Ah, Glee. It’s the most chaotically problematic yet deeply entertaining show in existence, and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. And now icons Jenna Ushkovitz (Tina Cohen-Chang) and Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams) have come out with a brand spankin’ new podcast called And That’s What You REALLY Missed, which will give folks all the GleeTS Tea.
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot because Glee was, and still is, the most batshit cooked show I’ve ever seen. Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) singing “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” after huffing helium balloons will literally always live in my mind rent free.
Ushkovitz and McHale invited Ryan Murphy (aka the evil genius behind the show) onto the pod to discuss all things Glee. The interview was released in two parts ‘cos it was so bloody meaty and, spoiler alert, shit got extremely emotional. I may or may not have had a little cry here and there.
Like the good little reformed Gleeks that we are, we’ve unpacked 16 earth-shattering bombshells that Murphy, Ushkovitz and McHale yapped about. Believe us when we say there were more.
On that note, let’s look at what you REALLY missed on Glee.
Jane Lynch got the role of Sue Sylvester without auditioning for Glee
As she should, I say.
Murphy said the role of Sue Sylvester was written with a “Jane Lynch-type” actress in mind, so rather than finding someone who fit the bill, they decided to just go straight to the source.
“We kept talking about a Jane Lynch-type and finally I was like, ‘Let’s just offer it to Jane, she’s probably going to say no’,” Murphy said.
“And to my shock and thrill, she said yes instantly.”
And thank Christ she did! There’s literally no one else on God’s green earth who could’ve taunted Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) as beautifully as Jane Lynch. My compliments to the chef.
Justin Timberlake almost played Will Schuester
We already knew this wild piece of information, but Murphy spoke about it further on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“I don’t think even Justin Timberlake knows this, but there was like a one-week window in talking to his people where I thought maybe he was interested, but maybe that meant interested in having a script dropped off at his front door,” Murphy said.
“That was our idea for Mr Schue, Justin Timberlake.
“Then it was very quickly like, ‘Justin is booked for tours through 2013.’ So then it was like, no Justin Timberlake.”
At the time, Mr Schue was originally going to be a meth addict, which is definitely a shift in tone.
A lot of Rachel Berry was based on Lea Michele IRL
This made me cackle like a witch stirring a cauldron. Murphy said he met Lea Michele for the first time when he was working on Pretty/Handsome, which her bestie Jonathan Groff was starring in.
Michele visited the set and told Murphy she was struggling to get auditions, especially for shows on a particular television network called The CW.
“That was also a period in time where the ideal look was people who were on The CW shows, and I remember Lea saying like, ‘I can’t even get an audition on a goddamn CW show. Like it’s really going to be hard for me’,” Murphy said.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, she would be a really good Rachel’.”
Look, if someone said that about me I’d be offended. But alas, from that moment on, the bloke was fanging for Michele to play Rachel and even helped her during auditions.
“I do remember her auditioning and me sneaking her sides so she was really familiar with what she’s doing,” Murphy said.
Credit where credit’s due, Michele made the perfect Rachel Berry. Who else would’ve given us such tremendous vocals and allegedly been a bullying menace onset?
Murphy regrets casting McHale as Artie
We can’t ignore the fact it was super probbo that able-bodied McHale played Artie, who’s paraplegic and uses a wheelchair.
Murphy said on And That’s What You REALLY Missed that if Glee were made today, he wouldn’t have cast McHale in the role.
“That would not have happened,” he said.
“There are many things that would not have happened.”
I sincerely hope Murphy was referring to that truly foul rendition of “What Does The Fox Say?” with puppets when he said that. Darren Criss even admitted it was the worst cover Glee ever did.
Heaps of celebs agreed to be on Glee
It turns out heaps of celebrities were chomping at the bit to get their Gleek on. Who knew?
“There were always people that wanted to do it, but we could never figure out the timing,” Murphy said.
“I call them the ones that got away.
“It meant a lot that people at that level would reach out and say, ‘We see what you’re doing and we love what it’s about’.”
Some famous faces who wanted to star on Glee included Jennifer Lopez, Anne Hathaway and Javier Bardem.
There’s something deeply out of pocket about a man who played a literal fkn psychopath in No Country for Old Men wanting to sing on Glee, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sound hot.
In even more earth-shattering news, Whitney Houston almost played the role of Jane Addams Academy show choir director Grace Hitchens, which Eve ended up taking.
“You know the role that Eve played? Whitney Houston agreed to play that part,” Murphy said on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“That actually made it pretty far down the line and I had a phone call with Whitney about that part [but] I don’t think she was in the right place and time to do it, is all I’ll say.
“She just loved that it was about kids in choir. She was like, ‘This is phenomenal that you’re doing a show about show choirs.’
And she was in a choir, Whitney. And I just said, ‘I think you as a teacher would be a great kind of thing for you to play.’ And she said, ‘I agree!’ She didn’t end up doing it and Eve was phenomenal. Eve was fierce.”
Murphy received death threats over a certain Sarah Jessica Parker cameo
Remember the disgustingly rogue mashup of “Let’s Have a Kiki” and “Turkey Lurkey Time” which Kurt, Rachel and Brody Weston (Dean Geyer) did in that Thanksgiving episode? And Sarah Jessica Parker was also there ‘cos she was playing Isabelle Wright aka Kurt’s mentor?
Well, it turns out Murphy received death threats for it.
Dare I say it, SJP was relatively normal in the chaotic performance. It was goddamn Rachel who suddenly burst into “Turkey Lurkey Time” and overcooked the chook (or, in this case, turkey).
A Taylor Swift tribute episode was scrapped
That’s right, folks! We could’ve had an entire episode dedicated to RED era Taylor Swift.
“We probably wouldn’t have done it then, but I really wanted to do a Taylor Swift tribute episode,” Murphy revealed on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“We kind of tried a little bit. We certainly did Taylor songs. I think she’s so amazing and those songs would’ve worked so well on Glee. Taylor Swift was kind of the one that got away.”
RIP to what could’ve been.
Ushkowitz was “suspended” for an episode of Glee
It sounds like Ushkowitz did something naughty but in actual fact, she wasn’t in the Michael Jackson tribute episode ‘cos she was told to go on holiday and take a mental health break.
Apparently it came after she appeared in Lady Gaga‘s music video for “Marry the Night”. Yes, I have further questions.
Murphy said if Glee was still going in 2022, he’d give cast members who needed a mental health break an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii.
Given how fucking cursed the show was, it’s probably for the best that it’s not running anymore. I also genuinely believe New Directions would’ve sung “Imagine” by John Lennon to coincide with a pandemic storyline, like when Gal Gadot rallied celebrities to film themselves singing it when COVID-19 first hit back in 2020. The world has been through enough torment, we don’t need to add that into the mix.
Costumes were created with Funko Pop! figures in mind
I’ve seen a lot of cursed things in my time, but Glee Funko Pop! figures might just be the worst string of words I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading.
Murphy said he always thought snazzy costumes would lend themselves into becoming Funko Pop! dolls, so each character’s look was curated with that in mind.
Thank bloody God those plastic bastards never came into fruition. I just know they would’ve done my girl Tina so dirty.
“Don’t Stop Believin'” took weeks to rehearse
Remember the absolute banger that featured in the pilot? Well, although it looked relatively simple, apparently it took donkey’s years to get right.
Kevin McHale explained on And That’s What You REALLY Missed that he even had to fill in for Cory Monteith during rehearsals ‘cos the Canadian actor didn’t have a US work visa yet.
Ushkowitz said by the end of it all, there were at least five different versions of “Don’t Stop Believin'”. What I’d give to hear them all, honestly.
But according to Murphy, the très iconique song almost never made the show.
“No one wanted to do “Don’t Stop Believin’,” he said.
“Brad [Falchuk], Ian [Brennan], the studio, no one wanted to do it because it just had been done on The Sopranos. I kept saying, ‘I don’t care. I just know it’s this song.’ It meant something to me as a kid. Just the phrase, don’t stop believing.
“Even more important than the number was the look on Mr Schue’s face watching it, remembering his own dreams. I remember we did one take and Matt just started to cry and I was like, ‘That’s it.’ And he said it was a mistake.”
Honestly, the Glee cover still holds up to this day. I hate to say it but Rachel Berry’s vocals will never not leave me gagged.
Ryan helped Monteith with his intervention
Cory Monteith experienced addiction throughout his life. At one point in 2013, he and many Glee cast members staged an emergency intervention with the actor, which resulted in his admission to rehab.
Murphy reflected on the relief he felt as the actor began his recovery.
“I helped him in his intervention,” he said.
“And he seemed to have gotten through it in a good way. Then I went off to make The Normal Heart, and I was always talking to him every day. And he came to the set of the Normal Heart to be with me, and he was like my child.
“I remember thinking like, ‘Oh my god, thank God he made it. Thank God he’s going to be okay.’ He came to Fire Island. And he spent time with me. And I remember thinking, like, against all odds, he’s going to be okay.
“And then two days later — three days later, he died.”
Murphy added that Monteith’s death from an accidental overdose in 2013 was “very unexpected”.
“It wasn’t, like, a normal death where someone is sick, and you can see them,” he said.
“It happened so quickly with no warning.”
Cast members had the option to not be in Glee‘s tribute episode to Cory Monteith
Monteith’s tragic death was marked in an episode called “The Quarterback” in Season Five. It saw the passing of his on-screen character Finn Hudson, and explored how his death affected characters such as Kurt, Mr Schue and Rachel.
Ushkowitz asked Murphy about how the decision to film “The Quarterback” came about, and the difficulties surrounding it.
“We obviously were contracted and were going to make it whether we wanted to or not, right? We were apart of that,” she said.
But Kevin McHale confirmed this wasn’t the case.
“We were given the option to not do it,” he said.
“I remember Ryan or somebody saying, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ But it felt like, ‘I feel like everyone is going to do this, I don’t want to be the one person who is not’.”
Ushkowitz said she thought the cast did it for Monteith “in hopes we would get some form of closure in some weird way”.
Honestly, as chaotic and downright ludicrous as Glee was, “The Quarterback” truly was a beautiful tribute to Monteith. Absolute tear-jerker.
Murphy regrets continuing Glee after Monteith died
Murphy said if Monteith’s death happened today, he would have ended Glee.
“I had a conversation with Lea about it, because she was dating Cory and was very involved in the thing,” Murphy said on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“I remember after a lot of conversations from a lot of people weighing in, we made the decision to keep it going and if you’re going to keep it going and keep these jobs going, how do you address what happened, because the male lead of the show died, so what do you do?
“Do you just pretend that it didn’t happen? You can’t do that. Did he die off camera? That doesn’t feel right to me. And I think with a lot of conversations, we decided to pay tribute to him.
“If I had to do it again, we would’ve stopped for a very long time and probably not come back.
“Now, if this had happened, I would be like, ‘that’s the end’ because you can’t really recover from something like that.”
Murphy didn’t want the final seasons to shift to New York
In Season Five, some of the OG New Directions members trotted off to New York to pursue their musical dreams, while others stayed at McKinley High.
Speaking on And That’s What You REALLY Missed, McHale and Ushkowitz said this felt like a “divorce”. It was at this point that Murphy admitted he never wanted the cast to leave the choir room.
“I only cared about those kids in that room,” he said.
“That was a creative decision that maybe I should’ve addressed in the writing. I don’t know. Maybe we had done four seasons, and one of them was an acid trip. And you got to repeat your senior year or something. It probably should’ve ended when we left that choir room.”
Murphy said he “wouldn’t change anything” about the final season, but he does have some regrets. Primarily, he wishes he conducted more “state of the union” meetings with the cast so everyone was happy with where the show was heading.
The show probably won’t continue out of respect
Murphy mentioned that because so many of the cast members have passed away, it would be disrespectful to continue the show.
Naya Rivera accidentally drowned on a boating trip in 2020, and Mark Salling, who portrayed Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman, committed suicide in 2018. He was awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in 2017.
“We just have such a young cast, to lose so many people, it feels much bigger and more tragic because it’s these people that haven’t lived out their time,” Ushkowitz said on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“To be blunt, I think that’s why none of us have wanted to do anything else with the show, because [it’s] out of respect for people who have passed.”
“Maybe it’s fine as it is and if you bring it up again, maybe it’s not healthy to examine these emotions. Maybe it is, I don’t know the right answer.”
Murphy also revealed that there were times he would cry in meeting rooms saying he “couldn’t do this any longer” after Monteith died.
There might be a Glee musical, though
While the show may never continue, Ryan Murphy said a reboot or a Broadway musical might be a good idea to keep the legacy of the brand alive.
“I’m at the phase now with that show where it’s like, there’s been enough time, maybe we should re-examine it as a brand,” Murphy said on And That’s What You REALLY Missed.
“Should we do a reboot of it in some way? Should we do a Broadway musical of it in some way? It’s sort of like an interesting legacy that I’m interested in doing in a positive way after pausing for a while.
“I just love what it says and what it did and there will never be, in my life, another Glee, anything close to it in terms of me feeling so close to it and the feeling that I had while making it, which was pure love.
“It’s the thing that never should have worked, but it worked. And it worked because of the people who made it and how much we all believed in it,” he continued.
“I’ve never had that feeling again.”
Interesting that not even American Horror Story has hit the high highs of Glee.
You can listen to And That’s What You REALLY Missed with Jenna Ushkovitz and Kevin McHale on iHeart.
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