Happy Glee day! Tonight’s episode titled The Power of Madonna, which I reviewed here, tackles the music of a legend. It is truly epic, and pays homage to a deserving artist. But really, I’m just happy Glee is back on my TV. What started as a little show with some big talent has had incredible success. In the back 9, there are new love interests, new couples and tons of new music. I recently had the chance to chat with the wonderful and extremely talented Jonathan Groff, a Broadway star who is now the new resident heartthrob. We talked about what it has been like working with his best friend again (Lea Michele), what goes into making an episode of Glee and the differences between stage and screen.
How did you get the part of Jesse St. James?
Well I actually about two years ago did a television pilot called Pretty/Handsome for FX with Ryan Murphy, that Ryan Murphy created and directed that never got picked up. And so I met him — I was doing Spring Awakening on Broadway at the time — and I left the show to do the pilot and I met Ryan and worked with Ryan, and then a year and a half later, he created this television show called Glee. He had known my work from Spring Awakening and also from working with him, and he said if the show does well and we get picked up for more episodes, I’ll create a character for you. And then he created Jesse St. James.
So you didn’t have to audition at all?
It was just written for me, so I didn’t have to audition or anything.
You come from a Broadway background. How has it been making the transition to television?
It’s been really interesting. It’s a totally different thing and I’ve sort of been comparing it to long distance running maybe as opposed to short distance running because in the theater you’re doing eight shows a week, and you have to pace yourself in order to be able to fit them all in. So you have to know when to push and pull back and when to conserve your energy and when to give it and all of that. And in television, you do a scene once with no rehearsal, and you had a day or half of a day to do your work on it, so it’s very intense, it’s fast, it’s high focused, and it’s acting. It’s sort of the same thing, but the mediums are so different that you have to adjust the way that you work. It’s been a real education.
And do you find that you have a preference: Broadway vs. a television show?
For me, acting is acting. As long as the part is good and the director’s good and the cast is great, it’s sort of fun to do that in whatever medium as long as you really love what you’re working on. I loved working in the theater and the projects that I’ve gotten the chance to work on, and I’ve really, truly loved working on this show and getting to spending time with the people and the material there. So I don’t think I do have a preference.
Well, that’s a good thing.
Yeah, yeah. (laughs)
And you and Lea Michele are best friends. I actually saw both of you perform at Feinsteins in the winter.
Yeah, I loved it!
Oh cool! We had so much fun at that concert. That was so fun.
Yeah, it was sort of like both of you unplugged. I loved it.
So, what has it been like to work with her again?
Words can’t properly describe it. It’s been a blast. You get to sing and dance with your best friend. And not only do you get to work with your best friend, with sort of all the fun and good times and ease that that involves, but I also get to work with a peer who is an artist that I completely respect and admire. When you are an actor, or a musician or an athlete or whatever, you want to be challenged and work with people that push you and that inspire you, and Lea happens to be one of those artists for me that I have always really admired and really been inspired by and I’ve always been sort of made better by. And so it’s sort of two fold, because I love her so much as an actress and a singer and a performer, and then I also love her so much as a human being and as a person, so it’s been really incredible to get to work with her again. And we have that history together, so there’s an ease in our working relationship that comes with years of knowing each other and know each other’s work.