Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kevin McHale of "Glee" says disabled actors were auditioned for his role

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas:

Kevin McHale (pictured in character) says he could burst out into a song at any moment.

Life is that good, and he’s that giddy, thanks to a career-breakthrough role in Glee, Fox’s addictively watchable musical-comedy-drama about an upstart high-school glee club.

McHale, a 21-year-old from Plano, was just another aspiring actor in Los Angeles a year ago. Now, he and his co-stars have a legion of fans.

"I don’t know if being recognized by strangers is something I’ll ever get used to," says McHale, whose sweet-singing Artie Abrams is a social misfit in school because of the wheelchair he gets around in. "I came back home for Thanksgiving and, when I got into D/FW Airport, some girl came up to me in the terminal, and then another girl at baggage claim. It was kind of surreal."

Another "Gleek" (as in "Glee geek") approached him during breakfast with his parents in a restaurant. She asked to take McHale’s picture. "Which was kind of cool because my mom had never been with me before when I’ve gotten recognized," he says. "It was nice that my family could see that."

The best part, though, is that it’s happening because of a show he loves doing, a show that’s deliciously different from anything else on prime time. Glee is often funnier than most sitcoms, and more poignantly written and performed than most dramas. And the musical numbers are simply unforgettable.

The fall finale airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday. After that, Gleeks will have to wait until April for the show’s return.

We chatted with McHale last week about life before and since he was cast on Glee:

Does the success of the show — the response from fans, the critical acclaim — surprise you?

We’re biased. We love the show. But we’re all very aware that this show could have gone one of two ways: It could have turned out like it has so far or, if nobody liked it, it could have wound up being nothing more than expensive home videos.

What kind of feedback do you get from viewers who, like your character, are in wheelchairs?

Most of the people I’ve met seem to like it. They say it’s important to have that character on TV and to show that a person in a wheelchair can do everything that everyone else can do. There were some complaints, and I completely understand where they’re coming from, about maybe they should have had an actual disabled person to play the part. All I know is they auditioned able-bodied and disabled people, and I was lucky enough to get the part.

Did you always want to be a performer?

My parents have a video of me, age 6 at my sister’s wedding, performing something from The Lion King in front of everyone at the reception. But I didn’t think I could do that as a living. I wanted to be a meteorologist. I remember I used to put myself on tape doing the weather in front of the fireplace.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

I love a huge variety of music. It comes from having older siblings and being exposed to a lot of different music. I literally like everything from Radiohead to Bob Marley to Britney Spears. I get something out of everything. I get sick of one type of music if I listen to it too long. So I switch it up a lot.

Have there been songs you were leery about doing on the show?

A few times, like when we did Jump by Van Halen and Imagine by John Lennon. While I was excited to do it, I was also like, "How can we even touch these songs?" I mean, these are perfect, classic songs that you just don’t redo. Yet we go ahead and tackle them in the first 13 episodes.

You were in eighth grade when you moved to L.A. to pursue your career. Do you still think of yourself as a Texan?

Well, I’m definitely the most Texan of anyone in my family. I was the only one born in Texas. Which is why I like country gravy better than brown gravy. My mom still refuses to make it. So when I go back home, I always have to go to Golden Chick, because I need my fried chicken and country gravy.