Gleeks rejoice! 'U' alum Darren Criss to grace FOX's hit show

Courtesy of Christine Hucal
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BY JACOB AXELRAD
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 7, 2010

The University's boy who lived just landed himself a role on "Glee." It's time for alum Darren Criss, star of University and Internet phenomenon "A Very Potter Musical," to work his magic on the FOX sensation. Tonight the 2009 graduate will make his first appearance in what could easily become a recurring role in the series. And if his work at the 'U' is any indication, his voice and personality will cast a spell on the show's millions of viewers.

Criss will play Blaine, an openly gay student from a rival glee club, the Dalton Academy Warblers. Blaine will be a friend and mentor to castmate Chris Colfer’s openly gay character Kurt Hummel. In terms of Blaine's musical and professional journey, the character seems to hit home with Criss and his Ann Arbor roots.

“(Blaine’s) part of a killer glee club, the Dalton Warblers, much like the glee clubs that I had so much fun with while at Michigan,” Criss said in a recent interview with the Daily. “Blaine is the first role on 'Glee' that I’ve really related to. He’s very centered and he’s defined by the trials and tribulations that he’s gone through.”

The Warblers will be featured in their own musical numbers on the show, giving Criss a chance to really show off his vocals. Fans can look for an a cappella rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” in Tuesday’s episode.

Criss exuded enthusiasm when discussing his character. He hopes “that the composure Blaine displays” can serve as an example for young people struggling with similar issues that go along with growing up gay.

On another level, he hopes audiences will be willing to accept him as part of the “Glee” family. As the newest cast member to join the show, he likens his experience to that of being the new kid on campus.

“It’s just like being a freshman again,” Criss said with a lighthearted laugh.

The truth is it wasn’t too long ago that Criss himself was a freshman at the University. As a BFA acting student in the School of Music, Theater, & Dance, he was part of the creative team that put on the shows “Little White Lie,” “A Very Potter Musical” and “A Very Potter Sequel.” Online videos of the shows led to Internet stardom for the group of MT&D students that would subsequently become the theater group StarKid.

“It was something we did for fun,” Criss said of StarKid. “We never anticipated anything happening with it.”

While Starkid is still of central importance for him, he regards it as very separate from his professional acting career. Yet he’s quick to point out that his time at the University gave him the preparation he needed for the life he currently leads.

“There are days when I can concretely point to moments at Michigan that prepared me for the work I’m doing now,” he said.

Criss is still involved with ongoing projects with Starkid. An upcoming show, “Starship,” for which Criss wrote the music, will premiere in Chicago in February. Criss hopes his attention won't be too divided to force him to give up either his newfound TV career or his longer-standing theater work with Starkid.

“('Glee' is) going to change the game a little bit for me,” Criss said. “Right now I’m trying to focus on both of them.”

While uncertain about his character’s duration on the show, Criss obviously hopes Blaine will stick around for a while.

“You hope to see a character like Blaine coming back,” Criss said. “I really like the guy and he’s such a positive beacon of energy.”

Criss's career has taken him far from Ann Arbor, but he remains nostalgic for the University that gave him his start.

“Even when I’m on the beach in L.A. in the middle of February there are times when I think, ‘I could be in Ann Arbor right now,’ ” Criss said. His parting statement was simple and direct: “Go Blue!”