Lea Michele just wrapped up six seasons on Glee, but she hasn’t strayed far from that world. The actress is currently starring in Scream Queens, Fox’s horror comedy from the minds of Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. Michele plays sorority pledge Hester, a.k.a. “Neckbrace,” who is quietly weird and has an intense fascination with death. EW talked to Michele on Queens‘ New Orleans set about this wild new role.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the opposite of Rachel. Is that the appeal?
LEA MICHELE: Honestly, having been offered this role, I knew nothing. But I did trust Ryan implicitly that he would create something for me that would be the most incredible opportunity to show people a different side and a different color. And the first and only thing he said to me about the project was, “Neck brace.” And I was like, “Well, I guess no better way to show people something completely different from Rachel Berry than a neck brace.”
The thing that I’m most grateful for with this character is the opportunity to show people a completely different side. I think that there is a definite issue with being a part of a show for seven years, being such an iconic character, then switching to something else. I can’t think of a better way to really show people a different side of me than to be playing Hester.
Hester gets a makeover in episode 3. Did you want a makeover? Were you like, “I can only do this neck brace for so long”?
I knew nothing about a makeover, but I will say that I knew Ryan Murphy very well and there’s nothing he loves more than a good makeover. But I will say the neck brace does come back.
I heard the neck brace returns!
It comes back. When I opened that script, I was like, “What? Excuse me?” But it plays an important role in its return, and you will see.
I’m told that Chad and Hester form a relationship because they both like to have sexual encounters with dead things.
I definitely think that she forces a relationship. She makes it sort of impossible. I can’t tell you the amount of stuff that I have to say on this show. I write Brad and Ryan at night and I’m like, “Uh, seriously? Are you guys, like, kidding?” But I love it. I really do. I think that it’s an incredible show. It’s so smart. It’s so funny.
She’s freaky deaky.
She’s super freaky deaky. Super. But at the end of the day, what I really like about her, is that she’s super obsessed with Chad, like 100 percent, but she’s all about these girls. There is such a great story line coming up later in the show that really brings Emma and I together and pushes the boys aside in a sense and brings us girls together. I read the script the other day and I wrote Ryan and I was just like, “This girl power is so strong.” He’s so good with being funny but then really driving home the true message. And that’s what we did at Glee all the time, but he’s doing it here and these girls kind of come together. I think that it’s all about the girls here, which is why I think that the killer is a girl and it’s why I think that the hero is a girl.
Interesting. Billie Lourd, who plays Chanel No. 3, thinks the killer is you.
Everyone thinks it’s me right now. I sometimes think it’s me.
None of you know who the killer is and you don’t know who’s going to die until you read the scripts. What’s that like?
I really don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t like inconsistencies. I write Ryan all the time. I get a script and then he writes me, “Thank God you didn’t die, Queen.” I’m like, “Yeah, thank God, Ryan, okay? Because we all know what would happen if I did. I would haunt you — every day. I’d ring your bell every morning.” I don’t wanna die.
So would you do a season 2 if you did die?
Of course. I’ll come back as a ghost and be ghost Hester.
Ryan was saying he’s just so excited and happy that you get to laugh every day and also make people laugh. You’ve had some tough years, and Glee was a really intense experience. Do you feel lightened here?
One hundred percent. Absolutely. And having nothing to do with the past — just mainly because this is so fun and funny. It’s truly a comedy. But Ryan did come to me with this project saying solely the fact that we are family, and he doesn’t want to say goodbye, I don’t want to say goodbye, so let’s continue to work together. And Glee had its incredible moments. It was the highest of highs and some of the lowest lows. And I don’t say that in an incredibly dramatic way, it’s just the reality. I right now am currently in a wonderfully happy place in my life, like truly beyond. But to also have this incredible project, it’s such a blessing. I couldn’t be more grateful.
You barely speak in the premiere but your reactions are so funny. You never got to play physical comedy on Glee as much, and this is very physical. Do you enjoy that?
I do. You know, there’s a really big challenge with having this neck brace, because it could very easily become a little bit over the top. And I wanted to make it subtle and funny. I’m happy to not have much to do or say. I want my character to be on the side but noticed for the things that she’s doing. I’ve had my moment, and this is an incredible supporting role that I think is exactly what I’m craving right now. But to play with the physical comedy aspects of this character has been the most fun. My favorite characters growing up were Gilly, were Mary Katherine Gallagher, they were Cheri Oteri, Will Ferrell, the cheerleaders. I just loved people that were gawky and used their body but still didn’t make it stupid. It was still funny and real. And those are the people that I loved, those are the characters that I love, and I really drew upon a lot of those references.
Do you guys feel pressure? I asked Brad and Ryan this. They’re obviously coming off American Horror Story, but for you, this is right off Glee. Do you feel pressure to live up to that phenomenon, that iconic series?
Ryan and Brad and Ian are geniuses, and they get it right. They get it right as a duo, and they get it right as a trio. So I trust Ryan with my life — literally, my career, my life, whatever the f— he wants me to do. You want me to wear a neck brace and talk about how I love having sex with dead bodies? I’m all yours. He gets it right. There are innovators right now in television. We are in a golden age, we are in a renaissance of television. And there are people that are paving the way, and these are those guys. And I will hold their hand down the path 100 percent.
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