Glee star Matthew Morrison makes transition to silver screen
Never mind 'don't stop believing'. In fact don't even start. Just five minutes into our interview and the real Mr Schuester from Glee has shattered the dreams of thousands of musical hopefuls. “People who can't perform really need to be told that they shouldn't be doing this for a living,” he says.
It hardly seems the attitude of the man who made his name as America's most amenable glee club instructor. But then Matthew Morrison appears to be divorcing himself from his TV alter ego. Crouching forward on a sofa in his deluxe room in London's Soho Hotel he says: “They shouldn't be encouraged to pursue this dream just because their parents told them they are the best things ever. Especially when in reality they're just not very good.”
The admission marks a u-turn on this time last year, when he claimed he could never become a television judge as he'd hate to shoot down a youngster's dreams. Now it's abundantly clear he'd rather just hire a hit man instead.
But then for someone so able perhaps it's hardly surprising. Morrison is one of Broadway's leading performers and is finding global stature as his reputation on stage and screen continues to rise. He is known among peers as a "triple threat"; meaning he can sing, dance and act. And, at the age of 33, his transition is marching full throttle into cinema. Just before I enter his hotel room for instance, Cameron Diaz walks out, clocking me en-route and insisting I “have fun”. The Hollywood publicity machine is firing on every cylinder. And Morrison, who got his first break on Broadway at just 19, has graduated to the front row.
But with his stature comes a protective layer of ego; and with that a sense of unease. I get the impression that he doesn't feel that his latest film, What to Expect When You're Expecting, showcased his talents enough and, fearful of the backlash he is already taking steps to protect himself from criticism. “It wasn't that difficult at all,” he says of his part as a dancer whose relationship with a fitness instructor (played by Diaz) is tested when she finds herself pregnant. “I'm hoping the next film will be more of a challenge.”
Did he feel cast in Diaz's shadow? Of course not. That, to Morrison, would be to concede to a failure. “Well, she's been doing this longer than I have. But I've become pretty well known here too,” he insists.
That, of course, is thanks to Glee. The success of the musical 'dramedy', which concluded its third series recently, caught America off-guard. The fourth series is already the pipeline with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson tipped to join a list of stars that include Britney Spears, Olivia Newton John and Lindsey Lohan. And with global merchandise machine running alongside the show; including figurines, internationally-touring shows and a million pound record deal with Sony (which Morrison refused to sign into) it has been a massive money-spinner for 20th Century Fox. Morrison too will never certainly be a struggling actor again. He has recently bought another another mansion in LA; though quickly denies he is a millionaire. “No…God no. Nothing like that,” he says. “But it's popularity did mean that I didn't have to audition for this film. As an actor you wait your entire career for that moment. I feel lucky to have felt that this early in life.”
Glee has also made a social impact. The show, which addresses social issues including teen bullying and gay sex, has brought the plight of young people into the limelight. The recent case of Clement Tyler, who commit suicide after he was filmed by his roommate in a gay encounter at Rutgers University is an example of how such a show could not arrive soon enough. “It has almost certainly saved lives,” he says. “When we were growing up there wasn't characters on television that people could relate to. Glee is the show for people that need to find their own character. I think it will have saved as many lives as it has changed.”
Morrison keeps high company in London. He was recently spotted at Princess Beatrice's 21 st birthday; and has even spent time at Prince Andrew's home. That is largely thanks to his friendship with her boyfriend, Dave Clark, the US businessman. But he squirms at the prospect of talking about either. “I promised I wouldn't,” he says. “I don't want to.” He has sung with Elton John and is an ardent supporter of his Aids organization. “He is a great guy and really committed father,” he says. He and Gwyneth Paltrow too have become quite close recently; indeed Paltrow features in a duet on Morrison's debut solo album. So does Chris Martin see him as a threat? “I think he was happy for her. She's a capable singer and her career is taking off. It's great that she's getting this exposure too.”
For someone who is so strong in the arts, Morrison is impressed by the output of British theatre. Shows such as Matilda, War Horse and One Man, Two Governors; all suggest Britain is experiencing a purple patch in theatre; which is impressing across the pond. “America tries harder in the arts - and it doesn't always come off as well. There, theatre is imbued with a belief, that if you throw more money at a production, that will make it better. Whereas Britain will be more honest; and say, slow down this wasn't an idea to begin with. Or better still, if you don't like it, you just junk it." He may find Britain just as ruthless with his latest film. Thankfully it won't be long until the fourth series of Glee. Don't stop believing, indeed.
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