The Dark Side of a Gleeful Creator
One of the most powerful producers in TV, he has created dark, cutting-edge shows including Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story. They’re in stark contrast to his sugar-sweet global hit, Glee.
“I simply did Glee because I wanted to be happier in my personal life,” Murphy says.
Since its launch, however, Murphy has been challenging himself by imbuing Glee with some serious storylines. In the episode to screen on March 23, a character struggling with being bullied about his sexuality attempts suicide.
How much of a challenge was it to get Glee made?
It was very interesting because I had just done the world’s darkest, sickest drama, which was Nip/Tuck. And they (the network) paid me a development deal, thinking I was going to do more twisted sex dramas. You have those meetings where you walk in and they’re like, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to do a musical.’ And they kind of all laughed. They’re like, ‘No, what do you really want to do?’ And I was like, ‘No, that’s what I really want to do.’
You seem to have upped the gayness slightly. Was that deliberate?
I don’t look at it as upping the gayness. I look at it as sort of upping the outsider factor. Whenever somebody says that, I’m like, ‘You do know it’s a show about a show choir?’ I think our percentage of gays in the show is… I think the gays are under-represented on the show (he laughs).
I think what happened is Chris Colfer, who had no acting experience at all, was so true and so specific and so unique that I think he blew up (in popularity). Straight dudes in trucker hats were cheering him, which I thought was cool. And one of the storylines we had always planned on doing was people being punished for their sexuality or punished for being different, which is an epidemic in schools.
A lot of TV shows are doing musical episodes. Are they riding on Glee’s success?
I’m certain Glee has something to do with that. I get a lot of calls from people who are on other shows saying, ‘Can we come on your show? Because I want to sing and dance.’ So I have a feeling that those stars are whispering in their producers’ ears: ‘Let me show all that I have to offer.’
How do you select the music?
You have to get the rights for every song, which is interesting. When we started, no one had really seen it, but there were a couple of heavy hitters who liked that the show was about supporting the arts.
Rihanna and Beyonce were two people who come to mind and Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, who said, ‘We don’t know what this is, but it sounds like it’s pro arts. So yes, go with God’. What we did very early is we had a pay scale where we would only pay so much.