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The then-18-year-old high school graduate with the big blue eyes and pale skin nervously walked into the audition room to sing and dance in front of his idol.
“Why do I have the feeling you’ve been Rolf on ‘The Sound of Music’ before?” the executive producer asked Chris Colfer, giving the young actor his signature Ryan Murphy once-over. The creator of “Nip/Tuck” was casting roles for his new Fox series, “Glee,” which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m.

“I know I have Von Trapp written all over me,” Colfer replied. “I actually was Kurt in ‘The Sound of Music’ a long time ago.”

Colfer, a community theater actor from Clovis, Calif., wasn’t just looking for his first professional job. He was face-to-face with the television writer he most admired — standing in his office, surrounded by “Nip/Tuck” props and photographs, and all he wanted to do was ask him for spoilers for the next season. Instead, he dropped his script pages, scattering them everywhere.

“I was thinking, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t sing and dance in front of this man. I idolize him so much,’” said Colfer, now 19. “So I immediately peed a little. I’m horrible at auditions anyway. Maybe that’s why I never got anything. It’s my Achilles’ heel. Is that who it was — Achilles? Just checking. It could be Aries or Hercules and some scholar’s gonna write me a letter.”

The young countertenor, who had been performing since he was 9 but who knew he wanted to act “since I was an embryo,” was trying out for the role of Arty, a guitar-playing geek in a wheelchair who is part of a high school show choir at the heart of the musical comedy. He belted out “Mr. Cellophane” from the musical “Chicago,” which he had rehearsed with his grandmother.

“He’s never been formally trained and I just thought he was so talented and gifted and unusual,” Murphy recalled. “I’ve never seen anyone who looks like him or acts like him or sounds like him. You’d think he’d been at Juilliard for six years but he hasn’t.”

Still, Colfer didn’t get the part. Not that part anyway. Murphy recognized something else in the unknown performer, something that inspired him to invent a new character: a bit of himself.


That character, as drawn by Murphy for Colfer, is Kurt Hummel, the “fashionable soprano” and sixth member of the glee club. The first name is a tribute to Colfer’s turn as Kurt Von Trapp. The last name comes from the Hummel figurines “with rosy cheeks” that Murphy’s mother collected when he was a child.

“So Kurt from my ‘Sound of Music’ experience and Hummel because I look like a porcelain doll,” Colfer said wryly.

Although Kurt Hummel is coming to terms with being gay, his essence lies more in his strong sense of identity and self-worth than his sexual orientation.

“When we started auditioning, I thought it was kind of ridiculous that we’re doing a musical about kids and expression and we don’t have the gay point of view,” Murphy said. “I thought it was important, but I would never want Chris to feel weird. More than the gay thing, he understood the thing about being an outsider because he felt that way in high school and I told him we’re going to tap into that.”

The witty, mature and self-possessed Colfer is not one to be at a loss for words. But even after production wrapped last month, he was still grappling with the notion that the man who invented the show he used to watch against his mother’s wishes has created a part for him that everyone, from TV critics to co-star Jane Lynch, is betting will break out.

“Everything that’s happened I can understand except for that part,” Colfer said. “That part is completely mind-blowing. Every time I think of it my eyes get wide and I just can’t believe it. It means the world to me because I want to do what Ryan does someday. For him to see me in him, I can’t even describe it.”

His admiration of Murphy aside, Colfer’s first response to learning that his character is gay was fear. He grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, in a small town where many people wear cowboy hats, farm and “no one has a sense of humor but they all drive trucks,” he said. On a recent visit home, Colfer noticed there were still many “Yes on 8” signs on lawns.

“At first, I was absolutely terrified because I’m from a very conservative anti-gay town,” Colfer said. “And then people started saying, ‘Wow, your character is a lot like how Ryan Murphy would be,’ and I didn’t know I was and that was good because that would also be terrifying. In the original script, they were leaning on him being overly flamboyant and I didn’t want to do that because it’s so overdone. So I made him more internal and superior.”

A graduate of Clovis East High School, Colfer was a three-time speech and debate champion, president of the writer’s club, and wrote and directed a musical spoof of “Sweeney Todd” called “Shirley Todd.” His closest friends in school were the “lunch room ladies” because he preferred to stay home to write than to go out with friends. He also took care of his 14-year-old sister, Hannah, who was born with a critical illness that has kept her in and out of hospitals all of her life.

“I was made fun of a lot in high school because of the way I sound and the way I was,” Colfer said. “I was a lone duck in a swan-filled pond who criticized everyone. So I think everyone might be going, ‘Oh, he’s playing the gay character. Figures.’ Just because that’s how they perceived me.”

Between the ages of nine and 14, Colfer performed in local plays four nights a week. Five years ago, he landed a Hollywood agent and began traveling eight hours roundtrip to Los Angeles for auditions with his mother. He tried out for about 30 roles before he was cast on “Glee.”

Karyn Colfer remembers watching her son in his first role, playing Snoopy, when he was 8, and “I saw a light go on in my son that has never turned off.”

“We had this child, Christopher, who was extremely gifted in all areas,” she added. “He was very smart academically. He was very mature for his age because of his sister’s illness. And this was his outlet. It was a way for him to have something that was his very own, and his father and I committed to making sure that he went after this.”

Now that the word is out in Clovis about Colfer’s big break, Karyn Colfer has heard from friends who have asked how she’ll feel if people watch “Glee” and assume that her son is gay.

“I always say, ‘What if he is?’ To put it bluntly, I don’t know if my son is gay or not,” she said. “It’s not a conversation we’ve had with him. But if it ever came out that he is, he would still have his dad and myself and our support and love in everything he does in life. That would not change. Ever. You can’t stop loving someone for his sexual orientation. He’s my kid! I’m completely comfortable with whoever Christopher wants to be.”

More and more, broadcast television is depicting homosexuality in non-stereotypical ways, showing characters that embrace who they are (“Ugly Betty”) and are in loving, fulfilling relationships (“Brothers & Sisters” and “Desperate Housewives”). In this way, Kurt is bound to become a role model for teens in the midst of discovering who they are and also for adults who have been in Kurt’s shoes.

“That would be the biggest compliment because that would mean the community he represents on the show accepts him,” Chris Colfer said. “I don’t personally feel a responsibility to be a role model, but as the actor, I do. I’m happy to do what I can, but I hope I don’t become the next Ellen.”

But he could just become the next Beyonce. During the powerful episode that is scheduled to air Sept. 23, Kurt comes out to his father (Mike O’Malley) in a scene that Murphy took verbatim from his life. The one difference is that Murphy’s conversation with his dad didn’t involve the football team or hilarious “Single Ladies” dance routine, which Colfer says required “three choreographers and two therapists” to nail.

“The show is about making you feel good in the end,” Murphy said. “It’s about happy endings and optimism and the power of your personal journey and making you feel that the weird thing about me is the great thing about me. I’ve done other shows with gay characters, and I will say that in many of those cases, the gay characters didn’t have a happy ending. And I thought you know what? Enough.”

Kurt would agree, and so does Colfer, who says that he can especially relate to how different Kurt is from his surroundings. But Kurt is one to say things like, “My body is like a rum chocolate soufflé. If I don’t warm it up right, it doesn’t rise,” and Colfer’s confidence doesn’t (yet) match that.

“There’s probably more of Kurt in me than I’m willing to admit, but I really wish I could be more like Kurt,” Colfer said. “I wish I could walk into a room and have that Ryan Murphy air of superiority about me.”

Source: latimes.com

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Stranger Than Fanfiction
Written by Chris Colfer
Release: February 28, 2017

Cash Carter is the young, world famous lead actor of the hit television Wiz Kids. When four fans jokingly invite him on a cross-country road trip, they are shocked that he actually takes them up on it. Chased by paparazzi and hounded by reporters, this unlikely crew takes off on a journey of a lifetime–but along the way they discover that the star they love has deep secrets he’s been keeping. What they come to learn about the life of the mysterious person they thought they knew will teach them about the power of empathy and the unbreakable bond of true friendship.
Julie's Greenroom
Chris as himself (episode 2)
Release: March 17, 2017 on Netflix

Ms. Julie and her assistant Gus (Giullian Yao Gioiello) will bring the performing arts to a new generation of kids known as the “Greenies,” played by original puppet characters built by the renowned Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Trollbella Throws a Party:
A Tale from the Land of Stories

Written by Chris Colfer
Release: July 11, 2017

It's Queen Trollbella's birthday and she's throwing herself an epic celebration. She has everything a troll girl would want: musicians, magical creatures, carnival rides, a gigantic cake, and more. So why isn't she having any fun? Trollbella knows something is missing, until she meets a goblin boy sneaking into her party. It's his birthday too! When Trollbella decides to share her party, she knows she's finally figured out what is missing. A happy kingdom and learning to give back is the best gift she could've ever received.
The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide
Written by Chris Colfer
Release: July 11, 2017

In the highly anticipated conclusion to the Land of Stories series, Conner and Alex must brave the impossible. All of the Land of Stories fairy tale characters--heroes and villains--are no longer confined within their world! With mayhem brewing in the Big Apple, Conner and Alex will have to win their biggest battle yet. Can the twins restore order between the human and fairy tale world?
Since My Life Began
Chris as Noel Coward
Release: tba

A story focused on the early life of flamboyant playwright Noel Coward.
Oct 16 - 'The Land of Stories: The Ultimate Book Hugger's Guide' Release
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