“Glee” was more than just a hit TV series, regularly sending its cover versions of pop and rock hits to the top of the iTunes charts, selling out stadiums in blockbuster concert tours and even spawning a hit soundtrack and concert movie.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, series co-creator Ryan Murphy (who has also brought us such shows as “American Horror Story”, “Scream Queens” and “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”) looks back at the craziness that went on when “Glee” was at the peak of its popularity.
“No one thought that was going to be anything, I think, other than a solid double, maybe at best,” he admits of the low expectations for “Glee” before its premiere. “And we did it, and it was a magical experience because we shot the first 13 episodes in a bubble because nothing had aired.”
As Murphy explains, he was similarly sequestered while shooting “Eat Pray Love” with Julia Roberts in India, and didn’t experience what was taking place until he returned to the U.S.
“I returned from India and Bali with Julia, and I was like The Beatles,” he says. “It was so crazy, like you could not go out with those kids.”
With such phenomenal success, however, came phenomenal pressure, which was felt by the producers and the young cast.
“It was the best time in my life and the worst time in my life,” admits Murphy. “There was a lot of infighting. There was a lot of people sleeping together and breaking up. It was good training for being a parent, I’ll tell you that much. But I also made a mistake: We all got too personal. We loved it so much that we would all go out to dinner and we’d hang out and we were always together, so there was no delineation between who was the boss and who was the employee. And we were all so close that finally when something would happen, it would be so personal to me that I would literally hit the roof.”
It was during the height of the show’s popularity, in fact, that Murphy became aware of breakout star Cory Monteith’s struggles with substance abuse, and recalls the last time he saw the Canadian actor when he and girlfriend Lea Michele dropped by the set while he was filming his acclaimed HBO movie “The Normal Heart”.
“We hugged, and the last thing he said was ‘I love you, man, and thank you for helping me get better.’ And then the next thing I knew he was dead. It was like losing a child,” Murphy says.
As Michele describes: “When I found out [Cory had died], Ryan was one of the first people I called. When Cory was alive, Ryan was very helpful in trying to get him well and healthy but, when that day did come, Ryan did take charge, and he helped me more than I can ever explain.. He completely cared for me. He made sure I was OK every single day, whether it was coming over to his house and having dinner prepared for me, or making sure I was okay at work. He sat me down and said, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to continue the show? Do you want it to end?’ I just said, ‘I just want to go back to work.’ His heart is bigger than I think he knows what to do with sometimes.”
Ultimately, admits Murphy, Monteith’s death by overdose transformed the show, and not in a good way. “What started off as being such a great celebration of love and acceptance ultimately became about darkness and death,” he says, adding: “It was a great lesson in what not to do moving forward. And many of them are my good friends to this day.”
You can read more with Murphy in the latest issue of EW.