A few months ago, I sat in a swanky hotel in London, knees knocking and beads of sweat gathering on my brow. I was waiting to meet executive producer of Glee, Dante Di Loreto. Dante’s been producing TV and films for 16 years and has recent success not only with Glee but the HBO Claire Danes TV movie Temple Grandin, for which Danes won an Emmy award. I was supposed to be asking Dante questions relating to the release of Glee Season 1: Volume 2 DVD on Monday, but I try to get a newsworthy scoop for you whenever I get the chance…
How does it feel to have such a success like Glee on your hands?
The success of the show is the kind of thing you hope for. It’s a show about underdogs, about people who want to find a place to belong and so it still feels a little bit unreal because it feels like we’re a bunch of underdogs who are trying to show the world how well we can sing and dance.
I work for Ryan Murphy who is, in my opinion, one of the best creative minds working in media today. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can span the arc from Nip/Tuck to Eat, Pray, Love to Glee. But you know, you hope for this kind of warm welcome and sometimes it’s hard to find it. I’ve been doing this long enough to know how rare it is.
Do you think Glee’s status as an underdog has been the thing to draw people to the show?
I think everyone feels like a bit of an outcast – let me rephrase that, I think everyone is looking for somewhere they belong. No matter how successful you are or how pretty you are, you probably have some doubts within yourself, questions about where you fit in and I think that’s what the show speaks to. But also we make fun of ourselves mercilessly, so whenever we start taking ourselves seriously there’s some incredibly witty Sue Sylvester line written by Ian Brennan or Brad or Ryan that just cuts everyone to the quick.
Are Sue’s lines ever improvised by Jane Lynch?
She’s a fantastic comedian, I think she’s got a terrific process now with Ian who writes a lot of her dialogue and I think they’re both on the same page with what Sue Sylvester is going to say next.
The first season’s split meant we had to wait for the back nine episodes – which was your favourite from the latter part of the season?
Gosh, I’m actually hard pressed to say. I really loved Ryan’s Madonna episode, of course. I really loved the flash mob that we do [episode 19: Dream On] and the finale is very emotional, very moving.
On the DVD we get a look at behind the scenes of the Madonna episode, how involved was she?
She’s a very smart woman. The show is creatively handled by Ian, Brad and Ryan and no one was interfering with the content of the show. What I think is exciting about that episode is that it’s not about Madonna, it’s about empowering women and I know she definitely responded to that. She watched it with her family and it was really exciting to know that she had watched it.
Were you ever concerned that Glee was going to ‘do a Pushing Daises’ and lose viewers after a break in production?
Well the reason there was a gap was because we produced the first 13 episodes in a vacuum and no one knew whether it was going to draw an audience or not. As soon as we started airing it we knew they wanted more and we started back in production as soon as we possibly could. You know the biggest concern was the gap between airing the pilot and when we launched the show.
We showed the pilot in May [in the US only] and the series launched in September and they [Fox] were afraid that people wouldn’t remember what this show was and why they watched it. What we discovered was quite the opposite happening because you could buy the music, you could talk about it online, tell your friends about it, watch it on streaming in the US. The audience just grew and it seems to have served us well to have breaks in the process.
The cast have been super busy with the show including the Glee tour in the US. Any chance of it coming over here?
I know Ryan and the cast would love the chance to perform again, it was really special to connect with the audience and to interact with the fans in that way. It’s mostly a question of scheduling – the problem is it takes so long to produce the TV show, when do we tour? But I know they’d love to come to Britain or to Ireland.
We’d settle for a concert DVD, how about it?
We hadn’t originally planned that but everyone was so excited by the experience that we did film one of our final performances at Radio City Music Hall. But there’s no specific plan as to how or when we’d use that footage.
We’re taking that as a yes. How about some season two tidbits? Got anything for me?
I wish I could. You and I are on the same page here, we’re completely in the dark. We read something online but the truth is as we’re sitting here in London, our creators are sequestered in LA as we speak, writing the first scripts.
I know there’s a big fanbase for Kristin Chenoweth’s character April Rhodes, any plans for her return?
Well we love her and I know we would all love to work with her again. She’s one of the most gifted and loving people I’ve ever had the chance to work with. Same goes for Jonathan Groff.
Who was your favourite guest star?
Anything with Kristin or Jonathan. Neil Patrick Harris I thought had a fantastic episode and some amazing performances. It’s kind of an embarrassment of riches because there are so many talented musical performers that don’t really have a chance to show those skills and we’re one of the rare shows that lets people sing and dance.
What about the Britney episode – how’s that coming?
I know that characters come out of the story and I believe that our writers have been incredibly smart about keeping the show grounded. They’re not creating stunts but interesting characters that people want to see more of and if a particular star is well suited for that role and we’re really lucky that so many people want to do the show.
So it’s story first, star later?
Absolutely. Story first.
Is there anyone you’ve spoken to Ryan about to try and get on the show?
Not really. To be honest, we have an enormous cast for a TV show and they’re all so talented, I’m engaged every week by what our regular series players are doing. There’s so much to explore with what they can do. They’re all becoming so much more skilled at doing the show – none of us knew how to do this a year ago, it didn’t exist! So that’s the most exciting part of it.
What famous person might show up next week is flattering but watching everyone grow and watching what direction the writers are inspired to take their characters in is thrilling. I’m the luckiest guy in the world – I get to read a Glee script as soon as it’s written and I race to my chair and read it front to back.
In terms of characters, Naya Rivera (Santana) and Heather Morris (Brittany) are now series regulars. Will we get to hear Brittany sing?
I think that would be a fantastic addition to the show. We just finished the live concert tour where she is singing and she’s a knockout. It’s a terrific role and I don’t doubt that we’ll find some opportunities for her and Naya to be more featured musically.
And finally, on the DVD we’ll get to see more of Sue’s Corner – how did that feature come about?
That’s a great question. You know, it’s the genius of these three writers. You can take something that seems so outrageous and combine it with Jane’s amazing acting and it becomes the most believable kind of hysteria. There’s always something that’s gonna seem crazy and outrageous and we do it!