It’s been 18 months since Glee wrapped and we said goodbye to McKinley High’s New Directions once and for all. Since then, the cast has gone out and taken on the worlds of film, TV, stage, and literature, winning accolades and awards left, right and centre. The same could be said of series creator Ryan Murphy.
Since Glee ended, Murphy has continued on with his highly successful and award-winning horror anthology American Horror Story, debuted Scream Queens, and is dominating award season with The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. And that’s just the projects that have already come to fruition.
With the success of AHS and The People v. O.J. Simpson at last weekend’s Emmys and the recent premieres of the mysterious AHS season 6 and Scream Queen’s rebooted season 2, Murphy took time out to reflect on his Glee journey with Entertainment Weekly.
Premiering the Pilot episode in May 2009, Glee amassed a huge following over the summer so that when the season started that autumn, it was already this huge phenomenon, which quickly went global. What followed was six seasons, two tours, 17 soundtrack albums, and a big screen concert film, not to mention huge crowds whenever the cast made public appearances. But no one, not even the series’ creator could have foreseen the success of the show: “No one thought that was going to be anything, I think, other than a solid double, maybe at best,” he admits. “And we did it, and it was a magical experience because we shot the first 13 episodes in a bubble because nothing had aired.”
However, that bubble was to be short lived. “I returned from India and Bali with Julia [Roberts where they were shooting Eat Pray Love], and I was like The Beatles,” says Murphy. “It was so crazy, like you could not go out with those kids.”
With so many hours spent together on set rehearsing, learning choreography, filming, and recording the songs, it’s not surprising that the cast and crew grew very close, and, like with any family, there were tensions. Murphy described the six years as “the best time in my life and the worst time in my life.” He goes on to explain this, saying, “There was a lot of infighting. There was a lot of people sleeping together and breaking up. It was good training for being a parent, I’ll tell you that much.
“But I also made a mistake: We all got too personal. We loved it so much that we would all go out to dinner and we’d hang out and we were always together, so there was no delineation between who was the boss and who was the employee. And we were all so close that finally when something would happen, it would be so personal to me that I would literally hit the roof.” A sentiment he has previously talked about.
Murphy also opened up about the death of star Cory Monteith during the hiatus between season 4 and 5. He remembered the last time he saw Monteith, (with co-star and girlfriend Lea Michele when they visited the set of The Normal Heart): “We hugged, and the last thing he said was ‘I love you, man, and thank you for helping me get better.’ And then the next thing I knew he was dead. It was like losing a child.”
Following Monteith’s death, Murphy consulted with Michele about whether they should continue the show or not. Michele “just want[ed] to go back to work,” though his death affected the show in its final two seasons. While Murphy describes this period as “What started off as being such a great celebration of love and acceptance ultimately became about darkness and death,” I would have to disagree. Yes death featured heavily in some of the episodes, on the whole, it was still a celebration of life, love, and the power of dreams. It was still a celebration of the underdog, a message to never give up. Maybe even more so.
Glee was a show that never shied away from discussing the big issues and I think they showed the love, the connectedness and the inspiration that death can bring with it.For me, the enduring message is certainly one of love and acceptance and not death and darkness.