7:18pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Glee's' Ryan Murphy on Chord Overstreet Return, Season 3 Spoilers; 'The Glee Projects's' Future (Q&A)
As Oxygen’s The Glee Project inches toward crowning a winner that will earn a seven-episode arc on Fox’s Glee, Ryan Murphy is optimistic that the series will continue to pick up steam. Despite early ratings woes when the reality competition show premiered opposite the Tony Awards, viewership has steadily increased, most recently garnering more than 1 million viewers (including an encore).
Murphy talked with The Hollywood Reporter about his hopes for a second-season renewal for the Oxygen series, writing for Glee’s Chord Overstreet and which characters from Fox’s musical hit will take center stage during Season 3.
THR: The Glee Project has seen its ratings increase of late. Are you happy with its performance?
Murphy: I liken the Glee Project to what happened with Glee: When Glee first came on the air it did OK, it wasn’t great. People wrote articles saying it did not do well; it was a disappointment. What happened with Glee was word-of-mouth and it built. Somewhere around Episode 6-7, it was considered a success. If you look at the ratings for The Glee Porject, it’s done the exact same thing. This week we air Episode 5, which I think is one of our better ones. Each week the ratings have gone up between 22-28 percent. Not only have the ratings gone up but also the 18-49 demo has dramatically gone up. I think it’s a show that people have found either by DVRing it or watching it on Hulu.
THR: What are the chances more than just the winner will show up on Glee’s third season?
Murphy: Maybe we will. Some of them are so talented. We’re in the middle of writing Glee Season 3 and I don’t want to have a lot of guest stars this year, but we’re writing a lot of kids’ stories and I’m thinking, “You know who would be good for those two lines is McKynleigh, who got kicked off might be good for something like that.” It’s definitely being discussed but we haven’t done anything yet. We’re also writing the part for the winner and it’s quite a great role. They’re all talented and I think they all fit. They’re all part of the Glee family.
THR: The winner will play into Sue Sylvester's (Jane Lynch) season-long arc, what more can you share?
Murphy: She hates the winner. She’s going to be running for Congress and this person becomes one of the things that she’s running against. She makes it very personal. The winner of The Glee Project becomes a student at McKinley High who she hates upon first sight and tries to destroy who becomes a part of her congressional campaign.
THR: Is The Glee Project winner involved in student government?
Murphy: No. There’s something about The Glee Project winner that she finds incredibly irritating. It sparks her hatred and makes no sense except to Sue.
THR: Any word on a Season 2 pickup?
Murphy: I just talked to [NBCUniversal chairman of entertainment and digital networks] Lauren Zalaznick yesterday. It’s something we both are interested in pursuing. We want to see where the series ends up; I think it’s pretty close to being considered a hit, if not already for them. I personally would really like to do it. I don’t have a deal to do it but I like it because not only do people love the show but I think it’s a great training ground for people to come on Glee. We found a great character.
THR: Switching gears, have you spoken with Chord Overstreet since his option to return as a series regular was not picked up?
Murphy: I’ve exchanged emails with Chord. He’s traveling and I’m going to meet with him later in the week; we’re going to sit down and talk about life and I’m going to talk to him about everything.
THR: Are the writers crafting stories for him?
Murphy: Yes, we have. That was always our intent. I thought that was such a strange story. Every year there are options that are either extended or picked up or not picked up. I’ve never seen such a huge amount of stories about somebody’s option not being picked up – particularly when they were always, in my mind, coming back to the show.
THR: How many episodes do you envision Chord being in?
Murphy: As many as the other kids; the thing I’ve told Chord is to look at someone like Harry Shum Jr. – it took him two years to become a series regular and that sometimes is just the way that it works. You have to be on it for a year then you get more stories. That’s a very similar trajectory for Chord, who is also a year younger than all the other kids, so there’s great opportunity for him for growth.
THR: Which characters do you envision having “A”-type stories in Season 3?
Murphy: We’re doing some great Harry Shum Jr./Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina/Mike) story, we’re doing a great Santana (Naya Rivera) story, we’re doing a great Brittany (Heather Morris) story and a great Mercedes (Amber Riley) story. Those are the people who didn’t get big multi-arc stories – maybe Heather and Naya toward the end – but all of them are getting big ones. When you graduate a certain group of people, examining what they want to do with their lives is a really exciting thing and that’s what all these stories are about.
THR: So considering options after high school like college will feature heavily this season?
Murphy: Yes. You’ll also meet some of the parents this year. That’s something that I was surprised by. Every year we ask Glee fans what they liked about the season and what they didn’t like and what they wanted to see. Across the board, a huge amount of fans want to see parents. That’s not to say we’re going to heavily feature them, but I think it’s interesting to see some of them – not all of them. I don’t know if I want to do Rachel’s gay dads. I think that’s funny if we never see them. But we haven’t decided that.
THR: How many characters will graduate this season?
Murphy: That’s something people should watch the first episode of Season 3. We’re going to address that and say these are the people who are leaving, these are the people who are staying. A lot of times it’s people you don’t expect are leaving are leaving and there’s a lot of surprises about people who are staying. We’ve never really gotten into how old they are and what grades they are; with some of the characters we have, but not all of them. We establish the rules of the season very early on in the first episode.
THR: Will it be a pretty even split among the cast with who’s leaving and who’s staying?
Murphy: More are leaving than are staying.
THR: Will we see a Season 4 with Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Lea Michele (Rachel)?
THR: We will not?
Murphy: They are graduating.
THR: What about Cory Monteith?
Murphy: Cory is graduating. Those are the only three I’m going to say.
THR: They’re not going to be back at all in Season 4?
THR: What was behind the decision?
Murphy: You really can’t win either way, can you? You can keep them on the show for six years and people will criticize you for not being realistic or you can be really true to life and say when they started the show they were very clearly sophomores and they should graduate at the end of their senior year. That was more real, I felt it was more responsible and true to the fans. I think the fans want to see these people have a true experience and that’s what we decided to do.
THR: Was the decision something you discussed with Chris, Lea and Cory?
Murphy: I discussed it with Lea and Chris and they both trust the writing and trust me. I think that they felt that it would be great to have an open and closed experience for them to go out while they were on top. They also like the idea that it was very emotional, it will be very sad for me to see them leave. But it’s good because we’re writing to something so powerful, which is those two beloved characters going off and hopefully getting their dream.
The whole thing about Glee, it was a risk from the start. It was something nobody thought would work and then it did. We’ve never done anything by the book or what you would think. We just made that decision and I involved Chris and Lea and they thought that was a good idea.
THR: What did Cory have to say?
Murphy: I didn’t talk to Cory about it. I presume he knows. He knows he was a sophomore when the show started.
THR: You’ve always said how much you love writing for Lea and Chris and want to feature them prominently. Who can we see step up into that role in Season 4?
Murphy: I don’t know, it really depends on how the writing this year goes. Next year we’ll have new auditions and new people coming in. I’m not thinking of who’s replacing them because I’m really trying to do their characters justice and write them – as are Brad, Ian and all the new people – to give them meaty, great stories.
THR: How did this go over in the expanded writers room? Was this an entire staff decision?
Murphy: No. We had already made the decision before the new writers came in, but everybody likes where we’re taking it and what we’re writing toward. One of the things that we’re doing on the show, last year, I loved the relationship roulette where there was a lot of that. This year what we’ve decided to do is all the relationships are going to remain pretty stable. I’m much more interested in Lea’s character -- not so much on her relationship with Finn, but more on what her dreams are beyond high school and how she plans on getting them. That’s what my senior year was about, so it’s interesting to write them that way.
THR: Are we going to see Lea and Cory’s characters going off to college together? Will we see their relationship blossom and take them in that direction?
Murphy: I don’t know. All I can say to that is that they’ll be together all this year and then who knows. We haven’t written those scenes yet.
THR: When Chris’ Kurt graduates, will Darren Criss’ Blaine remain?
Murphy: I don’t know. Darren may follow Chris where ever he’s going or maybe his heart will be broken. I don’t feel comfortable answering any more questions because I don’t know.
THR: Are there any other new cast members you’re looking to add in Season 3?
Murphy: We’re not going to introduce more than The Glee Project winner because we have so many great stories that we’re working on.
THR: Any update on the tribute episode?
Murphy: In the first seven episodes, there is no tribute episode. Who knows if I’ll do it; I have the permission but I don’t know if I’ll do it or not.
UPDATE: As far as talk of a Glee spin-off with Lea Michele, Cory Monteith or Chris Colfer's character, a source close to the production tells THR there are no plans.