Chris Colfer says he has "raging ADD." While his ever-growing list of projects and creative avenues may suggest there's some truth in that, the dedication and determined focus he brings to each prove he's actually just a great multi-tasker.
Best known for his Golden Globe winning role as Glee's fashion-obsessed countertenor Kurt Hummel, Colfer last season found himself at the heart of an anti-bullying storyline that both inspired public dialogue and landed him in the Time 100, the magazine's list of the world's most influential people. After wrapping Glee's second season in May, Colfer followed up the whirlwind international Glee Live tour -- now in theaters as the Glee 3D Movie experience -- by producing and starring in his first self-penned feature film while writing a TV pilot and starting work on his first young adult novel. On top of all that, this Fall he's up for an Emmy, Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy, his second nomination at the tender age of 21. With all that on your plate, a little ADD might be expected.
We caught up with Colfer on a Sunday to find out about going back to school at McKinley for Season 3 of "Glee," how he approaches a comedy Emmy nomination with a character best known for his tears, and how performing a Beyonce number on tour really helped his hip rotations.
You've been back on the set of "Glee" for about two weeks now, how does it feel?
We really didn't have a summer off, so it doesn't really feel any different, it feels like we're continuing to do what we were doing. I don't think I'll ever take for granted the back lot, the huge back lot right behind our sound stage that I still get excited to walk through. It feels exactly the same, like we never left. I guess we never really did.
You've had storylines with a lot of characters over the past two years, is there any characters or actors you'd want to have a storyline with this season?
I would love to do more with Gwyneth (Paltrow) or Kristin (Chenoweth) if they come back. One person I really haven't had much to do with is Jayma (Mays). I've never had much of a storyline with her. And I love Dot (Marie Jones), so I'd love to do some Kurt and Coach Beiste action.
Maybe Kurt can come back to the football team?
Who knows! Or maybe he gives her a makeover. I always love working with Beiste.
Speaking of sports, Kurt as a cheerleader was a fan favorite. Do you want him to go back to the Cheerios?
I hope so, I really had a great time. I got to do so many fun numbers, I don't get to do so many fun songs--I am always singing the really sad ballads. I love doing big numbers with lots of energy and props and all that, so I'd love to go back.
When we talked to Zach Woodlee earlier this year he said watching you dance is mesmerizing. Did you have formal training or have you picked that up all on the show?
That is sweet of him to say that--I don't feel like I'm mesmerizing at all! Dancing is the one thing I really came to "Glee" with very little experience in. I grew up doing high school theater and high school shows and all that, I know how to step-touch like no one's business. I could step-touch anyone out of the park. And I can tap a little bit, I haven't gotten to do very much tap on the show. That's been the biggest education to me, learning how to dance and learning how my body moves. I've noticed my hips are much better dislocated now after doing "Single Ladies" every night on tour.
That was a lot of hip.
It was funny, now I can almost get my hips out of my sockets, I can move them so well. That wasn't the case when we started.
How did you manage the quick change on the tour into and out of that leotard?
Oh my god, literally I almost passed out every night. What is my life? Running around backstage dropping leotards! I'd run off stage as soon as "Loser Like Me" was over, run into the changing booth and strap the leotard on. It was never a glamorous sight to see. And then I would run around the arena, perform, and as soon as "Single Ladies" was over and I waved to the crowd, I'd get to where the crowd could not see me I would fall on the floor every night.
What did you think of yourself in 3D?
You know, I actually didn't mind it. I think 3D is a little more forgiving than 2D. You know the camera adds ten pounds? The 3D did some kind of trick where I think it took away some of that I think.
You've said you want Kurt to get to do more funny scenes and less crying. Now that you've got the first few episodes started, should we expect to see crying Kurt or funny Kurt?
Well, I mean I think Kurt just likes to cry. He's got a lot of emotion he's just going to get out. I like both. I love being funny, and I love the dramatic scenes. I think I just love emotion in general. Whatever side of the spectrum I'm on, whether happy or sad, as long as it's 100 percent pure emotion, I'm happy. I haven't gotten to do too many comedic things with Kurt recently, so I'd love to tap into that more. But he's been pretty funny so far in the first few episodes.
Your Emmy submission this year was the episode "Grilled Cheesus," which deals with Kurt facing almost losing his father. What led you to pick that episode over some of the other stand-out ones this season?
It was the hardest decision that I ever had to make. It was definitely my Sophie's Choice because we had so much great material to submit. What I did was I compared "Grilled Cheesus" to everything else that was in the running -- "Never Been Kissed," "Born This Way," "Prom Queen" -- and I just felt like there was nothing any of those episodes had that Grilled Cheesus didn't. I went with my gut, and submitted that one. "Modern Family" has a 95 percent chance of winning so we'll see. It's me, John Cryer, and all of "Modern Family."
Have you and John Cryer talked about being up against the men of "Modern Family"?
No, not yet, but I'm sure when we see each other we'll give each other a look and we'll know exactly what the other is thinking. Like, "why did we even come!?"
Since "Modern Family" has so many nominations, maybe the best bet is a guest starring role on there. Is there any role you'd want to go play on the show?
I would kill to be a guest on "Modern Family." I love that show so much, I think it's hysterical. I know fans were trying to petition for me to play Lily's babysitter. I'd love to do that or anything on that show.
If you had to pick one of the other nominees to win, who would you pick?
I think, for me, I think Ty (Burrell) is a great guy. They're all fantastic guys. I think Ty deserves it, but then again I think Ed (O'Neill) has been working so long that he's long overdue for one.
"Grilled Cheesus" deals with Kurt and loss, and mentions the loss of Kurt's mother while he's dealing with the possible loss of his father. Since we don't know on the show -- do you have or any insight from Ryan as to that backstory?"
I've asked them that question a million times and they don't know yet. But have told me they're planning on using it in a future episode.
Was it hard to find a piece to submit since the bulk of your work last season was dramatic and you're nominated in comedy?
It's kind of like being invited to a race even though you can't run! I think I was nominated for my work as a whole, and my work as a whole is very dramatic. I happen to be an actor doing dramatic work in a comedy. I decided to submit what I thought was my best work this season, without really thinking about if it was funny or dramatic. It's very hard being sad in the funny room.
Last time you were nominated (for a Golden Globe) you took co-star Ashley Fink. Who's your date this year?
I'll be taking my grandmother this year.
Any thought to who will be sitting on the other side of you in case you win and they need to haul you up again?
Oh no. Hopefully I'll be sitting around my cast, so if worst case comes, Dianna and Ashley can come and lift me up again.
Are Kurt's fashion choices just as ridiculous in Season 3?
It wouldn't be Kurt if he didn't have something ridiculous to wear. But it's definitely changed a bit. He's getting older, he has a boyfriend now, so I think he's kind of stepping up his game a bit.
Do you think Kurt helps Blaine with his clothing?
I am positive he gives Blaine outfit schedules.
A lot of young viewers look up to you and Kurt as inspiration. Did you have anyone, a character on TV or in a book or movie, that you looked up to growing up?
I never did, unfortunately. I never, ever saw someone on TV or in a book or on a movie that I fully related to. There was always some kind of element that didn't allow me to connect with them fully. I wish I could say I had one true person or character that I look up, but I really didn't, unfortunately.
Speaking of books, you are writing one right now. How far along are you in the process?
I'm getting there! I was up pretty late last night writing the 10th chapter, which is 9,000 words, but I'm sure once the publishers get a hold of it they're going to make me split it or shorten it. I'm really having a blast with it, and every single time I finish a chapter I'm just so happy and fulfilled and accomplished. The book has been something I wanted to do since I was 7 or 8 when I first came up with the idea in my head. I'm on cloud nine.
Did you pitch the books or were you approached by the publisher?
It was on the verge of "Glee"'s success and Kurt being an inspiration, and people looking up to me as a role model. I was approached by a lot of people wanting me to do an autobiography. I said, "Thank you, but no thank you, I'm 20!" I don't want to do an autobiography when I'm 20. I never wanted to be looked at that way. Maybe when I'm 25. (Laughs) But I told them I've always wanted to do this children's fantasy series. So they said send us what you have, and I wrote the first 5 chapters and the prologue, sent that out and got a two books deal with Little Brown.
What's a typical Sunday like for you recently?
I literally wrote all night last night, all day yesterday. I'm giving myself a little bit of mental break, but I'd say in an hour from now I'll be back on my computer typing until the sun goes down.
How do you do that and avoid getting distracted with other things?
I don't, I still am figuring that out. It's really hard, since I like to write on the computer, I don't like to write longhand. You have your internet browser right there ready to go, so you can go on Facebook or Twitter any minute. It's very distracting. And I have raging ADD, so I really don't know how I accomplish it most of the time. That's why I feel so proud of myself every time I get a chapter done, because it really is a struggle.
You've got almost a million followers on Twitter now!
Almost! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to stay in touch with all my followers because I'm trying to finish this book.
Is it strange knowing a million people are reading your 140 characters?
I wonder how many people are actually reading them, and I wonder how many are ignoring them at the same time. It's actually a lot of pressure, it could be a million people you make laugh with a tweet or a million people you instantly annoy with a tweet. And I've gotten to the point where I can't reply to fans anymore. I reply to one person and then I get 20 thousand hate tweets saying, "Why didn't you reply to me!?" You can't win on the Internet these days.
Aside from Glee Live and writing a book, you also spent the summer filming your first movie. Have you seen any of the finished product yet?
I had the option to see the dailies every day, but I turned it down. I know this sounds crazy, but I just don't like watching myself. I don't know why I picked the career that I did. I love being in the moment with it, I love doing it, I love performing and I love the craft, but I don't like watching the result of it at the end of the day. So I haven't seen any footage of it yet. I think they have the first cut ready, but I'm waiting for a cut that's more fine-tuned before I come in and give my notes to the editors.
You opened the set up to some fans for part of filming, what was it like to have them out supporting you?
It was really special for me. Usually, whenever we do that, when we invite fans on set, it's for "Glee" and they come for all of us. That time they came to help me out and see me, so I was very thankful and appreciative they'd do that for me. The fact that we used 200 kids, we could have used thousands of thousands, but we could only bring out the first 200 or so. It was really humbling and really special.
Do you have a dream plotline you're hoping for Kurt this season?
There's one storyline that's kind of controversial that I've been trying to pitch to Ryan since mid Season 2 last year. He kept saying, "Maybe Season 3, maybe Season 3." It is controversial but it does happen every day in school. I'm still pitching that one, and I don't want to give that one away. But it's really good. People always ask, "Does it involve Blaine and Kurt." I'm like, yes it does, but not in the way that they would think. Also I'd love for Kurt to go crazy, maybe go Norma Desmond.
Do you want to see Blaine transfer to McKinley this year, or are you happy with Kurt and Blaine being at separate schools?
We'll see, I mean I think they definitely want to be together. But I also love the dynamic of him being at a competing school and them having that Romeo and Juliet type situation. I think it's good material either way.
What do you see as Kurt's endgame?
Oh, I already have it planned out. Kurt will be the editor in chief of Kurtin magazine--K-U-R-T-I-N. A magazine that combines fashion and performing arts. The show's writers don't even know that yet.
Doesn't Kurt know that the magazine industry is dying? It's all blogs now!
Really? I don't even know that! It could be a blog and then a monthly magazine.