Glee star Chris Colfer has already written a feature film, a children’s book series, and a Disney Channel pilot, so it seemed only natural that the budding scribe would be tapped by the forces that Glee to write an episode for the musical series.
“Old Dogs, New Tricks,” the penultimate episode in Glee’s fifth season, marks Colfer’s first time stepping into the writers’ room, which posed its own set of challenges and intimidating factors for the young star. In anticipation of the episode (airing tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox), Colfer spoke with EW about the episode, his writing future, and where he’d like Kurt to end up when Glee ends its run next year.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Which came first: the idea that you would write an episode, or your idea for the episode itself?
CHRIS COLFER: This is not something that I ever approached them about. Even in interviews, for years, everyone’s always asked me if I wanted to write an episode of Glee, and I always said no because it wasn’t my world and my characters, so I was very surprised when they came to me in January and said, “Would you be interested in writing?” I remember Brad Falchuk called me one night and asked, and I said, “Let me think about it, let me think if I have a story in me that would be worth telling.” So I came up with an idea about Kurt joining an assisted living production of Peter Pan. I thought that would be hysterical and I told them, “I think I have a story!”
You’ve been on the set for years, but was the writers’ room a completely different world for you?
It’s funny, because prior to working on this episode, I had never even been to the writers’ room. I didn’t even know where it was on Paramount. I was very, very nervous going in, because I didn’t know what to expect at all. I had never been in a writers’ room of any show, and I didn’t know if they would have a bunch of guidelines to give me, or if they would like the story that I wanted to tell. But they were so good to me and they were very generous and open-minded.
Tell me about the actual episode you wrote. Why Peter Pan?
When you watch the episode, it’ll make a little bit more sense. Kurt kind of acts as Peter Pan when he comes into the retirement home. He slides in and teaches everyone to be young again, very much like Peter did to the Darlings, and then there’s a whole element in the other storyline where Rachel starts an animal charity for dogs called Broadway Bitches, and it’s all about helping those who have a hard time helping themselves, and really celebrates the literal underdog. It’s all a big theme.
You told EW before that you wanted to torture some of your fellow actors. Did you?
You know, I am all squawk and no waddle. Of course I didn’t do that, I was actually terrified what they would think when they got the script, and they all seemed very supportive and seemed like they really liked it, so I hope that was true. I hope they weren’t just telling me that. But I didn’t torture them. I tortured myself a little bit just worrying about it.
Who was the hardest character to write for?
Probably Rachel, just because she’s gone through so much on the show. I didn’t want anything she said to come off as being repetitive, and I also didn’t want to have Lea say anything that she wouldn’t be happy with.
Where do the songs fit in to the writing process? Did you have a strong say in the song choices?
I wanted the songs to be more appropriate and I think every song in the episode is fits the storyline perfectly. For example, I go to the retirement home and I sing “Memory” with the old people and it’s very fitting because the whole song is about a life that you once lived, and kind of being cast aside, and that’s how these old folks feel in this home and how Kurt himself feels he’s been treated by his friends. And then later he convinces them to do more of a modern approach to Peter Pan, so when they sing “Neverland,” they sing Madonna’s “Lucky Star.”
My heart bleeds a little picturing June Squibb doing all this.
If anyone watches this episode for any reason, it has to be for June Squibb because she is incredible! I cannot describe in words how truly amazing that woman is. She, at 83 years old, came in and was on her feet for 14 hours a day with the rest of us, singing really hard pop songs, dancing. She just blew all of us away. I get chills when I think about just how incredible she was, and I really hope she gets recognized for it because she just kicked ass.
In the future, do you see yourself more in a writers’ room or on screen?
I juggle with that a lot. I love performing and I love acting and I think I really got into acting for the right reasons, because I liked the physical craft of it and I liked becoming someone else. Sometimes I wonder if I am cut out to really be an actor these days because there’s that whole element of being known that I don’t know if I’m really good at. Whereas if I’m a writer, I can do it all from my bedroom in my pajamas except for the occasional book tour. But I love them both the same. I think it’s just more the side effects which each job brings.
Do you have a writing routine? Any rituals or habits?
I think one of the reasons why I’m able to write as much as I do is because I’ve never had the luxury of having tricks to get into the writing mood. When I have an hour, I have to use that hour to write, so I’ve never been able to develop a technique. I guess the technique is I have no technique.
Tease up the rest of the season for Kurt. Where do we find him when the season ends?
I think after having this experience in the retirement home and finding validation that he’s been looking for since he got to New York, he’s definitely in a happier mindset. I think fans are going to like the final episode because it gets pretty dramatic with Kurt and Blaine, but for the most part I think the season will end giving each character a nice season five send-off.
Do you have in your head a happy ending for Kurt? What do you envision for him at the end of the series?
Unless they plan a complete U-turn, I think he’ll definitely end up with Blaine, but I think a lot about Kurt, ever since we were introduced to him, is him trying to find happiness and validation from an outside source. Oh, if I have a boyfriend, it’ll validate me. If I have a best friend, it’ll validate me. If I have a leading role in a show, it’ll validate me. But I would really like, before the series ends, for him to find the validation within himself and for him to realize that happiness is going to come from him, not from someone else. That would be a happy ending for me.