I don’t think I can say enough good things about Glee. It is just a wonderful show with an incredibly talented cast and an absolutely incomparable creator. Each week, I look forward to the ongoing war between various cliques, the drama, and of course the tear-inducing musical numbers. I recently had a chance to chat with Jessalyn Gilsig who plays Terri Schuester (Will’s crazy wife that everyone loves to quote and sometimes hate). I think she is one of the most interesting characters on the show, and I love the scenes where she is featured. We talked about Ryan Murphy (the aforementioned creator), what the future holds for Terri and Will, and what she was like in high school.
I adore Glee.
Yay! Thank you so much!
What originally drew you to the role of Terri?
Well, first of all, Ryan Murphy. Because I had worked with him on Nip/Tuck. And that was one of the best experiences as an actor I’ve ever had in my career. He really challenges you as an actor, and he really pushes you, and he really puts a lot of faith in actors to be able to — I think go further than they’ve ever gone before. Certainly for me on Nip/Tuck. You know, for obvious reasons…things I never thought I’d do. (laughs) But also just emotionally and character-wise and comedically. Every script was just this amazing emotional gymnastics. So that first of all: I was like great, I’d love to work with Ryan. And for me, the opportunity to do a comedy is something that I’ve been itching to do for many years now and also if I was going to do that–which is kind of a big risk for me–to be able to do that with Ryan, who I know so well, and then so much of the crew that I was familiar with from Nip/Tuck was kind of a dream scenario I would say.
There has been a lot of different reactions to your character Terri. What do you think of her?
(laughs) Oh my God, it’s so hard being Terri. It’s so lonely. I mean, it was the same with Gina [her Nip/Tuck character] I guess. No, I understand her. I feel like you know, we’re all a bunch of crazy people just navigating the planet and I feel like we all make really stupid decisions that we then sort of spend the rest of our lives trying to you know, make sense of, or apologize for, explain. I think she’s arrested, you know, I think in many ways she’s still in high school. And so much of high school is about scheming. You know, if I do this, and she’ll do that, and won’t it be perfect. We’ll have babies. It’s so high school for her to say “If he believes that I’m pregnant, he’ll never leave me.” And that’s basically as far as her plan has — you know, as deep as she thought it through. It’s also like–you have to be, as an actor, if Terri wasn’t hard to swallow, then the fact that Will is flirting with another teacher would make him unsympathetic as a character. So I have to be, kind of unpleasant, so that everybody can support that relationship. It’s kind of like a self-sacrifice for the bigger picture.
Have you gotten any interesting fan reactions to Terri?
Oh my God, it’s been so mixed that I don’t even look anymore. People get so angry. It’s a comedy, it’s a TV show. People get really upset about it. It’s fun for me the morning after because a lot of people will quote her to me. Like today, I got this email on my Facebook that was like my favorite this line this week — it was my line about how I had a big crush on the Karate Kid (laughs). So, she definitely has some great gems of lines and people like to quote those to me. And I think there are just a lot of people who think she’s a nut job, basically. Which I guess she is. But it’s fun to play those parts. You kind of want to be the person who stirs up controversy. It keeps the show interesting I think.
Yeah, I definitely think it makes the show more interesting that way.
Yeah, otherwise, they’re all so adorable. Will’s so cute. Emma’s so cute. And then you’re at Disneyland.
You don’t want to be at Disneyland every year of your life.
You don’t want to live at Disneyland. I mean, maybe you do want to live at Disneyland, but Terri’s not going to make that call for you. (laughs)
Are you good friends with Jayma? Is it hard to be mean to her on set?
It’s really fun. I love it. We joke so much about it. It’s so fun. All the crew gets into it. Like the day that we had the scene that already aired in Vitamin D where I come to her office and tell her to step off my man…the crew was so excited. They were like “oh my God, here comes the cat fight, the show down.” And even Jayma and I in the makeup trailer start taking our opening shots. That just makes it so much fun, when we’re all in the dynamic of the show.
Talk a little bit about your relationship with your sister on the show. She gives you some crazy advice.
I know. Well she’s great, because I think she makes Terri seem normal. So I’m really grateful to [the actress] Jennifer Aspen because she’s such a nut job that suddenly Terri looks like she fits in with everybody else. I guess it’s kind of that same high school thing. Terri just adores her big sister. She thinks that she has access to some kind of logic, and her life seems to be functioning, and she has a house, and she has kids and she has a husband whose devoted to her. So sometimes, you do get advice from friends and the little voice in the back of your head says “wait, that doesn’t sound right,” but it seems to be working for her, so maybe I’ll try it. Again, you know, Terri’s analytical mind is under-developed.
You and Sue (Jane Lynch) recently teamed up to get in the way of Will and Emma’s relationship. Will there be any Sue and Terri scenes in the future?
I hope so. I think that there should be, I really do. I think we’re united in our cause. We might have different motivations but I think that we’re both seeing the same world. So I would love it. Especially because Terri has a history in cheerleading. So I’m hoping that gets exploited with Sue at some point.
Can you give us a little teaser of the rest of the season–what might happen with Quinn’s baby and Terri’s storylines?
There is like–the way I’ve been thinking about it–is there is a reckoning. I mean the great thing about Ryan is he kind of bends things off — like that’s impossible, that could never happen, that’s beyond–he sort of sends things off into the ether. And then he always lands the plane. So it will land. And we will step into reality, and there’s going to be a reckoning. There just has to be. So it gets pretty intense, as we go deeper and deeper into the season.
I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but do you think we’re going to see Terri in any musical numbers?
(laughs) I do get asked that a lot. I haven’t sung yet. And I don’t know, I’m so curious. I heard that they have a lot of great stuff for the back 9. And I kind of want to know if I sing, and I’m kind of terrified to find out. But you know, I think she’s got a song in her. We’ll see. It’s intimidating. Every week, I watch it and I see the musical numbers and I’m like Oh my God, these kids are unbelievable. It’s definitely intimidating.
Do you think you’ll be a part of the concert tour?
(laughs) I don’t know. I don’t think anyone’s asking “Where’s Jessalyn’s solo?”
(laughs) I’m asking that!
Thank you, thank you! Maybe we’ll start a little campaign.
I mean, it’s so great. All of it. It’s just–our presence on iTunes, the fact that there is a concert, and all of it. It’s just this amazing stage for the show. I’m open to any challenge. Again, with Ryan, your best way to approach your job is to just say yes and have faith that he’ll protect you. And he always does. And you always end up doing things you never thought you could do. So if I’m asked, I’ll just say yes, and follow their lead.
Sounds good to me. And what were you like in high school? Can you relate to these characters?
Yes, very much so. I was an art geek. I was most comfortable in art class and in theater class, so that’s when I felt most like myself. And then when those classes would end, and you go back out into the hall, I was uncomfortable. I found high school kind of hard. And I knew that when I was in the arts, that was when I felt like I could be myself and I was accepted and understood and I could feel a real connection with other people. So in that way, I really relate to the show. I think it really speaks to the high school spirits. Whether or not you’re in the arts or the sciences or sports or whatever it is, you hope to find that club that speaks to you.
Definitely. And also, Terri hated her job at Sheets N’ Things, for good reason. Do you have any good stories from your worst job?
I was a chamber maid in a hotel. And I just remember–I couldn’t believe how people leave their hotel rooms. I had no idea. It was almost as if they’re entire visit–the goal of the visit was to just leave something disgusting for me. And the first night I stay anywhere, I always tip the housekeeping, because I just want to send a message–like respect. Because that was seriously so brutal. I don’t know if I’ll ever get those images out of my head.
Yeah, it was nasty. People don’t care. They just leave and they don’t care. Or even sometimes people were still staying there. And I think, I’m probably going to bump into you and you’re still not self-conscious about this?
You should feel bad about yourself.
Yeah! Aren’t you even like a little bit embarrassed?
What else do you have coming up? Any chance you are returning to Heroes?
I don’t know! I hope so, I want to go back. There’s so many great fans for that show. They were so great about my character, Meredith. I would like to go back, but I haven’t heard anything. I have a little independent film coming out called “Fifty-Nothing.” And I’m in the Stepfather [which premiered last week]. And then, we’re lucky–we’re going back in January. So I’m kind of at that great moment where I’m suspended between jobs, and I can just enjoy my daughter. I’m so grateful for that. It’s so rare.
Thank you so much.
Thank you. I’m so glad you like the show. I hope you can forgive Terri.
I love Terri. Maybe I’m one of the few…
You might be alone in the fan club, but I would love to have you.
We will form a 2 person fan club.
Awesome! (laughs) Thank you so much!
Glee returns on Wednesday, November 11th with all new episodes on FOX.