Kickin' It with Glee's Chris Colfer

Chris Colfer's IMDb page doesn't say much—Glee is basically his big break and his acting debut, all in one poppy (and extremely popular) package. The 19-year-old from Clovis, California (it's near Fresno) plays Kurt, the very gay and very fashionable member of New Directions who can hit more high notes than most of his fellow male—and female—glee-clubbers. On a recent Saturday afternoon, I caught up with Colfer—who's been busier than ever in the wake of Glee's success—to chat about his character, his new-found fame, and which song he'd most like to sing on the show. How are you? Your schedule sounds pretty crazy!
Chris Colfer: I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am absolutely exhausted. We did the White House and Oprah last weekend, and I personally have been filming every day all day since we got back. So I am a little tired.

How do you muster the energy for it all?
You know, I think it’s just the adrenaline, because we do so many exciting things on the show and so many things that I want to give my all [to], but I don’t have to worry about it. I just rest when I can. My body and my mind are always ready for whatever the show has planned for me.

How does it feel to know that show creator Ryan Murphy wrote the part of Kurt just for you?
Out of every single thing that happened during the whole audition process, that is the most surreal, mind-blowing part. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be able to accept that that’s actually what happened. It’s just a relief to finally get to work down here. I had been auditioning for years with no success. The character I was given is the jackpot in itself, let alone the fact that it was written for me.

Is it weird to watch yourself on-screen?
Yes, it’s extremely weird, and I don’t think it ever gets better. I think it’s because you never hear yourself speak and you never see different angles of yourself. Think about it—when you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re only looking, like, dead on. You never see your profile or the way that your neck looks or the way that your shoulders look from behind.

So far, what do you like about being famous?
Well, it’s great to open up my Facebook and see that I have, you know, 1,000 messages rather than absolutely zero, as it used to be. That’s comforting. And I think the best perk is that when you go to Disneyland you get to skip lines. That is by far, hands down, the best part.

What don't you like about being famous?
There are some personal freedoms that you sacrifice. Everywhere I go I get recognized, and I meet people who are watching the show. I love meeting fans and learning how much they enjoy the show and the character. But certain times, you know, when you’re in the pharmacy picking up your acne medication, it’s just not the best time to be talking to someone. [Laughs]

How often do you return to your hometown of Clovis, California? What is it like when you go back?
Since I moved down [to Los Angeles] in January last year, I’ve been back four times. It is a little weird because a lot of people who claim to have been your best friends, you don’t have any memory of. And there are a lot of people who you know for sure were not your best friends, and were actually the exact opposite, that woul like to get credit for [knowing] you. I’m one of the only [actors] that has come out of Clovis. It is really interesting to go back and feel the hometown vibes again.

What’s your favorite thing about your character, Kurt?
I love that even though he’s been through so many horrible experiences, like the death of his mother and being tossed into a dumpster every single day before school, he climbs out of the dumpster even more fantastic and fierce and fabulous than before.

How do you think he's grown over the course of this season?
He started being honest with himself, and his relationship with his father has gone from being non-existent to one of the strongest in television history, I think. That relationship is growing and growing. It really is. [Kurt's] a tough guy in tight pants.

How much would you say that you have influenced the character?
Actually, we’re very fortunate because none of the directors or writers or producers are puppeteering us whatsoever. They really let us go and do what we want with our characters and let them be our creations, 100 percent. There’s really very little of me in Kurt. We’ve gone through similar things. I think the emotions that he feels and expresses on the show are all emotions that I have felt, but I think that’s it. There’s many times when we’ve been filming and I’ve literally had to leave myself at the door in order to get some of the stuff down. Like the "Single Ladies" dance. I personally couldn’t have ever done that. I had to pretend I was someone else.

Does Kurt influence you?
Yes, absolutely. Kurt has inspired me to be a little more brave and get into life in general and into my fashion choices. I wear so many crazy things on the show that sometimes, when I go outside, if I have a T-shirt or a pair of shoes that I’m not so sure about, I think, "Kurt would wear it." He’s kind of like an alternative personality for me when I am picking out clothes. I’m like, “Well, what would Kurt do? What would Kurt pick?”

You could put that on a bracelet.
Yeah, WWKD? [Laughs]

What do you want to see happen to Kurt on the show?
You know, I’ve done so many dramatic things on the show that I would love to do something comedic. I mean, "Single Ladies" was pretty comedic, but I would love to do something hysterical. People always tell me, “You make me cry so much on this show!” I’d really like to make them laugh! [Laughs]

Are there any songs you're dying to perform?
I would love the glee club to do "Time Warp."

That would be awesome!
Wouldn’t it be awesome? Thank you. I think so, too. I keep trying to pitch it, but so far they don’t have any plans to do it.

How about dream guest stars?
I would love someone like Julie Andrews to come on. Wouldn’t it be great if she could play, like, Kurt’s fashionable grandmother? Like that’s where he gets it from? I just want someone like her, the living, breathing legend.

How do you practice when you’re not on-set?
It kind of depends. We get the scripts so we know what we’re doing, and I’ll practice all that at home. And, say, if it’s a song, I’ll map out what I want to do, movement-wise. But I'm the type of person who really likes to give it my all in the moment rather than practice-run the lines. I feel like it's so much more organic and real that way. I feel like if I over-think something or over-prepare something, it’s going to come out that way. It’s going to come out rehearsed.

Do you ever get to improvise your lines or musical arrangements?
Absolutely. I would say 10 to 15 percent of the show is ad lib, whether it’s dialogue or music. I feel like Kurt’s most famous lines are actually ones I came up with. Like the scene in "Showmance," where he says, “One day you will all work for me,” when they throw him in the dumpster. I came up with that and they liked that one. Another one was, "You look like a technicolor Zebra!" I love that they’re so willing to let us do that. They encourage it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I’ll probably still be doing Glee. Kurt will be held back or teaching by then, I don't know. [Laughs] I would really love to be the head of my own production company. That’d be a dream.

Follow writer Stefanie Lee on Twitter: @StefAtTVDotCom

Comments (8)
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May 06, 2010
Julie Andrews would be perfect as his grandmother. They even look alike a little bit!
Apr 29, 2010
Chris is my favorite on the show, and it would be awsome to see them do The Time Warp.
Apr 28, 2010
home proved, once more, that Chris is the best actor on Glee and a wonderful singer.
Apr 28, 2010
i was just wondering are you really gay or is it the character that you play it doesnt matter to me i love your character
Apr 28, 2010
You were fantastic last night. You made goose bumps come up on my arms. Keep up the great singing!
Apr 28, 2010
Chris was just incredible on tonight's "Home" episode, both with his solo performance and in the segments with his current and future (?) family!
Apr 27, 2010
Sorry guy, you are a good dancer, but a terrible actor. Being under Murphys skin is like knowing that one minute people will love the character and next minute hate the character. That is how he works, he uses terrible actors and actresses and makes them likable for a minute. We saw that in Nip/Tuck, and that is no mystery, because that is how them writers work.
Apr 27, 2010
I heart Chris (and Kurt of course! :D ) and it's great to see that he's still very down to earth despite the popularity of 'Glee'. OMG, I would love for them to do 'Time Warp'!!!