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For Damian McGinty, winning Oxygen’s The Glee Project was quite a journey. The 18-year-old traveled from Northern Ireland to join the competition and almost couldn’t make the final 12 after the singer struggled to secure a visa. In Samuel Larsen’s case, the 19-year-old from Los Angeles felt like he won the reality competition series twice when Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy first crowned him the winner and moments later declared McGinty a winner of a second seven-episode arc on the Fox series as well.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with McGinty and Larsen on Monday to discuss the emotions involved in their shared win and what their hopes and dreams are for their Glee characters.
STORY: ‘The Glee Project’ Winner Crowned
THR: What was going through your mind when you each heard Ryan announce the winner and then seconds later that you’d both won?
McGinty: We looked at each other as if to say, ‘Wow, what is happening? This is insane.’ Ryan had said a lot of great things about both of us but I didn’t hear a word; I was lost in shock. My mind was in Mars or somewhere ridiculous. Then all the sudden he says, ‘Samuel, you’ve won the Glee Project.’ My heart sunk; I had worked so hard to get here and prove so much; it was such a journey. To come so close, it was soul destroying but at the same time I was still happy for Samuel. The guy worked so hard and was so consistent and is so talented and so worthy of winning the crown, basically. Then Ryan came back to me and said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘Well, Samuel deserves it.’ Then he said, ‘You don’t need to worry because you’ve also won The Glee Project.’ I just hit the roof; I can’t explain what I was feeling. I nearly hit my head on the piano when I was celebrating! The most important moment of my life and I nearly killed myself. It was such an amazing moment.
Larsen: The first initial shock to me was that Lindsay and Alex didn’t get it. The bar that they had set is a hard one to follow and Damian and I were definitely looking at each other like, ‘Holy crap, it’s one of us.’ When he told me that I’d gotten it, I forgot how to function as a human being; I was just flipping out and so excited. It was like every single emotion I could feel all at once and I couldn’t chose which one I wanted to run with; I just felt it all. Then he told Damian and it felt like I had won twice. I was so excited, so thrilled to share this with my brother. I’d told him many times before that if I don’t win this, I want you to win this. He’s just a really humble and gracious guy.
STORY: ‘Glee Project’ Winner May Not be the Only One Heading to Fox Hit
THR: Damian, your journey getting to this point, in struggling to secure a visa, was incredible.
McGinty: An O-1 visa is so hard to get. America is a hard place to get in to! (Laughs) Getting an O-1 visa is the hardest thing: it’s so expensive and so much hard work. It was a real pain in the rear end trying to get it. Especially working under such small time constrictions. A miracle happened and we got it literally hours before the deadline. So many times I was told I wasn’t eligible and couldn’t do it. There was one stage where [casting director] Robert [Ulrich] said, ‘I’m sorry. Maybe you can do Season 2.’ I was sitting on the bed thinking that it was over. This was the beginning of January. It was very hard but I picked the phone back up and I said to Robert, ‘Give me a couple days, we’ll see what we can do.’ And within that couple days, I got the visa.
It was a miracle. Then Cameron quitting and saving me. I feel so amazing right now. Right now, the last 18 years of my life have been correct; I’m sitting where I’m supposed to be and I can take it from here.
THR: How much do you know about the character you’ll wind up playing on Glee?
McGinty: Myself and Samuel, we’re dying to know as much as everybody else. We haven’t heard at thing; we don’t know when we’re beginning, we don’t know anything about our characters. What we know is literally what we picked up on the show: Ryan told me, for example, he sees me coming in as an exchange student, starting off quite lonely and vulnerable but ending up being a leader-type character of the glee club. It’s flattering knowing that he has big plans for me and Samuel. I’m just thankful for this and can’t wait to get started. It’s a real waiting game right now.
Larsen: Ryan spitballs ideas here and there when you sing for him. I know he looks at me as a Christian character that you wouldn’t expect to be a Christian character, which I love. I know he wants me to be the indie rocker that Glee doesn’t have. Simply talking from a fan point of view, that’s the kind of character that I’d like to see; it’s two things they have not done before. I have no idea what his plans are but obviously I’d love to go past the seven episodes and hopefully become a series regular. I think that’s everyone’s hopes and dreams when they get cast on the show. What ever they decide to write, they have written the best show in the world so it’ll be great.
THR: Ryan really liked that you have a few religious tattoos, how many do you have and how do you see that impacting the glee kids at McKinley High in Lima, Ohio?
Larsen: Three of my tattoos can be considered spiritual or faithful. I have more than that, but I love that Ryan is not just fascinated with the fact that I’m a Christian, but he’s also fascinated by the fact that I took it as far as getting tattoos for it. I know trying to break in to the acting industry and showing up and having to wear long sleeves and cover my tattoos because people don’t want to deal with it, but the fact that he embraces it is really exciting to me.
THR: The Glee guys have mentioned having Damian come in and really confuse Heather Morris’ Brittany. Any further talk of that?
McGinty: I found out about that last week watching the semi-final. I think that will be quite funny. I see them using subtitles to joke around with me. I think they’re going to play up the Irish thing but there’s obviously a lot more to the story than that. There’s so much potential and so many ideas that could come out of me as a person for a character.
I like the idea of bringing me in as a lead singer in a rock band in the high school and my band breaks up. The ideas are just endless and Ryan is full of them. I know he looks at me more of a character and I know he wants me to be a leading man – not like the leader of the group, but definitely a leading role. I think he likes the fact that I’m not like anyone else on the show; you can’t really pinpoint who I’m like. Ryan is definitely going to do some things he’s never done before, which I’m super excited about. I like the idea that he wants me to be the indie rocker. Anytime one of those songs shows up, I kinda get the song. I’d love to do “Tighen Up” by the Black Keys or “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes or “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand, they’re more modern songs but they’re classic indie songs.
THR: Damian, Ryan has mentioned taking advantage of your youth and coming in as a freshman.
McGinty: They’re not going to bring me in as a senior. In real life, I’m only 18, and on the show I’d be the youngest by quite a bit. What ever their plans are, there’s a good chance that they’ll a bit of time out of me if I do things right. If the audience reaction is right and if I’m good enough, then hopefully this can be more than a seven-episode thing and it can be a long-term relationship.
THR: Especially should you come in as a freshman. A lot of people have described you as Finn with an Irish accent.
McGinty: Exactly. On Glee, it’s been mentioned that Finn, Rachel and Kurt are graduating, so Ryan has said to me several times during the competition that he sees me as the new lead male on Glee and that’s what he wants from me, and that’s what I have to prove. It depends on what he writes for me. Ryan Murphy is the man and he can change his mind when ever he wants so we’ll see what happens.
THR: Anyone you really hope to have a story line with?
McGinty: It would be amazing – and cliché – to work with any of them. It will be flattering to work with all of them. For me, I’d love to work with Jane Lynch. She’s hilarious and I think she would just hate me, she’d despise me so badly. But Darren Criss and Lea Michele, the list goes on; they’re all incredibly talented and it’s just going to be amazing to work with any and all of them.
Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit
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