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14 Apr 2010

Glee star Chris Colfer hopes gay teens can identify with his character‎

Teen actor Chris Colfer, who's openly gay and plays a gay high school student in the hit TV musical comedy series Glee, says he hopes gay teens will be able to identify with his character.

Chris Colfer was not out in high school because “people are killed in my hometown for that”, he told The Advocate last year.

Kurt Hummel on his character: “Like Kurt, I was kind of an outcast and was bullied in high school. We’re both very different people, but the fact that we’ve had so many similar experiences, it makes the character so much more relatable because the emotion is coming from a real place.” 

But today, the 19-year-old openly gay actor who plays Kurt Hummel, an “over-the-top, flamboyant and loud” gay student in Glee, a Golden Globe Award winning musical comedy-drama television series Glee, says hopes for gay teenagers to be able to identify with his character.

“Like Kurt, I was kind of an outcast and was bullied in high school. We’re both very different people, but the fact that we’ve had so many similar experiences, it makes the character so much more relatable because the emotion is coming from a real place.” He told thetvaddict.com in an interview published on Tuesday.

When asked if he thinks gay teens would be able to identify with his character, he replied: “I definitely hope so. One of the reasons why I decided to play him like I portray him on the show is that there are a lot of very over-the-top flamboyant loud characters like Kurt on television.

“I grew up in a very small conservative town and I didn’t know too many people like that. But I did know a lot of people that were very quiet, internal and thought themselves very superior to everybody around them and that’s how I play Kurt — like the real people that I knew and I think that has what people have been responded to.”

According to media interviews, Colfer who was then a community theater actor from Clovis, California had originally auditioned for Artie (played by Kevin Mchale) with the song "Mr Cellophane" and had impressed the show’s creator Ryan Murphy so much that the role of Kurt was created for him.

One of Colfer's real-life experiences also translated into a subplot for Glee when he related to Murphy that his high school teachers had repeatedly turned down his request to sing “Defying Gravity” – from the musical Wicked – because it is traditionally performed by a woman. In the episode, Kurt and his father challenge the school after Kurt’s request to audition for the part was turned down as the club’s director (played by Matthew Morrison) had automatically assigned a female student (played by Lea Michele) to sing “Defying Gravity” at a competition.

“I found a way to write it into the show because that’s in a nutshell what this show is about: someone being told that they can’t do something because of what the perception of them is as opposed to what their real ability is.” Murphy was quoted as saying in a LA Times blog.

Colfer added: “I know I'm definitely not the best singer, but I think the message, the story behind the song about defying limits and borders placed by others, hopefully all that gets across with the performance.” 

Kurt will get an onscreen boyfriend in the second season of Glee which starts Tuesday, April 13 in the US.

Glee Season 1 airs in 20 Asian countries/territories on Starworld on Wednesdays.


United States

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-04-14 21:21  
thank God for a happy article today about an awesome actor and good spirited and talented guy, Glee is a breath of fresh air and very smart and very, very funny, love that version on Defying Gravity

Gay life should be happy
2. 2010-04-14 22:02  
He's good, but he's no Justin Suarez.
3. 2010-04-14 23:10  
Beautiful song!
4. 2010-04-15 00:42  
Glee Season 1 airs in 20 Asian countries/territories on Starworld on Wednesdays.


And apparently, Malaysian censors are not requiring Kurt to "go straight" or "see the error of his ways" by the end of each episode. Amazing! The power of "Glee." :P
5. 2010-04-15 00:47  
6. 2010-04-15 00:48  
Nip and Tuck, and now Glee. We love you Ryan Murphy soooooooooooooooooooo much! :)
7. 2010-04-15 01:00  
@Chad, LOL.. that is a really dumb approach from the Malaysian censorship board, I feel ashamed to be called a Malaysian at times! And yes, power to Glee!
8. 2010-04-15 02:17  
Well, I can't help but wonder why EVERY young gay character on TV is some kind of uber-camp, prissy, bitchy queen - it's not like Colfer's character in Glee is any different from the usual Gay Character, is it?

It just seems to reinforce the idea that That's what gay guys are like - the same old cliched character.

Sigh... the more things change, the more they stay the same...
9. 2010-04-15 08:05  
I think there's a culture in the US media to be 'out and proud' when it comes to gay issues, and so being a 'Gay' tends to dominate the personalities of the characters reflected within. In the message of its OK to be gay, they hold up a clear stereotype of what being gay is about.

I've always considered Kurt's character is more of a supporting cast member. Very camp and prissy, but flamboyant isn't the way I would really describe him. Moody and androgenous enough I spent the first couple of episodes wondering whether he was an effeminate boy or a masculine girl.

That said, I love Glee anyway. :) Needed something new on television instead of just reality TV, Lost-flavoured conspiracies and medical soaps.
10. 2010-04-15 10:38  
This is such an awesome show. Not because it is genius in it's music arrangement and integration into the plot, but it promotes values which too often are overlooked by many other American shows. All of the characters, whether supporting or not play an important role in the dynamics of life and many people can relate.

I can't wait to watch the new season!
11. 2010-04-15 12:37  
To me, this show is a "beacon of hope" for teenagers in the US. It shows that with all of the adversity with being gay and open and of course all of the name calling one can see, you "can" be open about your sexuality, unfortunately when doing that, it comes with a price - and a heavy one at that - ridicule and possibly worse.

I loved the first season and can't wait to download the second one. There are two scenes I just loved and it was in I believe the third episode. At the beginning of the episode "Kurt" is practicing a dance routine to Beyonce's song "Single Ladies" with two of the Glee girls when Dad turns off the "stereo" and Kurt says out of breath "Dad"! The second one and I believe the most powerful is after the game and his Dad comes down the stairs and he said his Mom would be so proud of him if she were still alive. Then Kurt says - I have something to tell you - "I'm Gay". Dad says, he's known he was Gay ever since he was 3 ... and then he says "I love you just the same" he turns to go upstairs and then he says, "are you sure"? Kurt's reply - yes I'm sure! Dad then says, just checking. Gets me every time.

Great show, can't wait to see Season 2.
12. 2010-04-15 20:57  
its really a great show and a beautiful song...
13. 2010-04-15 22:38  
this is a comedy. what fun is there when the gay character is not swishing flames? since he will hv a bf in the new season, i do hope the bf will be the opposite.
14. 2010-04-15 22:38  
this is a comedy. what fun is there when the gay character is not swishing flames? since he will hv a bf in the new season, i do hope the bf will be the opposite.
15. 2010-04-16 00:11  
love his voice,love the show :)
any aca-fellas :D
16. 2010-04-16 00:11  
love his voice,love the show :)
any aca-fellas :D
17. 2010-04-16 00:23  
And can you imagaine, Sue is actually a real life lesbian when off screens!? Very heart warming show, : D
18. 2010-04-16 02:20  
Actually, I had never even thought about the gay character on Glee (although too stereotypical). My focus has been on Artie, the guy in the wheelchair. Having had a cousin with Muscular Dystrophy and wheelchair bound for most of her life, it is nice to see the trials and tribulations of teenage years being shown to equally affect him as well, especially in the romance department. Glee does touch base on a huge variety of diversity found in our lives today. Kudos!
19. 2010-04-16 02:51  
yeah I agree Artie is wayyy cuter.

Having said that, I have to say that Glee is about the only show to portray every single American high school stereotype. As if Kurt needed to exist to let America know what gays are really like... sigh. more diversity please. then again, shows like these have to appeal to the mainstream and for most ppl at this time kurt fits the image of "gay".

If anyone is interested in seeing a GOOD show about growing up a gay teenager, I'd recommend BBC 2's Beautiful People.. it's simply hilarious! :

20. 2010-04-16 16:42  
Don't forget British TV's cosy old show, Coronation Street (the world's longest-running soap)! After all, it's currently processing teenage Rosie Webster's fumbling lesbian kiss with her best friend, and the confused aftermath of that...

If this was on a mainstream American show/soap, there'd be some 28-year-old 'teenager' with perfect hair and makeup delicately pecking another 27-year-old 'teenager' for about 0.5 seconds - but, being Corrie, and with So-fayy (an - shock - extremely ordinary-to-the-point-of-rather-plain Actual teenager), it's been handled rather convincingly by the scriptwriters, so far. (I'm ignoring EastEnders' 'controversial' storyline of a big, butch guy chasing his newly-married, 'Straight' Muslim ex-BF because he *knows* they should be together. As they're not teenagers! :-P )

So, that could be interesting to see if So-fayy is presented as a convincing, believable gay teenager (as actress, Brooke Vincent, is good and natural on screen), or if, as is also possible/believable, nothing much develops from that kiss. (Apart from a few expected dramatic 'You snogged a girl?!' moments.)
21. 2010-04-16 16:43  
Yaay Glee...
22. 2010-04-16 17:11  
There are simply too many shows which reinforce the sterotype image of a teenage gay : camp and loud.

Why can't script writers think out of the box and use real-life character like college football captain ? Just look at the success of Brokeback Mountain which tells the story of 2 simple country men. Even the porn industry is presenting gay men as just another unassuming guy you see on the street.

Perhaps it may not be bad afterall that some countries ban the screening of Glee because it potrays the tiresome negative image of gay men !

I am one who won't miss such show. I would recommend readers to check out Details magazine, which likes to debunk the sterotype of gay men for better or worst.

23. 2010-04-16 18:27  
I could consider this for a moment: The most visible gay teens in school tend to be campy, loud, bitchy, witty, etc. And if this TV show can demonstrate to gay and straight kids that it's OK to be gay, campy, loud, bitchy, witty (or any combination) and such personalities do not deserve any kind of derision or "special attention" then maybe this might truly help those kids. Sometimes the bitchiness, camp, wit are defence mechanisms gay kids employ to shield themselves; and hopefully in come to time, such defence mechanisms won't be necessary...
24. 2010-04-16 18:34  
vercoda's comment above (#8) is totally how i feel as well, although i am happy for Chris Colfer as a young, self-confident, clearly talented actor and person. And he didn't write the part, he just fulfilled it, the role of the "token gay".

But i think we're seeing progress in television programming (i can only speak for the US though) with shows like The United States of Tara in which the son, Marshall, of the main character is confused about his sexuality. Ugly Betty does present another rather flamboyant gay character, again a teenage boy, but his boyfriend on the show isn't stereotypical at all. The British series Skins also has gay teen characters, the first in series only fulfilling the stereotype because of how damn cute he is... and he dances, like hip hop dance. Highly recommended ^_^

Anyway, the fact that there's more of a presence of gay characters on television programming in general is a good sign i think and we are beginning to see more of a range of gay characters as well, no matter how slow that might come to happen.
Comment #25 was deleted by its author on 2010-04-19 00:21
26. 2010-04-19 00:16  
The presence of any gay character in popular shows, cast in a positive light (and where they do not magically turn straight at the end of each episode!), is a good thing.

I am conflicted about the stereotype portrayal though. Yes, this is great affirmation for those who are already confident, camp, loud and out. Or those who want to express themselves this way

On the other hand, what does it do for those who are not and have no desire to be campy or bitchy? Where are the non-stereotype gay heroes to look up to?

The mainstream media/hollywood is probably too commercial and risk averse at the moment to dispense with the stereotypical token gay character. After all the advantage of a stereotype is that it requires minimal thinking on the part of the audience.

The only commercial TV that shows non-camp gay characters that I can think of is the BBC's Torchwood series starring John Barrowman as the key character Captain Jack. This is your classic action hero character, except he is bisexual, and towards the end of the series was in a relationship with another male character. Camp bitchiness need not apply!

The interesting thing was that this relationship was portrayed as completely "normal". Very refreshing.
27. 2010-04-21 05:11  
I think you'll find Captain Jack admits to being omnisexual - which means he has sex with men, women and aliens.
28. 2010-05-12 16:52  

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