When Glee first debuted in 2009, the Fox series incorporated music in a way that hadn’t been seen on television before. Without any big-name stars in the cast, the show was a definite risk. Now, more than five years and 100 episodes later, the risk has more than paid off. With a 3-D film, sold-out concert tours, millions of albums sold, and Billboard records broken, the cast and crew got together in Hollywood on Tuesday night — the same night the show’s 100th episode aired — with plenty to celebrate. EW was on the scene and asked the cast to look back at the phenomenon that they helped create.
“We were always the little show that could,” said Chris Colfer, who won a Golden Globe for his work as Kurt on the show. “When the first episode aired, everyone said, ‘Oh, it’s cute, but it’ll never last,’ ’cause a musical could never work on television, so it’s really validating to be here.” Colfer was joined by some of his original castmates for the special 100th episode, including Dianna Agron, Mark Salling, and Amber Riley. Many will also return later this season to see Rachel’s Broadway debut with the opening night of Funny Girl, which the cast just finished filming in New York City. The series will now completely relocate outside of Ohio to the Big Apple for the remainder of the series, which will end next year after six seasons.
“It’s amazing the amount of stories we’ve told,” co-creator Ian Brennan told EW. “Particularly in the way that we tell stories, but even sitting there today as we were talking about where we want to end up in the show, it’s amazing the stories we haven’t told, which I think leaves this last year…to be really exciting creatively.” Brennan is credited with coming up with some of the most memorable one-liners that Jane Lynch spits out as Sue Sylvester. Lynch’s favorite memories of the past 100 episodes come from the start when she was first creating the character and relationships with the Glee kids that would end up lasting for years. “I’m a great beneficiary of great writing and a great track suit, and it was kind of a job that came together at the right time for me, so I’m grateful for that.” Lynch’s favorite early Sue zingers?
“Your resentment is delicious.”
“Smell your armpits. That’s the smell of failure, and it’s stinking up my office.”
“You think this is hard? Try being waterboarded, that’s hard!” (Lynch wrote that one herself!)
When asked about the moments that stick out in her mind, the first thing that immediately popped into Lea Michele’s head were the challenging parts. “I remember all of the numbers that were the most uncomfortable. The swimming pool number, the food fight, ‘Thriller,’ where we had to shoot it all night long.” Michele added that she has shared some beautiful moments with her cast over the years, both on and off screen, and those friendships will always be remembered.
And though they play frenemies on TV, Naya Rivera agrees. “I was trying to put together a PicStitch today of so many memorable moments, and there were too many. I couldn’t. Even taking pictures together at lunch is a memorable moment.” Rivera’s role has grown significantly over the years from the first season, and as an actor, Rivera is well aware of how lucky she is to have been a part of one thing for so long. “This is something not a lot of people get to experience. There are very few actors in Hollywood who can say ‘I’ve done 100 episodes of a television show,’ so that’s an accomplishment and milestone and something to celebrate.”
Most fans of the show only get to experience Glee while watching on TV at home, but Melissa Benoist — who joined the show as Marley in the fourth season — has now experienced the pandemonium from both sides. “It’s still such a surreal thing for me. I’ll see an episode that I’m in, and still to this day, after two seasons, I’m like, ‘Is this real life?’ This is such a phenomenon and will always be a part of the zeitgeist.” Mike O’Malley, who plays Kurt’s dad Burt, is also a fan of the show on and off set. “I’m always so amazed by the actors in the show. Their energy, their enthusiasm, their skill. That’s continued unabated for all 100 episodes.”
The show has recorded more than 650 songs, ranging from the Beatles and Britney Spears to Broadway ballads, but don’t try and ask Darren Criss to name them all. “I could not do it. I could not do that. No way. Not a chance in hell!” But EW decided to have some fun with the cast to see what songs from Glee‘s past they would have wanted to steal for their own characters. Here are some great missed opportunities:
Lea Michele (Rachel Berry): Adele, “Someone Like You”
“Oh, I’ve played this before! I know exactly what I’d do, and I bet Amber would say the same thing. It’s just such a beautiful song.” (“Someone Like You” was sung by The Troubletones as part of an Adele mash-up in season 3.)
Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel): Jennifer Holiday, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”
“I think it’s the only crassy female Broadway ballad I didn’t get to do on this show.” (“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” was sung by Mercedes and by Jane Addams Academy in season 1.)
Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson): Stevie Wonder, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”
“Did I get to do Stevie? I think I did ‘Superstition.’ I don’t remember!” (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was sung by Kitty in season 4.)
Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester): Gypsy, “Rose’s Turn”
“It would be perfect. It would be Sue’s chance to say, ‘It’s my turn now, people! I’ve been making my Cheerios shine, and now it’s time for me. FOR ME. FOR ME!!” (“Rose’s Turn” was sung by Kurt in season 1.)
Becca Tobin (Kitty Wilde): Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
“I would steal it from Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t care!” (“Happy” was sung on the 100th episode in season 5 by Holly, Blaine, Mercedes, and Will.)
Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez): Michael Jackson, “Human Nature”
“I’ve already gotten to do my two dream artists with Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson, but I was always jealous of [Amber] for getting that one.” (“Human Nature” was sung by Mercedes and Sam in season 3.)
Melissa Benoist (Marley Rose): Joni Mitchell, “River”
“I actually forgot the name, but that Joni Mitchell song Rachel did in that Christmas episode. More Joni!” (“River” was sung by Rachel in season 3.)
Mike O’Malley (Burt Hummel): Madonna, “Vogue”
“Exact same wardrobe, hair — same everything.” (“Vogue” was sung by Sue in season 1.)
Ian Brennan (executive producer/co-creator): The Black Kids, “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”
“It’s this really obscure song we did in season 3 by a band outside of Jacksonville called The Black Kids. I want to perform that tonight, can you set that up?” (“I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” was sung by Blaine, Brittany, and Tina in season 2.)
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.