9:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
PaleyFest: 'Glee' Series Finale to Honor Its Past
The cast of Fox's Glee held court at their final PaleyFest appearance Friday night with an emotional and nostalgic panel where stars including Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss bid to the farewell to the worldwide phenomenon and previewed the March 20 series finale.
After screening the first hour of its two-part series finale — a flashback to the origin of New Directions — the cast reminisced about their auditions and some of the firsts they experienced during production on the series. Colfer (Kurt) had his first drink at co-star Kevin McHale's (Artie) place; Mark Salling (Puck) lied about his age in order to land the part; and Darren Criss (Blaine) recalled auditioning for the male lead that wound up going to Cory Monteith. For her part, co-star Heather Morris (Brittany) recalled that it was her quirkiness that led showrunner Ryan Murphy to cast her as the beloved Cheerio.
Speaking of Monteith, footage of the late actor — who died in July 2013 — does appear in the first hour of Glee's two-hour finale titled "2009." The episode flashes back to fill in the blanks between what happened on-screen, including the origins of Will (Matthew Morrison) and Sue's (Jane Lynch) rivalry as well as the glee club's mandate to be all-inclusive. While we won't spoil it here, the first hour features scores of callbacks to the pilot, including guest stars and its most beloved song from the series premiere.
Colfer also praised Monteith, and when asked to share a favorite memory of his on-screen step-brother, recalled that the duo often did press tours together and "always had accidental fun together ... He was a very special guy," Colfer said to an already emotional packed house. Monteith's Finn Hudson was the show's driving force in telling one of its fundamental stories, the inclusion of the underdog. An explanation for how Finn died has never been given on-screen.
Leading lady Michele recalled that after Morrison's final song performance had been completed in the final moments of production, the "original members of the glee club" — Michele, Colfer, McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Chord Overstreet (Sam), Criss and Becca Tobin — fell into "this big ball, sobbing" after producers yelled that it was a series wrap on Glee.
At that point, Michele had George Michael's "Freedom" played on the set to help lighten the moment. But before the cast could leave, Amber Riley (Mercedes) stopped Michele and led the cast to the auditorium stage where, to hear Criss tell it, everyone sat in a circle for a "beautiful moment" and shared reflection. The auditorium stage, Riley told the audience, was cut up into pieces and distributed to its stars.
As for what the Glee experience meant to them, Colfer broke the emotional silence with a joke: "Puberty!" Added Lynch: "Menopause!"
Glee's series finale airs March 20 on Fox. Stay tuned to The Live Feed for more Glee coverage.