May 18th, 2010 by thetvchick
My love for Glee knows no bounds, but tonight’s episode, entitled “Dream On,” really outdoes itself in terms of greatness. The episode is directed by Joss Whedon, and guest stars Neil Patrick Harris, but one of the characters that really shines is Artie. I don’t want to spoil everything (although anyone could probably find out if they looked hard enough), but let’s just say that you see Artie in a way you have never seen him before. And it’s fantastic! I recently had the chance to catch up with Kevin McHale, who plays Artie, about his biggest challenges filming the show, dancing in the wheelchair and even his dream guest star and song.
Congratulations on all the success of the show. You’ve definitely had a whirlwind couple of weeks. What was it like being on Oprah and visiting the White House?
Oprah itself was insane on its own, and then only to be trumped by the White House. (laughs) Oprah is big as it is, and then we get to go to the White House. And Amber sang from the White House balcony, and we got to meet the first family. It was so surreal. After that, we were like what are we going to do next week? (laughs)
I was about to ask what was your most surreal experience?
Yeah, it definitely was. I mean Oprah saying [In Oprah voice] “Keeevin” (laughs) and more than meeting the first family, was to see Amber standing next to him [President Obama] on the balcony singing the National Anthem.
Yeah, I watched the feed online. That was quite incredible.
Yeah, she was incredible.
And what has awards season been like for you?
Insane! It was just unreal. Growing up, I was a big awards show kind of person. Like I was the guy in the house who would make my family shut up so I could watch the Golden Globes.
I’m the same way!
And I brought my brother with me, just getting out of the car and seeing the sign of The Golden Globe Awards behind you. It was so surreal. Granted, it was raining, but nothing could have stopped me from being there.
Right, absolutely. And talk a little bit about the audition process and how you got the role of Artie.
It was just like any other audition. I’ve been to dancing auditions, I’ve been to acting auditions, it was kind of both of them combined. It was actually a pretty easy process in terms of the amount of auditions. There were four auditions, but I was one of the first ones to be put on hold to test for it. And so, I auditioned pretty early on, and my callback and first audition were within two days of each other. The worst part was waiting like 6 and a half weeks until I got [called] for it. And like “They’re probably trying to find somebody else for the part, what am I going to do?” And I was hoping I didn’t forget how to play the part. But luckily, it was all worth it.
Of course! What did you sing for your audition?
I sang “Let It Be,” by the Beatles.
Good choice. Do you know if they were looking for someone who was in a wheelchair?
Well the part was originally in a wheelchair, but they audition able-bodied and disabled people. I think it was just about who got part the part down, [and] what they saw that they liked. They’re all very, very creative, specific people: Brad, Ian and Ryan. So luckily, they saw something in me.
How has it been playing Artie? How do you relate to him?
We’re very different, but at the same time, we’re very, very similar. I mean, he’s definitely more confident with ladies than I am. Because, like last week, he was saying “If you want to get up on this.” I would never do that. (laughs)
Well that’s good. I’m glad to hear it.
Yeah, I would never do that. Just the fact that I don’t know if it’s confidence or arrogance, I don’t know what it is. I relate to him probably the biggest way is the fact that he does singing regardless of what anybody thinks. That’s how I was. I didn’t sing in school, but I always did it outside of school. And growing up, that’s not always the coolest thing you can do. I never cared at all. I was like this is what I like to do. You don’t know what you like to do, I do, so…
Well, it led somewhere good!
Yeah, it did!
And is it difficult singing and dancing in the wheelchair because I’ve heard you’re a great dancer.
You know, it took a little getting used to. But that’s the part, I never thought twice about it. It was just, “How am I going to make this as believeable and as good as possible.” Getting used to and memorizing choreography in a wheelchair as opposed to standing up, that’s definitely a different mindset, but I like it. (laughs)
That’s good. And what would you say has been your biggest challenge in filming the show so far?
Definitely keeping up with the work schedule that we have. We regularly have 15, 16 hour days. It may take a day to shoot an episode, but that doesn’t include the weeks of prep before with dance rehearsals and recording. We could film for 10 hours one day, and then have to go to the recording studio. Or while we’re filming, in between while we’re turning around or something, to go to run to a dance rehearsal and to come back. It’s definitely getting used to all that, but the thing is all — I feel like there’s fifty of us on the show — we’re all kind of going through that together, so all we do is make each other laugh all day, and we keep our energy up that way. And so it’s good, because it feels about half the time than it actually is.
And you were saying that everybody makes each other laugh. Can you think of a good prank that’s been pulled?
Nothing specific. I’m lucky that I work with some of the funniest people I’ve ever met. A lot of it too is kind of making us laugh during takes, which we’re pretty good at not doing because it’s pretty much not tolerated. (laughs) We have a lot to do, we don’t have time to start the tape over. We all kind of do that for each other. If I have an inside joke with somebody — like Naya would always do a Kim Kardashian impression and one episode she said her line like Kim Kardashian and then it ended up in the episode. So (laughs) it’s stuff like that, where we do stuff for each other than ends up in the episode, and we’re like “Oh my God!”
(laughs) And you were in a boy band, NLT. What are some differences between being in a band and now on a TV show?
You know, as one of the people at Columbia [Records] who puts out the soundtrack. They were like “You’re probably used to seeing the numbers go the opposite way, aren’t you?” (laughs) which is very true. We were kind of the struggling artists, never had too much success, so it’s nice to be a part of something that people are responding to in such a positive way.
Do you and Matthew Morrison (of the boy band LMNT) ever share boy band stories?
No, pretty early on, we would all get made fun of, or make fun of each other for being in a boy band. Now we’ve kind of accepted that we’ve all done things like that before.
On a slightly more serious note, have you experienced any backlash from handicapped people who are upset since you can actually walk?
You know, before the “Wheels” episode aired, there were a few things like that that came out, but for every person who has something negative, I would say there’s a thousand more that has something positive. I went to a charity event a few weeks ago, where it was about people that had disabled children, and building playgrounds so handicapped and able-bodied kids could play together. And those are the people that are really in it with their kids, and it was nothing but great things from them. And that’s the best thing. Because we’re not just doing a show where you get to make people laugh, and sing and dance, we’re doing something that people can relate to in small ways. Or play a character that has never been played on TV, or is played in such a great and sensitive way. We deal with a lot of sensitive topics, and I think Ryan and everybody write it with such class and creative ways, that it’s just so fun to get to play it.
I completely agree. The Artie episode that stands out in my mind is “Wheels.” I want to know what it was like filming that episode?
It was really fun. The first scene we did of that entire episode was me and Jenna in the hallway, and her telling me about her stutter. So that was kind of our biggest scene. We were a bit nervous about that. Up to that point, it was the most we’d ever gotten to do. We’re best friends in real life, so it was so fun to just get to play that with each other, and have us become an item.
And Artie is a character who is still a little bit of a mystery to us. You don’t get high-fived by Finn…
(laughs) That’s another inside joke. I forgot which episode it was in the first 13, but there was one take where me and Heather — who plays Brittany — are next to each other, and we were dancing or something, and I go to high-five her and she happens to look the other way, and she didn’t high-five me back, and everybody busted up laughing, and it was right in front of the camera. It wasn’t intentional, but it ended up being funny, and it ended up being in the episode. So now we always kind of do that — I will go for the high-five, and whoever I am going to high-five will purposely (laugh) not high-five me back.
Well maybe one of these days you’ll get your high-five.
I know. It happens sometimes, I do get high-fives, but for the most part, we think it’s pretty funny that I don’t.
Yeah. (laughs) What do you want to see from your character going forward–another song? More with the Tina/Artie relationship?
I’m always down for Tina/Artie stuff. I love Tina/Artie stuff. But you know what? Nothing that any of us could ever think of would be even a quarter as good as what the writers come up with. It’s kind of like we trust them with whatever they want to do, because every episode is so different in what they have us doing just as far as performances and stuff. Anything they want Artie to do, I’ll do it. I’m rapping in next week’s episode [Ed Note: last week's episode]. So I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing.
Oh great. And do you have a favorite musical number from the show so far?
Early, early on we did “Push It,” and that was probably one of the funnest ones we got to do, because it was just so raunchy and the look on everybody’s face was awesome.
And I’ve heard a little bit about the process of recording songs for an episode. The most interesting thing I found out was that you all go to the recording studio by yourself and lay down the tracks. So I wanted to know what that was like for you.
For me, that’s always how it’s been done. Even when I was in a boy band, you had to go separately and do it. So it wasn’t any different to me. Plus with our schedules, some people will be in scenes, and it kind of has to be done that way, because even to get us in dance rehearsal, all in the same room at the same time, is extremely difficult, and now it’s pretty rare. Luckily, we have found a system that works.
Glee has had some really great guest stars so far. What has it been like working with Idina Menzel and Neil Patrick Harris?
Idina is super super sweet. Neil was awesome. It was just kind of like watching acting class, watching him. Because he’s so great, and he was super nice and he’s playing this character that’s pretty much the opposite. (laughs) And so it’s always fun to get to see somebody get to play the opposite of who they are. Like Jonathan Groff is the nicest person you’ll ever meet, but he’s playing such a douche. (laughs) He’s playing a divo, the male version of Rachel Berry. I remember the first scene we had with him as a group, when he’s joining our Glee club. I’ve known him for a while, just as himself, but seeing him start to be — I don’t know if I can say it — but he was pretty much a dick, I was taken aback in the scene. I was like “This is insane and Jonathan Groff is awesome.”
Do you have any dream guest stars that you’d like to see appear on the show?
I mean I think it would be awesome if Sir Paul McCartney came on. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I will always be down to have some Beatles references. I have a “Let it Be” tattoo, so I would love it.
The Madonna episode is probably one of my favorite hours of television I have have ever seen.
Aw, thank you!
What was it like tackling her music?
There were so many numbers, that I was just kind of interested in seeing what everybody else did. Because I was only in one of the nine or ten that we did. We were all kind of mixed up in different groups that were not necessarily in it. And it was kind of like summer camp — you go away, put your little thing together then you see — watching the episode together was just insane. We were exhausted at the end of watching it, because it felt like two hours instead of like 45 minutes. It was Ryan’s baby and he did an amazing job.
I completely agree. And do you have a dream song you’d like to sing on the show?
I mean, I always say Michael Jackson. I think the beauty of the show is that they pick songs that we would never think of for the situation or the scene, and how its used. And I think that’s always the cool thing, because they have us doing songs that we never thought we’d do in a million years.
Do you have a favorite song that’s out there right now that you could see yourself singing on the show?
I don’t know. I like Usher’s new song “Oh My God.” (laughs) I don’t know if we’d ever do it on the show, but I just like that song.
Well you did “Push It,” so you never know!
I know, right? So maybe! Who knows!
And what character do you think you’d like to work more with or have more scenes with?
Any time you have a scene with Jane, it’s just insane. It’s good and bad, because you have to keep yourself from laughing. But any scenes they want to put me in with Jane, I’m there!
Awesome. And your big episode is tonight, and it’s called “Dream On.” Can you give us a little teaser about the episode?
You definitely get some more Artie and Tina, and some of the more personal aspect of their relationship as opposed to the beginning stages of “I like you, you like me, we should go out” kind of thing. More real issues between the two of them and helping each other in their — I can’t give away too much! But helping each other in their lives apart from Glee club.
I heard that you might walk or dance in the episode, because it’s a dream sequence.
I’ve heard people saying that, but I don’t know…(sarcastically) I have no idea what you’re talking about!
(laughs) You plead the 5th!
Can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming up in the back 9 in general? Again, I know you can’t spoil too much.
There’s Lady Gaga with all her outfits. There’s just a lot. I feel like in every episode, there’s more than there was in the first 13. There’s more songs, there’s a huge finale with massive, massive performances. I can’t give away too much. It’s just kind of more of everything.
Yeah, do you know anything about season 2?
No idea! I don’t even know if they know yet. We just wrapped season 1, so I think we’re all just exhausted.
Have they told you anything about the musical numbers on the tour? [Ed. note: I spoke with Kevin before the tour had started]
There’s no set set list yet. I think we’re going to go in there — it’s going to be all the most popular songs that we’ve done, and I think we’ll feel it out, see how it goes in rehearsal, the chemistry and what everybody likes. It’s going to be fun though!
Can you say if you’ll be in a wheelchair on the tour or not?
Well yeah, it’s in character, so as of now, I’m going to be in the wheelchair.
You talk a lot about Glee on Twitter. Have you been able to connect with a lot of fans through social networking?
Definitely. I’m on Twitter right now. (laughs) One of my favorite things is to look at Twitter while the episode is on, and see what people are saying. It’s awesome. We have a lot of screenings where fans get to come and watch the episodes in advance and I always love those, because it’s always fun to see what fans react to.
And have you had any interesting fan reactions to Artie? Perhaps people coming up to you, surprised you’re not in a wheelchair.
Yeah (laughs), I mean that’s pretty much the most common thing. “Oh my God, you walk!” I think one of the funniest times, which I don’t think about, because I’m used to me walking, right after we performed at the World Series, we had a signing for our soundtrack coming out. And this woman comes up to the table and she was like “I had no idea that you walked until I saw you standing at the mic at the World Series, and started freaking out.” That’s true, that’s probably the most people that had seen me standing at the time. I don’t know that’s pretty funny.
And is there anything you’d like to add — any message you’d like to say to people watching the show?
You know, we’re just so happy and proud of our fans and everybody who has latched onto the show, because it’s such a unique thing and we’re so excited to go on tour and see everybody, it’s kind of like a thank you. And thanks to everybody watching, we get to make more episodes. So it’s a big circle.
Be sure to tune in tonight to FOX at 9 pm to watch Kevin shine!Tweet