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The original concept was for Rachel (Lea Michele) to become a Broadway star and return home to Lima — and Finn (Cory Monteith), who had become a teacher — and settle down, no longer feeling like a Lima loser.
“We know what next year is, and I haven’t been that excited about something in a long time on Glee about what we have planned. It’s going to be great,” Falchuk told The Hollywood Reporter from the set Monday following a celebration for the Fox musical’s 100th episode.
Monteith’s July death changed all that, prompting producers to re-examine the show’s trajectory and overhaul Glee‘s fifth season, in which the actor behind Finn Hudson was poised to have a major role.
“The Rachel-Finn relationship was the show in many ways,” Falchuk added. “We’ve talked about it before, about how it represented these two worlds coming together and how it represented these two high school stories about not belonging and people feeling like they belong because they’ve found each other. That’s what that relationship is about, and we can’t tell that story. We’re still going to tell that story, we’re just going to find a different way to do it. And we’ll do our best.”
That road begins Feb. 25, when Glee returns from its midseason hiatus with a renewed focus on its original stars Michele, Chris Colfer (Kurt) and Naya Rivera (Santana) in New York. The series also plans to bring graduating seniors played by Darren Criss (Blaine), Chord Overstreet (Sam) and Kevin McHale (Artie), among others, to New York, and its Lima-set story and underclassmen including Melissa Benoist (Marley), Blake Jenner (Ryder) and Becca Tobin (Kitty) and company will take a backseat.
Falchuk kept mum on what would happen to the McKinley High underclassmen and whether any (or all) of Glee‘s original stars could return in a more permanent capacity than their sporadic guest turns. The series will welcome back original stars Mark Salling (Puck), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Heather Morris (Brittany), Harry Shum Jr. (Mike) and guest stars Kristin Chenoweth (April) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Holly) for its two-part 100th episode in March, when Jane Lynch‘s Sue Sylvester finally succeeds in disbanding New Directions.
“As of right now, we’re focusing only on the New York and adult stories,” he said. “[The original stars] come and go. They’re there for 100 and 101 and then it’s coming and going. There’s a little more Amber. [But] never say never. When you have Harry here and he’s dancing, you do want to see him constantly. But that’s not saying anything is planned or in the works; it’s always best to keep talented people very close by.”
As part of their return, the original glee club members will return to the show’s signature choir room to see Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) and reflect on what New Directions has meant for them. The episode will include remixed versions of some of Glee‘s most beloved songs, including its now iconic and signature cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
“It’s emotional. It’d odd doing this song without Cory. You notice it. I notice it. There is a feeling when you hear that song and see all those people singing it that you really get a sense of what’s come before it,” Falchuk says of the song that was being filmed Monday afternoon. “It’s a life flashes before your eyes type thing. The song is evocative anyway, and then our version becomes personal and when we see them all up there doing it, it’s emotional.”
As for what’s ahead, here are six teasers for what to expect from the cast:
1. New romance for Sam. “Certain people come back into the mix when I go to New York that I may be involved with romantically,” Overstreet says. “I don’t want to give anything away yet, but look for that.”
2. Sorry, New Directions. What prompts frenemy Sue to finally pull the plug on New Directions? She set a high bar for the club at Nationals and (spoiler alert) they fail to make the mark. “[There are] budget cuts, and she’s now the principal and she has to do what she has to do. Her hands are tied,” Lynch says, noting it’s unclear whether Sue will ever pop up in New York.
3. Graduation is coming. “It’s bittersweet. It’s like a chapter closing to see their characters go off to do bigger and better things,” Alex Newell (Unique) says. Adds Jacob Artist (Jake): “It’s an emotional and exciting episode. It’s closing a chapter.” Adds Morrison: “The last [graduation] was harder because that was our first graduation that we had. This one made me feel like what a real teacher goes through and seeing the revolving door of students coming and going. I had a real teacher moment with that.”
4. A new long-distance love affair. After Kurt and Blaine found a way to make New York and Lima love work, Tobin says Kitty and Artie will take a stab at it, too. “I’m a one-man woman; Artie and Kitty are still together.… and the show is very realistic and I’m sure we’ll face the normal complications of the long-distance relationship. I love the relationship.”
5. A new bundle of joy for Will and Emma (Jayma Mays). “Mr. Schue is going to have a family pretty soon,” Morrison noted, adding that the character will likely remain in Ohio despite the show’s renewed focus on New York. “I can’t see him leaving his family and following his Broadway dreams, unless he packs up the kid.”
6. Holly and April try to save the day. Morrison says Paltrow and Chenoweth’s glee club supporters return to try to save New Directions. “They came back because they’re trying to save the glee club, but their efforts fail,” he says. “I have a song with both of them so that was really a blast, especially with Kristin. I love her energy and we’ve known each other for a long time. It’s always good to have her on the show.”
Glee returns in its new night and time on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. starting Feb. 25. What are you looking forward to seeing?
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