10:25pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Glee's' Amber Riley: Mercedes is 'Spreading Her Wings'
Tuesday’s “Asian F” episode of Glee saw series regulars Harry Shum Jr. and Amber Riley step into the spotlight in ways their characters had yet to do on the Fox hit.
While Shum’s Mike Chang had an emotional story in which his desire for a future in the arts clashed with the life his parents wanted, Riley’s Mercedes Jones went full-on diva as both characters were more fully realized.
For Riley, Tuesday’s episode in which she challenged Rachel (Lea Michele) for the lead in the school’s rendition of West Side Story, the role meant really figuring out who Mercedes was – and stretching her acting muscles.
“Every actress dreams of being able to develop her character and being challenged; I was really challenged,” Riley told The Hollywood Reporter at Monday’s American Horror Story premiere in Hollywood. “I wasn’t used to reading all those lines and having all these different emotions and trying to figure out who this character was.”
Riley notes that Mercedes’ new love interest, Shane (LaMarcus Tinker), played a huge role in her frustrating of being second fiddle in New Directions bubbling to the surface as he encouraged her to start believing she’s Beyonce and not Effie, from Dreamgirls.
“Mercedes was a singer and now I had to figure out who she was. That was a lot harder for me but it was fun,” Riley says.
Ultimately, Mercedes winds up finding herself getting herself kicked out of New Directions and declining to share lead duties as Maria because she believes in herself – and knows she was better than Rachel.
“Mercedes is a confident girl, she stands for what she believes in and she’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking,” Riley notes. “She’s a lot like me.”
While she may have bowed out of West Side Story and gotten herself kicked out of New Directions, Mercedes still has a few things going for her -- namely her relationship with Shane, who is turning into her biggest champion.
“Unlike other Glee relationships, they may stay together all the way to the end of the year,” Riley teases. “I think what you’re going to see is what a positive relationship looks like with those two.”
While she’s unsure what comes next now that Mercedes has joined forces with Shelby’s (Idina Menzel) rival glee club, Riley was mum on details but excited nonetheless.
“Mercedes is coming in to her own now and spreading her wings a bit and leaving the nest to see what she wants to do,” she says.
Glee returns with new episodes in November. What did you think of Diva Mercedes?