Jenna Ushkowitz’s Quest from East Meadow to Glee
Patch spoke with East Meadow native Jenna Ushkowitz, whose alter ego Tina Cohen-Chang is one of the six original New Directions members.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Ushkowitz was adopted at three months and raised in East Meadow. She appeared in numerous print ads and national commercials, along with an appearance on “Sesame Street” when she was just three.
She attended Parkway Elementary School, and later, Holy Trinity Diocesan High School (class of 2004), where she starred in musicals including “Les Miserables” and “Into the Woods.”
The former “Yankees on Deck” host graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in 2007 with a B.A. in Acting, a concentration in Theater Performance and a minor in Musical Theater. Her degree paid off; Jenna landed a role on the Broadway hit “Spring Awakening” six months later.
Ushkowitz: We were both eight years old; she was doing “Les Miserables” while I was in “The King and I.” The Broadway community is small – especially the kids’ community – and we became friends and stayed in touch, seeing each other at auditions. It was great to reunite with her in L.A. when “Glee” started.
Patch: With several of your choir-mates graduating, something tells me we’re in for a tearjerker tomorrow night.
Ushkowitz: We (the cast) were crying during the entire shoot! We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we know it will be a different show. It might be the last time we’re all in the choir room or auditorium together.
Patch: New Directions emphasizes the importance of being a part of something special – which you are in real life! What does it feel like to be part of the “Glee” family?
Ushkowitz: It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve made friends who will be part of my life forever. And to be part of a phenomenon that others might not understand…we’ve been through so much together, sharing amazing and sometimes difficult experiences.
Patch: Who were some of your favorite guest stars over the years?
Ushkowitz: We’ve been blessed by so many, but Kristin (Chenoweth) was my favorite. Being a Broadway girl, I’ve always idolized her. We’ve had some great, strong women on, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Whoopi Goldberg. I’d love for Hugh Jackman to come on!
Patch: Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson are already lined up for season four.
Ushkowitz: It’s so cool – that’s Carrie Bradshaw!
Patch: Favorite memories of East Meadow?
Ushkowitz: I loved bowling, so East Meadow Bowl was the place to be, along with Ralph’s Ices. And sledding at Parkway Elementary – they have great hills!
Patch: What message do you have for students out there struggling with peer pressure and bullying?
Ushkowitz: I’m pairing with Wallflower Jeans to launch a ‘Stop the Bullying’ campaign soon. Bullying is NOT okay. Speak up and get help – no situation is too small!