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16 Intriguing Facts You Probably Didn't Know About 'Glee'

16 Intriguing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Glee’

On May 19, 2009, a group of fictional high school misfits in the show “Glee” sang their way into the hearts of viewers across America. Co-created by Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, and Brad Falchuk, the show was an instant hit.

Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, takes over McKinley High’s show choir, New Directions, from a disgraced teacher. He then recruits a diverse mix of students including Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale), Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), and Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith). Throughout its six-season run, New Directions aims for bigger goals like competing at Nationals while dealing with the interference from cheerleaders Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris), and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), and their tough coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).

While “Glee” was sometimes criticized for its over-the-top storylines in later seasons, it also addressed serious societal issues such as teen pregnancy, homophobia, domestic violence, cyberbullying, and eating disorders. The show became a cultural phenomenon, earning numerous accolades, chart-topping soundtracks, and skyrocketing its young actors to stardom. Despite its complex legacy today, “Glee” undeniably left a mark as a cultural force in the early 2000s.

Ryan Murphy, riding high from his success with “Nip/Tuck,” signed a deal to create more shows with Fox. Seeking a change in tone, he zeroed in on a movie script about a glee club written by Ian Brennan, inspired by Brennan’s own high school experiences. “It was much darker, like an independent movie,” Murphy recounted to Deadline. He pitched the idea of turning it into a TV show, and Brennan, along with Murphy’s writing partner Brad Falchuk, rewrote the script. Fox immediately picked it up.

Lea Michele’s audition for “Glee” was memorable; she had just totaled her car and walked in with glass in her hair. The pianist even flubbed her audition song, “On My Own” from “Les Misérables.” Matthew Morrison, the show’s creator, had actually written the role of Rachel specifically for Michele, a seasoned Broadway performer. Kevin McHale auditioned with “Let It Be,” while Jenna Ushkowitz sang “Waiting for Life” from “Once on this Island.” Dianna Agron, who played Quinn, was the last actor cast, secured just before filming.

Chris Colfer initially auditioned for the role of Artie with “Mr. Cellophane” from “Chicago.” Though he didn’t get that part, Murphy created the character of Kurt Hummel specifically for him, inspired by Colfer’s background. Kurt replaced a previously planned character named Rajesh.

Music producer Adam Anders shared that securing rights for music was initially smooth, except in the case of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” intended for the show’s pilot. When Coldplay declined, “Glee” used Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” instead, which fittingly became the show’s anthem and first big hit, peaking at No. 4 on U.S. charts.

“Glee” became an underdog hit when it debuted following the penultimate episode of “American Idol” in 2009. Ryan Murphy, filming “Eat Pray Love” in Bali, returned to find the show a cultural sensation, with a fandom so intense it necessitated a concert tour and even a concert movie.

The show featured a memorable running gag of popular kids flinging Slushies at glee club members. The production team used real Slushies for authenticity. Lea Michele noted how cold and staining the drinks were, requiring her to cover herself in shaving cream to clean off the dye.

Naya Rivera, Heather Morris

Fox Presents The Gleek Tour. / Lisa Lake/GettyImages

“Glee” was lauded for its representation of LGBTQ relationships, notably Kurt and Blaine (a.k.a. “Klaine”) and Brittany and Santana (or “Brittana”). Initially meant to be best friends, Brittany and Santana’s relationship evolved into a fan-demanded romance that tackled serious issues, particularly Santana’s struggle with her sexuality. Their relationship was a breakthrough portrayal, especially for an LGBT teen of color, as noted by then-GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios.

Despite many actors not being trained dancers, choreographer Zach Woodless turned them into a cohesive unit, often incorporating “inside dance jokes” into the show’s choreography.

As “Glee” gained popularity, production schedules tightened. Initially, recording a song took a whole day. But as demand grew, they had just 30 minutes. Music producer Adam Anders and his team worked around the clock, sometimes finishing songs in a single day. Choreographer Brooke Lipton revealed they often learned dance numbers in just an hour.

“Glee” attracted a wide range of guest stars including Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even pop icons like Britney Spears and Ricky Martin. Some stars, like Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lopez, were in talks to appear but never did.

The show’s success led to “The Glee Project,” allowing fans to vie for a spot on “Glee,” though even Grammy-winner Lizzo didn’t make the cut. Additionally, plans for a spin-off featuring Rachel, Kurt, and Finn attending Juilliard were ultimately shelved.

Matthew Morrison directed the show’s 2011 Christmas episode, Chris Colfer wrote the Season 5 episode “Old Dog, New Tricks,” and Darren Criss penned the series finale song “This Time” for Lea Michele.

“Glee” concluded in 2015 after 121 episodes. Cast members took keepsakes, like Jane Lynch’s Sue tracksuits for charity auctions and Lea Michele’s framed jersey belonging to Finn, Cory Monteith’s character, who died on the show following Monteith’s real-life passing in 2013.

The cast recorded over 705 songs during the show’s run, breaking Elvis’s record for the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. “Glee” ultimately had 207 songs on the chart. The Beatles were the most-covered artist with 19 songs, followed by Madonna with 18, along with Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Journey.

Source: Mental Floss