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Ryan Murphy on Glee’s Final Season: New Location and Smaller Cast

GLEE: Artie (Kevin McHale, C) performs in the "Tested" episode of GLEE airing Tuesday, April 15 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Mike Yarish/FOX

After Cory Monteith’s unexpected passing last summer, Ryan Murphy knew he had to change directions with Glee. Suddenly, it felt wrong to be hanging around the high school. “The big idea, the big plan of what the series was gonna be and how it was gonna end radically changed when Cory passed away,” Glee boss Ryan Murphy told Vulture. Finn would have taken over the glee club while Rachel would pursue her dreams in New York City. When Cory passed away, “that part of the story as we imagined it, it just didn’t make any sense anymore, and it felt bad, to be quite honest.” So producers decided to reset the show leading up to the final season. They’d close the McKinley High chapter with the 100th episode, and start fresh with all of the core cast relocating to New York. Creatively, Murphy’s happy. On Monday afternoon, he got on the phone with a small group of reporters to discuss further upcoming changes and what else to expect as Glee looks toward the end.

1. The final season won’t be set in New York.
McKinley’s glee club is gone, and Blaine, Sam, Artie, and Mercedes have moved to New York. But the series doesn’t plan on staying there exclusively. “The final season is really its own story and its own location,” Murphy said, declining to elaborate on where that would be. “While the New York stuff will be alive, the final season is not New York–centric at all.”

2. There will be a time jump between seasons.
The remaining four episodes focus on Rachel’s debut as Fanny Brice. (Murphy teases, “Is it going to be a huge success? Is it going to be a flop? And where will that turn her? Will she want to stay and do more New York shows? Will she want to do something else?”) Meanwhile, the relationships between Kurt and Blaine, and Mercedes and Sam, will come to a head, and then, says Murphy, “something big happens, and the final season is the aftermath of that.” That aftermath will take some (most?) of them out of New York. Baseless prediction: Funny Girl flops, the final season picks up a couple of years later, and everyone is an adult living (and singing and dancing) in Hollywood, the final frontier. Why not?

3. Kurt might also still go to Russia.
Murphy didn’t deny it.

4. The final season will be 24 episodes long.
That’s the initial 22-episode sixth-season order plus two episodes that are being held from this season. “This year we did 20 episodes because we had a three-week delay on and off with production because of Cory’s passing. There was no way to physically produce those episodes and get them on the air in May,” Murphy said.

5. The number of series regulars will shrink.
“At one point, I felt like it was a cast of thousands,” Murphy acknowledged. “The Lima stories were always supposed to be all through the prism of Cory’s character, Finn, and that didn’t work out. We had to punt for a little bit once we got our bearings back. The idea of, ‘Let’s concentrate on six people we know and love and really work hard on their evolution,’ I think has really served the show well. Next year, that’s the formula that we will be using.” Murphy didn’t name names, but count on all the kids currently living in New York, along with Mr. Schuester and Coach Sue, being regulars next season. Other characters will continue to float in and out. Heather Morris, who plays Brittany, for example, is a new mom and won’t be back full-time. But as was the case with the 100th episode, Murphy says “anybody who was a part of [the show] who wants to be in that ending, we would love to have you. Some of their characters’ stories will be much heavier; that’s the way it’s always been … but anybody who wants to be in it can be in it, as far as I’m concerned.”

6. It’s curtains for next-gen Glee kids Marley (Melissa Benoist), Jacob (Jacob Artist), Ryder (Blake Jenner), Kitty (Becca Tobin), and Unique (Alex Newell).
Murphy commended them for a job well done, but made it pretty clear that they won’t be back as regulars. “At some point before the show is concluded, we will definitely catch up with those characters again,” he said, “find out where they are and check in with them and [see] how being a part of that glee club legacy affected their lives.”

7. McKinley High’s glee club won’t be making much of a comeback, either.
Who knows for sure, but for now Murphy says “you might see it again, in some nostalgic way.”

8. The writers still aren’t sure whether or not Rachel will date again.
In tonight’s episode, “Tested,” Rachel confides in Mercedes that she doesn’t feel ready to be in a relationship following Finn’s death. Her romantic future remains unclear. “We talk about this in the writers’ room all the time. That’s a really hard, very painful, very difficult thing for the show,” Murphy said. “[Finn and Rachel were] always the ending of the show for me: these two star-crossed lovers getting together and having a happy ending and them both getting their dreams. The fact that that can’t be is a big pain in all of our hearts.” Going forward, the writers will continue to take their cues from Michele. “She’s always been so great and sensitive and wise about how to handle that stuff.”

9. Glee’s new ending will mostly be about Rachel and Mr. Schuester.
Also, that first class. “It returns them to their origins, how they felt about each other when they were all much younger and everything was idyllic,” Murphy said.

10. You’re not wrong — the show has been more sweet and less mean lately.
And not just because Sue, Santana, Kitty, Roz, and Cassandra are all missing in action. “Maybe because it’s been a tough year, but I feel like the word we keep talking about is kindness,” Murphy said. Since the show’s move to New York, no villain, antagonist, or bully has turned up. That may not last — both Santana and Sue will be back sooner rather than later — but “the heart, humor and warmth [of this stretch of episodes] feels like the Glee I remember loving in seasons one and two,” Murphy said, “and that I think is because we’re really concentrating on the characters.”

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