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The Guy With The Magic Touch
For four seasons now, Glee has been programmed into our DVRs so that we don’t miss a beat. More specifically, we look forward to the adorable and omnipresent Chris Colfer. Oozing with talent and clad in dapper dandy bow ties, Colfer belts out our favorite hits week after week as Kurt Hummel alongside his fellow glee club members, which we have no hesitation singing along with.
It isn’t just us who has taken notice of his role as an extremely relatable teenager figuring things out in this complicated world. Colfer has kept himself busy, ranking among the one hundred most influential people in the world by TIME magazine, scoring a Golden Globe win, and has been heralded as a strong voice for the LGBT community.
But that is just Colfer’s day job. A New York Times best-selling author, his children’s book The Land of Stories: The Wishing Well, which was released last summer, was so well received that he is in the works for a follow-up. His latest starring role is in Struck By Lightning, a widely acclaimed film, which Colfer both wrote and produced. His new book, based on the movie, is also achieving high praise from critics.
Take a step back from his sweeping whirlwind success, and you’ll see that there is literally no one else in Hollywood like Chris Colfer. And this is why he is exceptional. Colfer is an openly gay actor, which is still somewhat of a rarity in an industry that is known for having trouble balancing homosexuality—it seems more common for a straight actor to play a gay character than the other way around. And although gay rights and marriage equality continue to make small strides, when someone brave decides to step out of the closet a press conference followed by a tabloid circuit seems to follow. When Colfer rose to stardom with the mega-success of Glee’s first season, there was no need to make an exclamation of a coming out on the cover of a tabloid weekly. It was as if Colfer arrived with an unspoken demeanor of “this is me and I have no qualms about it.” In essence, it was a breath of fresh air, regardless of sexual orientation.
With gay rights as one of the most pressing civil rights frontiers of our time, one would think that being a poster child of sorts for the movement would be a stressful responsibility, especially because the Kurt we see on Glee and the Colfer we see in public achieve both. Colfer sees a difference in what he needs to do. Being an actor is a job, a career. It is what he has always dreamed of doing. Being a role model and a genuinely good person is, at least to Colfer, just what any of us should do if we are presented with the opportunity.
ICON: As an openly gay actor, do you think you carry more of a responsibility as a role model than if you were heterosexual?
Chris Colfer: I don’t know if I feel it’s more of a responsibility. It’s one thing to be an actor but it’s quite another thing to be a role model. I think that I have been put on a role model pedestal, and with that, of course, I feel a lot of responsibility. But as an actor, not so much. As an actor, I don’t open up a script if I’m playing a serial killer and wonder what my teen fans are going to think—I don’t think like that. But if I am doing an interview like right now, I will think about what answers I give and how people who look up to me are going to think about it. At times that can be very overwhelming. One thing that is surprising, is that when you get into that kind of position, you realize just what kind of people actually look up to you. People ask me how it feels to be an LGBT role model, and honestly, I don’t even know if I really know what that feels like, because 99.9% of my demographic and fans—the people who write me letters and contact me on twitter—are young girls. They are the ones that feel different and see me and see Kurt on TV, and they are the ones that relate to him.
ICON: With Glee in its fourth season, how do you feel when you look back on it and the success?
CC: I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take a step back until it’s over, honestly, because it’s been such a whirlwind and it’s been constant. Like last night we were filming until about one o’clock in the morning. In the last four years we haven’t really been able to take a step back and look at it, because we’ve always been in the eye of the storm and the storm has always been going. But when I do think about the last four years, it feels like a decade because we’ve done so many things. We’ve won awards. We’ve met presidents and people like Oprah. It’s been a crazy, crazy roller coaster ride.
ICON: Is it ever a worry that you could be typecast as Kurt?
CC: Sometimes, but I feel like if I have that worry, then I’m doing something right. It is interesting how many people really think that I am my character and that Glee is actually a documentary. But I don’t really see that as my problem. I’ve always known what I wanted to do, and what I’m capable of so I’m not worried about it. I think it’s more of the world’s problem than mine.
ICON: Who has been your favorite person that you’ve gotten to meet so far?
CC: I got to meet one of my heroes, Jennifer Saunders, when we were on tour in England. She was incredible. She’s always been a major influence of me. She was absolutely not disappointing.
ICON: What has been most difficult, if anything, with your success and fame?
CC: I think the biggest difficulty has been the incapability of being able to control what is out there of you. You get broken up into all these pieces that are scattered all over the world, and you don’t get to have control over every interview and every image. You don’t get to have control over yourself, so I think that is the hard part—living in the public and being so public, if you will. That’s the biggest struggle. Like if someone says something about you on the internet, or if someone makes a joke about you on a late-night show, and you’re not able to defend yourself. That’s been the hardest part.
ICON: We are hearing a lot about your side projects outside of Glee, tell us about those.
CC: Struck By Lighting is a film and book that I star in and that I wrote. It’s about an overachieving high school student, but he’s is very under-appreciated for it. It’s very much loosely based on experiences that I had in high school. In the film, he is the president of a writer’s club, and when I went to high school I was president of a writer’s club. So this project was a way for me to vent my frustrations from high school. I think it’s very different. It’s aimed at a teenage audience but it’s not about sex and drugs, which are what the majority of teenage films are about. It’s more about the lengths of which you will go to make your dreams happen. The smart teenager is a dying breed and it’s one that doesn’t get very much credit or light in the mainstream world.
ICON: And you write children’s books, right?
CC: Yes, The Land of Stories is a children’s fantasy book that I wrote and it came out last year and was well-received. It was something that I had wanted to do since I was ten years old, and so with Glee, I was presented with a lot of opportunities and being able to do this was one I definitely jumped on.
ICON: What motivated you when you were ten to want to do that?
CC: When I was ten years old, I got really into telling stories and entertaining people, and that’s when I chose my profession. I always hated reading and being told stories because I always wanted to change what I was hearing. It was the first story that I came up with and it kind of morphed over the years.”
ICON: It’s clear that your show and the projects you work on have had a huge impact on pop culture. When you think about tha,t how does it make you feel?
CC: It’s really an honor to be apart of it and that maybe my presence has made people better. But it’s all a very, very vicious thing. It’s really weird how badly people want [fame], and how people want to be a Kardashian. It’s all smoke and mirrors—fame is really nothing to lust after. As a kid, I was constantly being disrespected by adults and by other kids, so I always have wanted to earn respect. I always wanted it to come from something that I’ve done and not something that I am. It’s really frustrating to see people who purposefully do nothing and just want to be famous. Why do you want it? If there’s no purpose, why do you want it?
ICON: So far you’ve kept taking roles that are of some significance and inspiration. Are these the kinds of roles that you want to keep taking in the future?
CC: Well, there’s no person’s career that I’ve tried to emulate because there has been no one who has gone down the exact path that I’m trying to go down or that I’m on my way on. But I think I will always want to pursue and do roles that I can do. It’s whatever that inspires me. That’s what I’ll try to do—that’s my path.
ICON: So then, who inspires you?
CC: I find inspiration in everyone I meet. I don’t think there’s ever been a person who I have met who hasn’t inspired me in some way. But my fans have inspired me the most. They are the ones that I don’t ever want to let down.
ICON: What’s the most important message you’d ever want to get across to your fans?
CC: As cheesy as it sounds, if you dream it, it’ll happen. As long as you’re trying, you’re succeeding. You only stop succeeding once you give up. And I’ve met so many people who have just given up and it’s so sad. But I think as long as you’re trying to accomplish what you want, then that’s succeeding.