Yes, Chris Colfer really is as nice as he seems.
I first interviewed the Glee actor, the guy with both the voice and the face of an angel, long before the show debuted last fall, and the 19-year-old couldn’t have been more down-to-earth (not to mention intelligent and funny). He and Kevin McHale, who plays Artie on the show, were practically begging me to put Kurt up for AfterElton.com’s Gay of the Week.
I did, and he won.
Flash forward almost a year, and I recently had a chance to interview Chris again. Despite the fact that the past nine months have included his show’s break-out success, near-universal raves for his performance, and an Advocate-fueled “controversy” about whether or not he was really “out,” he couldn’t have been more accessible and less jaded.
AfterElton.com readers recently coined the term “Glee-va” to describe a self-absorbed cast member from the show, but it simply couldn’t be less descriptive of Chris.
We didn’t waste any time dishing on everything from the folks who bullied him in high school who now think they are friends, to Glee’s upcoming Madonna-themed episode, to exactly how success has — and hasn’t — messed with his head.
AfterElton.com: When I talked to you less than a year ago, no one knew of the Glee kids. But despite everything that’s happened, I know the highlight of the past year had to be when you convincingly won AfterElton.com’s Gay of the Week.
Chris Colfer: [laughin] Absolutely. How could it not? I had mentioned it before. I almost campaigned for him to win that, and actually saved the picture and printed it out. So I see it a lot. But just to know that the community that you represent on the show appreciates what you do means the world. So that’s why it meant so much to me.
AE: What is the biggest external change in the past year for you, and what has changed inside — mentally?
CC: Not much mentally. Really I think in a year I’ve kind of gone from a small-town nothing to a bigger-town somewhat-somebody, so I think that’s been the biggest change. And just finding purpose in what you do. Getting out of Clovis, California, was a good thing.
AE: You’ve talked before about growing up in Clovis and how difficult it was. Is the fact that you’re now becoming this role model for kids who are different – artistic or gay or whatever – does that help put that in perspective, allow you to turn a negative into a positive?
CC: Absolutely. I think from coming from a small town after having grown up where I grew up, I definitely know on a personal level the type of kids that I’m affecting, because I was one of those kids. And I think whether it’s the character or just my story in general coming straight from a small town to this roller-coaster, to this role of Glee, I hope both stories are helping others out there.
AE: Have you heard from high school friends or people that maybe gave you a hard time back then?
CC: All of them. But no one thinks they gave you a hard time, you see. They all think they were your best friend. And all the teachers that you had, they – even if you didn’t have them as a teacher, they message you. I think I’ve gotten a message from pretty much everyone that lives there.
AE: How do you handle that? Do you ignore some of them?
CC: No, no – I respond to everything. I really came with this kind of an attitude of, you know, people who forget and forgive are stupid. You take down numbers and you take down social security numbers and you get even one day, and I’m still all for that.
But I think you get to a certain point where, you know, what’s the point? What’s the point of holding grudges now, I mean?
AE: Especially with high school kids who are immature.
CC: Exactly, right, right, right. But I’m still very bitter. I’m still very bitter. And if I saw one coming up today, I’d run away probably still.
AE: And he says this with such a smile on his face, it’s hard to believe.
AE: Is it hard to keep all this kind of attention from messing with your head?
CC: I don’t really have a problem with it messing with my head. I think you just have to take everything with a grain of salt. And I know a lot of people say that, but it really is true. You can’t let it overwhelm you, and then again you can’t be underwhelmed by it either. It has to be an even balance of caution and awareness to it.
AE: How often do people recognize you?
CC: Everywhere I go. In fact, I went grocery shopping today and I was recognized four times. Four times, yes.
AE: What’s the oddest thing about fame?
CC: Probably that, actually, not being able to go outside anymore.
AE: Has anyone come up to you and said anything bizarre about your character?
CC: Oh, no – everyone’s been great. I think I’m always the one who’s always the bizarre one, because usually people are like, “Can I get a picture with you?” And I’m not quite used to that. I’m like, “What? With me?” I’m always looking for you know, Zac Efron behind me, for someone of importance.
So I apologize, let me apologize on your website to the fans that I’ve been very strange to and kind of like, “Oh, okay!” and being cautious.
AE: What can you talk about with what Kurt is going to have for the rest of the season?
CC: They don’t want us talking about much, but I will tell you that, he – or so they tell me that his creative side is coming out. I’m not sure what that entails. I’m looking very forward to getting that script and finding out, but I know it’s coming up.
Oh, I got a lot in the Madonna episode coming up.
AE: We did a whole poll on who should sing what. What would you want to sing?
CC: Oh, um, I probably would have thought Kurt would sing” Vogue,” because that would seem very logical, but expect the unexpected in this episode. They do not go for, by any means, they do not do what is expected.
AE: Are you getting a solo in the Madonna episode?
AE: Oh, good. We’ll have fun with that.
Any other projects that have come your way at this point?
CC: A lot of things have come my way, a lot of very different things from Kurt, which I’m very grateful for, but unfortunately I’ve had to turn them down because of Glee and the conflicts that come up.
AE: When you play an iconic character, do you start worrying about your next part and wanting it to be different, or is too soon to start worrying about?
CC: You know, I really, really like Kurt and I really, really love everything that he stands for and I think that any character that has that much passion and that much complexity to him I would love to play, whatever that entails.
So I would not turn down projects that remind me of Kurt, but I think for me there’s no fear because I know what I’m capable of, and I know that Kurt is so different from the way I’d play any other character, even if I played another gay character, I wouldn’t play him like Kurt.
So I’m not worried about it, but I think other people are worried about it, like journalists and reporters, but I think that if there’s fear of being typecast or kind of being connected to a cliché character, then you’re doing something right.
AE: Cory Monteith told Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun that you are the most likely of the Glee kids to win an Academy Award.
CC: Oh, bless him! That’s so sweet. He shouldn’t have.
AE: Is that something you aspire to?
CC: I think I have aspired to that since I was an embryo, and I’m pretty sure I used my umbilical cord as practice for my acceptance speech. It’s definitely a huge dream of mine, as it is every actor, I would hope. But just being able to be in the same room as some of these actors, land just to know that you’re in the presence of these people.
I mean, a year ago I was giving my sister melatonin so she would calm down and I could watch the Golden Globes in peace. I’m a total fan boy, coming here. Just the idea that – it’s surreal. That’s why I’m stuttering again and I can’t come up with words.
AE: There was some confusion about when you were officially out and not out. Did you know Chelsea was going to ask you that question on Chelsea Lately?
CC: Well, I think when you go on Chelsea you can expect anything – you might have a guideline of what you may go over, but she’s so off the wall. She’s so impromptu that you can’t expect anything.
So I had an idea that the question might come up, but I did not know it was going to be what it was, but I don’t think what it was was bad, at all.
I actually think the Chelsea Lately interview was probably one of my best interviews ever. And I’m a huge fan of hers, and there’s been some negative stuff toward her on that and I hope that gets cleared up. I would love to go on her show every day if I could because I’m such a huge fan.