old Lynn, Mass., native’s routine “brave.”
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Pearce and Newell to discuss being a runner-up as well as their visions for their time on Glee.
THR: What was going through your mind when you heard Ryan eliminate you, then moments later brought you both back out after naming Samuel and Damian winners?
Pearce: At first I was disappointed at not winning, but I was OK. You can see it on my face; I knew I didn’t win. When you know, you know. I was just pleased that I had finally got it all done, that I did my job and all I needed from Ryan was a thumbs up and he gave me one. I felt like I had redeemed myself in his eyes and that was all I needed. Him telling me that I didn’t win, I didn’t need to win at that point anymore; that wasn’t what it was about. He told Alex he didn’t win and that was a big shock for me. Then Damian and Samuel won, which was incredible. When he pulled Alex and I up to the front and said, ‘You guys really are special; here’s a little something – two episodes.’ At first, it was like, I feel like this might be a consolation prize, but it really wasn’t; he wasn’t consoling us, he was giving us a chance.
Newell: The one thing that we all learned is that when Ryan starts to praise and compliment you, that’s not good whatsoever. But when he’s finding all your flaws and everything wrong with you, that’s the best time because that means that he can see you on his show. For me, as soon as he started praising me, I knew I didn’t win. [I thought], ‘The door is not closing, the door is half open now. No matter what happens, somebody is going to see this and you’re going to be successful in your life.’ At the same time, I really wanted it, so I wasn’t upset. But as soon as he pulled me back up on stage and said, ‘You’re going to have two episodes on my baby,’ for the first time in my life I couldn’t say anything; I was speechless. It’s a moment in my life that I’ll probably never forget because it was the only moment in my life that I was quiet for. (Laughs.)
THR: You came out in the finals in drag for the second time in the competition and Glee co-creator Ian Brennan called you “brave.” What does that mean to you?
Newell: It meant the world to me and it showed that he understood me and what I was representing, who I was representing and everything about me. To call me brave was the best compliment that anybody could have given me at that time or in general. It just showed that somebody out there gets me and understands what I stand for.
THR: Did you see this coming at all? Did you ever think that maybe there might be a chance that all four of you could wind up on Glee after the semifinals failed to send anyone home?
Pearce: We talked about it amongst ourselves but it was never like that would definitely happen because it had been drilled into our brains that there was only one winner and just one person would end up on Glee. Then there turns out to be two winners and two semi-winners. There’s a shot of me in the finale saying, ‘Did we all just win a little bit?’ Whether it’s two episodes or seven, we all get a tiny chance to live our dreams.
THR: Have there been any discussions about who you’ll play on Glee?
Pearce: I’ve heard rumors about a Sheila character. At first I thought people were getting my name wrong. People keep calling me Sheila. Now I hear Pendelton, and I don’t know what or who that is. I don’t know anything yet.
THR: Alex, you obviously impressed the Glee guys with your drag performances. Any chance we’ll see that incorporated on the show?
Newell: I hope so. It’s fun but painful – my feet always cry! – but it’s really fun and shows that I can play male and female. It shows that I’m that underdog chameleon.
THR: What would you think if Ryan and company scripted a cross-dressing or transgendered character for you?
Newell: I would be perfectly fine with that because there are so many different angles to that. I go to different schools to visit friends and I see transgendered kids and it’s hard. Not too many television shows shed light on that, it’s that hidden thing that not everybody wants to talk about. But it is there and there are people that want to be able to turn the television on and see somebody else who is just like them. I feel like if I were able to that, I’d be beside myself and happy.
THR: The Glee Project guys noted during the series that they could see you, Lindsay, as a rival to Rachel or a bad girl. I could almost see you as Rachel’s kid sister.
Pearce: A kid sister to Rachel would be hilarious. It would be a dream. Lea has one of the most valued voices in the entertainment industry today. She’s a powerhouse and very talented. She uses her gift to the best of her ability and is very good at what she does. Sometimes the Rachel character isn’t one you always love but you always love to watch her sing. I’ve always loved her character. My own personal story is very much like hers, which is why I think it would be funny for me to play a Rachel character because I sort of am one already. At the same time, it would be nice to do something different. Really anything that Ryan pulls out of his bag of magic I would be fine playing.
THR: Alex, who would you most want to share scenes with?
Newell: Amber Riley (Mercedes). I would love to work with her because I know any song that we sang together we’d just absolutely murder the song. That song would be ripped to every different shred. I’d also like to share scenes with Max Adler’s Karofsky. I’d love to be his new love interest, I feel like that would be extremely fun.
THR: Alex, you’ve been described on Glee Project as the lovechild of Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Mercedes. What was your first reaction when you heard that?
Newell: I died! I want to do that so bad! My fans call me “Kurtcedes” already. I’d love to do that.
‘The Glee Project’ Winner Crowned