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He Only Plays Gay on TV

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Glee's Darren Criss expands his repertoire.

The key to a smooth interview with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, says Darren Criss, is to talk as little as possible. Let the fourth-hour Today hosts prattle back and forth while you sip whatever they're pouring into your coffee mug and throw in the occasional uh-huh to let the gals know you're still listening. Unfortunately for Criss, this silent straight-man role is tantamount to torture. Get the 26-year-old, San Francisco-born actor on the phone after Gifford and Kotb are done with him, and you'll understand why: The boy likes to jabber. A lot.

Within minutes, he's going on breathlessly about his love of storytelling as only a theater kid from West Portal can. "I'm a mercenary, man," says Criss, his adopted SoCal lilt in full effect. "I strive for eclecticism, so when people ask me what I do -- music or acting -- my answer is that it's just not a choice. Acting and doing a scene is very musical to me. Playing a rock show is very theatrical. It's a real, organic thing that grows and breathes depending on who's in the audience."

Such energetic filibustering seems to come naturally to the Glee actor, whose career has taken him from YouTube fame, to a hit TV series about inclusion and acceptance, to starring on Broadway, to a recent 17-city solo music tour, to his first feature role, in the new Kristen Wiig flick, Girl Most Likely, out July 19. "I was always fully prepared to be a struggling actor for a while and play a cop or a pizza boy, but the fact that all this has happened at a very young age is just really extraordinary," says Criss...

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