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Chris Colfer Hits the High Notes on Glee

In the first nine episodes of Fox’s breakaway hit, Glee, 19-year-old Chris Colfer has emerged as a favorite among the show’s main characters for his hilarious and touching portrayal of Kurt Hummel, the glee club’s resident fabulous falsetto. In real life, Colfer’s a former drama-club kid from outside Fresno, and is amazed by the impact his first major TV role has already made. Colfer spoke to Vulture about his big solo on last week’s show, the evolution of Kurt, and what more we can expect this season.

It’s been too long: Why have we not had a big Kurt solo till now?!
I have absolutely no idea! I don’t know why it took so long, but I’m just so happy that I got to do a song I’ve wanted to for so long.

I’ve heard that the choice to sing “Defying Gravity” was based on a real-life experience of yours?
Every year in high school, we’d have this talent show, and every year I’d beg to sing “Defying Gravity” and every year they turned me down because I was a boy and they said it was a girl’s song; and every year I protested, saying that there are no lyrics that indicate gender specification whatsoever, but they’d still turn me down. And one day on set, Ryan Murphy told me he was coming up with a Kurt versus Rachel plotline, and for whatever reason, I started talking about this, and the next thing I know it was in the script. I think it’s a good story; the most terrifying thing was just actually getting to do “Defying Gravity” finally. I thought, Oh crap, I can’t mess this up!

When did you discover that you had this amazingly high vocal range? Has your voice changed?
I think this is just the way it’s going to be. I’ve definitely made jokes over the years about how my voice has never changed, countless one-liners. But to be honest, I think I might have done it to myself. Right when my voice started changing, I would purposely start singing really high songs every day, constantly. Actually, the Wicked soundtrack is what I would sing along to the most. All of my favorite songs are pretty high and usually sung by women, it turns out. I’d really like to do some opera songs on the show. I’m not really into opera, but I think I could do it if I needed to.

There’s an interesting story behind how you got on Glee, right?
I originally auditioned for the role of Artie, and they liked me but didn’t want me for Artie. So they got rid of a role called Rashish and made a role for me. Rashish was just like a nerd, but he was everything Kurt was — except he wasn’t the gay character, he was genuinely in love with Mercedes. But I guess they didn’t really know what to do with it, or where to go with it. And it was funny, Ryan Murphy said to me, “Why do I feel like you’ve been in The Sound of Music?” I guess I give off a Von Trapp vibe. That’s why he called me Kurt. And Hummel because he said I look like one of those Hummel figurines with the rosy cheeks.

Your scenes with Mike O’Malley [who plays Kurt’s dad] have been really affecting. Is it difficult to do these super-personal moments in a genuine way?
I think Mike is such a great actor that it’s completely 100 percent not hard to do at all. It’s not hard to believe he’s my dad. Those scenes, we’re just opening our hearts and showing our souls. I think my biggest task was just to make sure it was completely honest, and to make sure it wasn’t comical at all, not used as a punchline, that it was real. I think it’s probably the first time a character’s sexuality has been respected and almost dignified in a way, and I think that’s really important, and there needs to be more of that on TV.

Were you nervous at all for your first big TV role to be such a statement-making one?
I actually had no idea what the role was when I signed the contract, ‘cause it was still being written. All my original contracts say something ridiculous like “Artie 2.” I didn’t know how much of an impact the role would have on me, but I think that’s for the best. I’ve gone through a lot on the show, and if I had a hint of that, I might have had a little caution taking on the role. But to further that, I grew up in a very conservative small town and I was terrified when I found out the role was the gay kid of the club, just because I went home recently, and people still have their “Yes on 8” signs on their front lawns, and the election was months ago. It’s challenging, but right now I couldn’t care less — I think it’s done such good things for kids out there.

You guys have crazy fans. Have you dealt with Kurt groupies yet?
Yes, and I’ve named them! I call them the Kurtsies. I think out of everyone, I get the biggest range of fan letters. I get people saying they love the character and the show, but also people telling me their coming-out stories — like when they told their parents or their wife and four kids.

What will we see from Kurt going forward for the rest of this season?
No more songs, unfortunately. I only know about the first thirteen episodes; we haven’t done the back nine yet. But in the upcoming episodes, Kurt will have a crush that’s sadly not reciprocated, and he kind of comes to terms with that. And he gives Rachel a makeover, which, as he explains, is very hard to do.

Chris Colfer Hits the High Notes on Glee