In just one season, the hit television musical Glee has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring students to join their school Glee clubs and spawning a merchandise line, which includes soundtracks and original fiction novels. There was even a concert tour, featuring the popular young stars of the series.
At the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour to promote the upcoming second season, premiering on September 21st, producer/director Ryan Murphy, who co-created the show with Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, gave tons of insight about what’s to be expected when the show returns, including details about the Britney Spears episode, a Rocky Horror episode for Halloween, guest starring appearances from Susan Boyle and Javier Bardem, his desire to get Baz Lurhrmann to direct an episode and what’s in store for Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), the character that everyone loves to hate.
He also talked about his upcoming feature film Eat Pray Love, due out in theaters on August 13th, and the fact that he’s working on developing two new television series – one a musical comedy for Kristin Chenoweth and the other a dark procedural. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: What can you say about the upcoming Britney Spears episode?
Ryan: I’m directing it. She is arguably the most important female, other than Lady Gaga, of the last 10 years. We’re doing an episode about not only her music, but her public image. Many of the kids on the show went into singing and dancing because of her. Also, at the heart of it, it’s a show designed to show off the skills of Heather Morris, who plays Brittany.
What’s your experience with Britney’s camp been?
Ryan: Great. It was her idea. I just think that she loves what the show is about. The show is about paying tribute to pop culture in a very loving, respectful, kind way, and she responded to that.
How is Heather Morris handling her own episode and character development? Is she feeling some pressure to deliver?
Ryan: No, Heather is thrilled. It was her dream. Heather was a back-up dancer for Beyonce and her dream was to be an actress. She’s such a great actress because she doesn’t really know what she’s doing, in some weird way. She’s so natural and funny. I did a big scene this morning with Heather and I think she’s got incredible craft. But, she’s very, very excited. She has a great work ethic. All dancers do.
How will you handle the lesbian kiss between Brittany and Santana (Naya Rivera)?
Ryan: I would just have them do it in every scene and not make a big deal about it. I don’t think that you have to announce a very special episode, like they did back on Roseanne. It just seems so out-dated and archaic to me. And, as a gay man, I would never do that. I would make it very organic and do it several times, and not make it a stunt. I’m directing the episode where they’re going to kiss a couple times, and I think the key is to do it a couple times, so that it doesn’t seem forced.
Aside from the Britney Spears episode, what’s the general storyline for Brittany this season?
Ryan: A lot more comedy, a lot more promiscuity and a lot more just typical Heather, crazy one-liners. She’s so funny.
Will she be promiscuous with men and women?
Ryan: And janitors. Just everyone.
What is Santana’s general storyline this season?
Ryan: We’re making Santana the world’s meanest cheerleader, ever. Quinn (Dianna Agron) is back to being a cheerleader this year, so those two are duking it out to see who will be the queen bee of the school. That’s their storyline.
How many episodes are Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff doing this season?
Ryan: I think Jonathan is going to do two in the Spring. I haven’t talked to Kristin about her schedule because she has to finish Promises, Promises. I’m actually writing another TV show for Kristin.
Will that show be a spin-off?
Ryan: No. I’ve always wanted to do something with Kristin, and Kristin is a good, close friend of mine obviously. So, I’m writing a half-hour musical comedy, specifically for Kristin because, if you can sing like that, I want her to be the star of her own show where she sings.
Are Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake really going to do the show, or is that just rumor?
Ryan: I’d love for Jennifer to do it, although I don’t know if this American Idol thing is happening and if she can. Justin was a kid’s wish. I love him, but somebody just said, “Do you want Justin Timberlake on the show?,” and Lea said, “He’s my favorite.” And then, suddenly it was that he was on the show.
How did getting Susan Boyle on the show come about?
Ryan: Susan is on the same label as us, and I guess she is a fan of the show. She’s coming out with a Christmas album, so the story I want to do in our Christmas episode is to have Kurt (Chris Colfer) give her some sort of fantastic make-over, and have her sing a song that’s from her album on the show.
Is she playing a character or herself?
Ryan: She’ll be playing a character.
Would you want to do “I Dreamed A Dream” in some way, as an homage to her?
Ryan: We did that song already, so no. I have to figure out what she’s doing. I have to ask her what she wants to sing.
What’s her comfort zone with the acting?
Ryan: I don’t think I’m going to give her monologues and arias, but she’s a character and I love what she represents. I think what she represents is what the show represents, so I’ll just talk to her and say, “What are you comfortable doing?”
Is it true that Javier Bardem is coming on the show?
Ryan: It is true. He requested it. It’s in the back part of the season. Javier watches a movie a night, every night. He bought the first 13 episodes on DVD and became obsessed with it. He said it was like crack. And, he’s such a ham that it totally makes sense to me that he would want to sing and dance. I love him. I think he’s a sweet guy, and very funny.
Is he playing himself?
Ryan: No. I think he’s going to play some demented Spanish rock star/substitute teacher, or something. I don’t know. We haven’t figured that out yet.
Why was Election such an influence for the show?
Ryan: I love all of Alexander Payne’s movies, and I love that movie because it was a very clear half teacher/half kid movie.
Would you ever have Reese Witherspoon on?
Ryan: We ran into her at the White House and she’s a big fan of the show. Look, I would love to have all those people on, and I love her, but at a certain point, your don’t want it to become The Love Boat, particularly now. I don’t want to have too many people.
Have you thought about casting Rachel’s (Lea Michele) dads?
Ryan: I have thought about it, but I don’t think I want to do it this year. Lea’s dream is that Elton John play one of her dads, which I think would be hilarious. I won’t do it this year, but I’ll probably do it next year.
Can you give any Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) teasers for Season 2?
Ryan: She’s meaner than ever. I love the soft moments we had with Jane, but this year she’s on a bender, particularly in the first five episodes. We’re doing a religion episode, where the kids sing songs about spirituality, and she has a real bee in her bonnet about the separation of church and state, which I think is a fascinating, very logical and real thing for Sue Sylvester to talk about. We find out why she thinks that.
Will she get a love interest?
Ryan: I like that Sue Sylvester is promiscuous on the show. I think no man can tame her.
What about a woman?
Ryan: I haven’t talked about that with Jane, but I think that Sue is straight. Although, after a couple glasses of red wine, you don’t know with Sue.
What was the decision to back off of the reality series you were going to do, in searching for a new cast member?
Ryan: We’re doing the reality series. It’s for season three. We had auditions. We’re keeping them going for another five months, and it’s going to be on Oxygen next summer. For the third season, we’ll be adding new characters. That’s what that show will be about, but not for this year.
Is there a way back into the show for Jessalyn Gilsig’s character?
Ryan: Yes, Terri is coming back. She does not want to be divorced and she’s decided, in the middle of the first 10 episodes, to seek vengeance by going after someone that would make Will incredibly jealous.
Has Kurt’s boyfriend been cast?
Ryan: He has not been cast yet. That’s one of those parts that I have to find an actor that I really love and go after. I haven’t found that person yet, but I’m doing it this year.
Does Chris Colfer have a wish list?
Ryan: No, Chris doesn’t want to talk about kissing. He’s too shy to have an opinion on that.
Is it true Kurt’s going to be a prom king?
Ryan: Yes. I want him to run against Lea Michele, and then see who would win.
Have you cast the parts for the upcoming Rocky Horror episode?
Ryan: No, but my favorite thing to do is to torture the boys and claim that I don’t know who’s wearing those gold lamay briefs because now they’re all on diets. They’re all in terror that I’m going to tell them that they’re the one who has to get naked.
Ryan: We are going to see “Time Warp.”
When will that episode air?
Ryan: It’s for Halloween. It will be on the third week in October. It’s Episode 5. I’m directing it.
Would you explore Bollywood music on a future episode?
Ryan: That’s a good idea. I hadn’t thought of that. That’d be fun.
Did Fox ever suggest you as a judge on American Idol?
Ryan: Yes, they did, actually.
How did that go?
Ryan: I cannot comment on that.
How hard was it to do the show at the same time that you did Eat Pray Love?
Ryan: I don’t know. Everything in my life – Nip/Tuck, Glee and Eat Pray Love – all happened at the same time. I’m just very grateful and it’s really fun because the Eat Pray Love cast loves the Glee cast, and vice versa. For example, I had a screening for the Glee cast of the movie, and they all loved it and Twittered about it. That’s once in a lifetime. That’ll never happen to me again, ever.
Julia Roberts has talked about how she put on 7 to 10 pounds for Eat Pray Love. How did you reassure her about doing that for the role?
Ryan: Well, I didn’t want to do it with fat pads because I thought that would be awful, and Julia would never do that, as a great actor. So, the thing that I did do to protect that was to shoot the movie in chronological order, which is what happened to Liz Gilbert. She went to Rome and gained 10 pounds, and then went to India and lost the weight. We shot that in a way where that actually did happen.
When Liz went to Italy, wasn’t she underweight from going through depression?
Ryan: Yeah, I talked to Liz a lot about that. She was undernourished because she was in a depression, so her version of gaining 10 pounds was not my version of gaining 10 pounds. It’s not startling, but it’s real. There’s a scene in the movie where Julia struggles to button jeans in a jean store, that I think every woman in the world has gone through. That was a real moment for Julia. We really made that work for her. She wanted to do it.
With so many wardrobe changes in the film, did Julia have a favorite one?
Ryan: She had a couple favorite ones. I know she liked the green sari she wore at the Indian wedding, and I know she loved the one that she wore in her Javier Bardem seduction because it was very real to her. But, not since Scarlett O’Hara has there been a woman who has more costume changes than Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love because she’s in every scene.
Ryan: No. Julia’s a fan of the show. She’s visited the kids, but she doesn’t work very much. It’s just enough for me that she stops by and says hi to the kids.
Are you doing another Julia Roberts movie?
Ryan: I’m doing a big romantic comedy with Julia Roberts, but not next. My next movie is The Normal Heart with Mark Ruffalo.
Who’s the female lead in that?
Ryan: I’m casting.
Would you want to do a big screen musical?
Ryan: I would do a big screen musical. They’ve asked me to do a Glee movie, and I said no. But I’ve been offered a couple things recently that I’m talking to people about. It just has to be original.
What about a Glee concert movie?
Ryan: Yes, I would do that, just because there are so many kids who love the show, and we can’t go to every city on tour. So, I think we would do a big Glee concert. I think we’re going to shoot that next year.
With all of your nominations, do you have any set plans yet for Emmy night?
Ryan: I begged the other executive producers to all wear track suits and go as Sue Sylvester. So far, they’re like, “Okay, we’ll think about that.” My dream is that we would walk in together, dressed as Sue Sylvester.
If that doesn’t happen, do you have a tux?
Ryan: I think Mr. Tom Ford might whip something up for me.
Have you had any moving encounters with teachers or kids who are fans of the show?
Ryan: Well, they write me all the time. I love that. I call them up and say, “Thank you.” I got a letter the other day from a woman in Oregon who said, “Thanks to you, they didn’t shut down our music program, when they cut every other arts program in our school.” I hear that a lot. The glee clubs are growing and starting on their own, even without support from teachers, so that’s quite amazing to me.
Has anyone claimed to be the real Sue Sylvester?
Ryan: No, that would be me. (Co-creator) Ian [Brennan] says that when he gets stuck writing for Sue, he just thinks, “What would Ryan say?”
Are there other high-profile directors, like Joss Whedon, that you’d want to invite to direct an episode?
Ryan: Well, I love that Adam Shankman is doing one. I think that’s great. He’s going to do Episode 8 or 9 of the first 10. I haven’t thought about anyone else. I’m just now getting a lot of calls from big movie directors who love the show, but I can’t say who they are, obviously. I have talked to Baz Luhrmann about it. I love him, and he loves the show, but his schedule is so crazy. I would love for him to do an episode.
Are you adding new writers to the staff?
Ryan: We are going to add writers in January because I’m going to go off and do other shows. I think we’re going to add five or six writers.
Aside from doing a show for Kristin Chenoweth, what else are you looking to do?
Ryan: I also want to go back and do something like Nip/Tuck, that’s dark and procedural.
You did a lot of racy stuff on Nip/Tuck. Is there anything you haven’t been able to do with Glee?
Ryan: No, but that’s a different animal. I’m the one who censors that because I have a very young niece who wants to watch the show and I don’t want her to see certain things. I feel a responsibility because young kids watch the show, so I had wanted to do the opposite of Nip/Tuck. The show I’m going to do next is going to be a return to that because I do miss that.
What did you think of the cast being invited to do voices on The Simpsons?
Ryan: I loved that, and they loved that, particularly. They grew up with that show. I thought that was a great honor.
Do you have any stamp of approval over how they treat the characters?
Ryan: They called and asked me, and I said, “Have carte blanche. Write whatever you want and do whatever you want.”