411Mania Interviews: Glee Star Alex Newell
Posted by Al Norton on 09.26.2013
411mania's Al Norton sits down with Alex Newell to discuss life on a reality show, the loss of Cory Monteith, and his work on Glee.
Alex Newell first burst on the pop culture scene on season two of Oxygen's The Glee Project, where he didn't win but made it to the finale episode and impressed Ryan Murphy enough to earn himself a two episode guest spot on Glee. The following season his character – Wade "Unique" Adams – was brought back on a recurring basis and when the show premieres tonight at 9pm on Fox, Newell will be a full time regular.
Al Norton: If I had told you three years ago that in the fall 2013 you'd be going into your third season of Glee, now a full time regular, what would you have thought?
Alex Newell: I don't know (laughing). I don't think I would have believed you. For the most part it was a goal of mine – once I saw the show I knew I wanted to be on the show – because it was so groundbreaking when it first came on the air. I knew I had to be a part of it and would do everything in my power to be a part of it, and then it kind of just happened and it was like, "ok…wow."
Al Norton: Is it possible for you to sum up in a couple of sentences how your life has changed since The Glee Project?
Alex Newell: It's been a whirlwind of different things. For one, I was a high school student, so all I knew was going to school every day of my life and doing what a teenager does, and I then I had this life changing experience where I'm flying back and forth across the country, filming for a reality TV show, auditioning for people, and you sort of watch as that chapter of your old life closes. It was a great feeling, meaning that everything I had been working for and everything I had been doing for basically my whole entire life – learning to sing, dance, and act – was actually happening.
Al Norton: What happens on a reality show and what the audience sees on a reality show can be two different things…
Alex Newell: They're two extremely different things…
Al Norton: How did that feel for you, the experience of living through it and then seeing how it was presented?
Alex Newell: When you're filming a reality show, you're filming 30 to 40 days out of the year, spending 20 – 22 hours a day filming it, trying to get all of this reality into one hour a week. People say things because they're tired, because they're frustrated, because they just want to say it at that point after long and hard days. Everyone looks different on a reality show than they do in real life because the show is trying to fit so much information into such a small amount of time.
Al Norton: Tell me a little bit about your first day on the Glee set?
Alex Newell: Oh my goodness, it was so scary. I was 19 and it was my first day being there with some of the people I'd been watching for several years. Being there with Amber (Riley) and Chris (Colfer) – Mercedes and Kurt were my two go to characters, I fell in love with both of them, and Amber and I are the same exact person – it was crazy. You never really think that your life goal and your life dreams are going to happen in front of you.
Al Norton: Was there a certain point in being on the show where you realized, "you know what, I belong here"?
Alex Newell: Yes, and it happens almost every other day. It's an odd combination because I've spent my whole live working for something like this and at the same time, it's all I know. I couldn't be an accountant, I didn't go to college…I don't know how to do anything else other than sing, dance, and act. It just fits me so well. I mean, who doesn't want to go to work every day doing something that they absolutely love and something they know they are good at? I feel like I get to do that every day I go to work and it's amazing.
Al Norton: The word "groundbreaking" gets thrown around a lot about TV but Unique really is; do you feel the weight and the responsibility of that on your shoulders at all?
Alex Newell: Sometimes but I try not to think about because once you start thinking about it, it becomes a complacency because you are too aware of what you are doing instead of just doing it and making it feel real.
Al Norton: What's been the reaction you've gotten from Glee fans?
Alex Newell: Positive, very positive. Granted, there are some who aren't so much and that's what people do – you see something you don't like, you want to get rid of it – but for the most part people tell me how much they love the character. I've managed to convert a few people who've told me they hated me on The Glee Project but they love me on Glee (laughing).
Al Norton: If producers came to you and said you could sing any song you wanted in the next episode, which would you choose?
Alex Newell: Oh my gosh, there's just too many options. I'd hate to have to pick. I hate even thinking about that happening (laughing). I think I'd want it to be a ballad because I do a lot of the dancing stuff already.
Al Norton: Is there a particular number you've done on the show that you think is your best work?
Alex Newell: My best work? I don't know…I really liked doing Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, that was some of my best work, but I also really liked doing You Have More Friends Than You Know.
Al Norton: I'm sorry about the loss of your friend.
Alex Newell: Thank you very much.
Al Norton: Can you share some of your memories about what it was like to work with Cory (Montieth)?
Alex Newell: It was amazing. Cory was the heart of the show. He was who I was with in one of my first real dramatic scenes on the show, with Unique opening up, and he supported me and made sure I had plenty of time to get what I wanted to do just right. I remember that so fondly and so clear in my mind; it was a testament to who he was a person.
Al Norton: How emotional an experience was filming "The Quarterback" (the episode that deals with Finn's death) for everyone?
Alex Newell: It's really hard. It's really hard. You're trying not to lose yourself too much in the scene and in the moment and at the same time you want to lose yourself because Finn was Cory and Cory was Finn and…Sorry…it's hard to go back to those emotions and re-live them. I think everyone is doing a beautiful job and we're trying to do it and honor him in a positive light.
Don't miss the season premiere of Glee, tonight at 9pm on Fox