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Three-Time Mentor Darren Criss Previews His 'Glee Project' Return

"I like seeing the potential new blood that could be joining the show early," the "Glee" star tells THR.

The Glee Project Season 2 Darren Criss Mentor - P 2012
Tyler Golden/NBC
Darren Criss and Robert Ulrich

Darren Criss makes his third trip to Oxygen's The Glee Project this week when he steps in to mentor the Romanticality-themed episode.

With only six contestants left, the intensity is building as the remaining contenders are tasked with playing up the love in Tuesday's episode.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Criss to preview what it is about the reality competition series that keeps him coming back, if he could have gone through the grueling process to land Blaine and the challenges that The Glee Project judges face as they narrow the field.

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The Hollywood Reporter: This week marks your third turn as a mentor on The Glee Project. What keeps you coming back?
Darren Criss: I'm happy to just because it's all in the family. It's always fun and I like seeing the potential new blood that could be joining the show early; they have to do so much more than I ever had to do. God forbid I ever had to audition for a show by being on reality television where the stakes are much more high and public than otherwise.

Could you imagine yourself having to go through this process to land Blaine?
Oh no, not at all. They have to go through a whole series of stakes that just weren't at play for me. I didn't have cameras following me around in some added element of seeing who your competition is. Auditioning for something is a very privatized experience; then a call when you get home, so you're not staring at the face and then living with the people that you're against. We work hard and it can be a very grueling show, but we're already on the show.

Do you think you'd have gotten the part if you had to go through this process?
I don't even know if I would have gotten through the audition process.

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Does it feel like the stakes are higher this year with New Directions in need of new blood?
In a way, this year there's an obvious void that's been created by the characters who have left [McKinley], so there is more of a need to add people into the world that's Glee so that must have been on the contestants' minds and on the producers' minds. But at the end of the day, there's so much that can really work well on the show, and make the show interesting.

Can you envision the remaining six on Glee?
Those initial contenders from Day 1 all could be on the show, that's why they're all there. They all have something to add and can be written into the show in a very cool way. It's just a matter of what the show calls for. I mean it gets really, really hard for the judges as it goes on and on because they can see storylines for each person and then it's not necessarily which one has the best storyline so much as who has the best storyline that fits with what we're doing right now. It's different from when I joined the show because I auditioned for a part that's nothing like me. It's a character that I play and you mold yourself into that predetermined mold as opposed to these kids who just are trying to be as likable and as themselves as possible so they can write for that person and they're basically a shade of themselves on the show.

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The Glee Project has gotten a lot of critical praise this season. What do you think makes the show so special?
I think it's a really great show. The large percentage of people who have seen it and really like it are the ones who always preface it with, "You know, I don't really watch reality TV, I don't really get into these things, but I really like The Glee Project." People really like the aspect of it being about people who are talented, not finding talent -- it's not a hate parade of trying to pick on the people who suck. Talented young kids with good hearts, that's already likable, so people are already behind these kids so when you see them going through things, it's really heartbreaking or heartwarming, depending on what trial and tribulations they make it through.

Check this week's music video for "We Found Love," below, and hit the comments with your thoughts. The Glee Project airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Oxygen.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit