When Matt Bomer‘s Cooper Anderson arrives at Glee‘s McKinley High, Blaine’s (Darren Criss) older brother will cause quite a stir when everyone — including Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester — is impressed with the local celebrity.
While his heart is in the right place, the White Collar star tells The Hollywood Reporter that his hilariously named character is a total hot mess when it comes to offering career advice for the kids of New Directions: Point to be dramatic! Wink to be funny! “Unfortunately, the wisdom he’s dispensing is really illegitimate and awful,” Bomer says.
THR caught up with Bomer to discuss how he connected with Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy for the role, covering childhood fave Duran Duran and whether Cooper Anderson could be back for graduation.
THR: Considering your partner, Simon Halls, is Ryan’s agent, has working with Ryan been something you’ve wanted to do for a long time?
Matt Bomer: I’ve been a huge fan of Ryan’s work for years, so yeah, absolutely. I’ve met him socially at the Golden Globes and incidentally at things over the years. But the first time we sat down together was at the meeting for was for The Normal Heart in September, and I was blown away by his talent. To be honest, nobody makes me laugh harder.
Is that where the idea for the best-named character ever — Cooper Anderson — was hatched?
(Laughs) I can’t take credit for that, I’m sure that was either Ryan or [writer] Ian Brennan. Ryan called me one day and asked if I wanted to play Darren Criss’ brother on the show. I was floored and said absolutely. He pitched a story line, and I was literally crying from laughter hearing what a hot mess this character was and how much fun it was going to be to get to play him. He, Ian and [Glee writer] Michael Hitchcock put together a real gift of a role for me.
How much of a “hot mess” is Cooper Anderson?
He’s somebody who has really strong convictions and opinions that are completely misguided and ill-founded, but his heart is in right place. He’s back in town to rekindle a relationship with his brother, and he really wants to help him and his classmates skip out on some of the flames and arrows of the business that he’s had to endure. I wanted to make sure that all the advice and “wisdom” he dispenses to the kids were all founded and based in something. He tells them, “Whatever you do, don’t go to New York,” because he didn’t have a good experience there and wants to save them the heartache of a very difficult business. Unfortunately, the wisdom he’s dispensing is really illegitimate and awful. (Laughs.)
What’s Cooper’s claim to fame? What puts him in this position where he’s able to give everyone career advice?
His claim to fame is this free credit rating commercial; it’s about a 15-second spot. I’d always pictured it based on the success of this, he’d done signings at malls in the Midwest, so when he comes home to Ohio, he’s a local celebrity because people recognize that spot. It’s not a terribly common thing at McKinley to have someone who’s been in a commercial to be roaming the halls. He comes home and has this moment where he says, “God, it’s great to be back in Midwest.” It’s the impetus of it all; he’s somebody who is desperate for validation, and the second he gets that, it kicks right in to the hubris. It ends up costing him, and he realizes at the end of the episode that if he doesn’t calm it down, he’s going to lose his relationship with his brother.
What’s Cooper’s relationship with Blaine like? Are they close?
Like any relationship with brothers, it’s complicated and complex. It’s a competitive relationship, a loving relationship. He feels a sense of responsibility as an older brother to look out for his younger brother. He also knows that his brother is incredibly talented, maybe more so than he is, and he wants to make sure that that talent gets seen in more than just a free credit rating commercial, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but he wants more for his brother and he knows he’s going to have a lot of success. He wants to help usher him in to that success in the best way he knows how.
How is Cooper received at McKinley?
He comes home and immediately has this validation on all fronts. The jingle from his commercial is Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) ringtone, and Sue (Jane Lynch) recognizes him and expresses what a huge fan she is. They have an immediate, slightly romantic kinship that happens. She asks him to give this master class to the kids, so he’s met with validation and affirmation all around him. He’s just the kind of person where that sparks poor behavior in him. It’s well-intentioned but ultimately poor behavior.
Is he as amazing as everyone thinks he is?
If you look at wisdom he’s dispensing, it’s obviously not the kind of acting technique that’s going to take one far in the business. There’s a ceiling on the type of work that he’s encouraging these young people to do.
What kind of acting tips does he offer?
Point to whomever you’re talking to, especially if it’s a dramatic scene, because otherwise the audience isn’t going to know who you’re talking to and you have to know that you’re being very direct, and that’s what made movies like Schindler’s List really great (laughing). And in comedy, you have to wink to get a laugh out of people. He has all kinds of exercises to warm the kids up, like the “emotional tornado” and things of that ilk. The emotional tornado says a lot about Cooper Anderson in many ways. (Laughs.)
Will he ultimately provide any guidance that helps New Directions at Nationals?
I don’t think so. I remember being in high school and college and people would come back and speak to us. As a young artist, these pearls of wisdom were flying at us with this divine guidance, and I had to write down every sentence. I look back on it now and they were just crazy. I think there’s something innately inspiring about having somebody who has worked in the business coming and talking to you and sharing their experience, but in terms of actual practical application of the guidance? Absolutely not.
Whose idea was the Duran Duran mash-up, and what was singing on the show like?
I’m sure it was Ryan’s idea. It was really surreal and amazing. I grew up sharing a room with my brother, and every night for a good solid year we’d listen to the tape — I know I’m dating myself! — of Duran Duran as we went to bed. So getting to go in and record that was a dream come true. And getting to perform it with someone as talented as Darren was the icing on the cake.
Could Cooper Anderson return? Maybe for graduation?
I would love to come back to Glee at some point, schedule permitting, and see what Cooper is up to and what kind of tricks and advice he has up his sleeve in the future. I’m already shooting White Collar, and that pretty much takes up all my time.
What was it like going from a drama like White Collar to a comedy? Is that something you’re interested in doing more of?
Absolutely. Comedy is harder work in some ways in that you really have to ground all the humor, otherwise it’s just superficial. I had a great time getting to be silly and play somebody whose perspective was so skewed.
Are you looking forward to Bomer’s Glee visit? Glee returns Tuesday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Check out a preview below: