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Glee will soon be down at least three: Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith are among the actors who will depart the hit Fox dramedy at the end of the third season. (The Hollywood Reporter reported the news.) The seismic cast change is not a total shock, as creator Ryan Murphy indicated last month that he planned to let those who would be seniors at McKinley High this fall graduate in May, as he didn’t want the show to be populated with characters that “were in high school for eight years.” It’s a bold decision to lose Rachel (Michele), Kurt (Colfer), and Finn (Monteith) — three of the show’s most iconic characters — all at once; then again, interest in the show’s upcoming season is sure to spike as fans tune in to see how the trio, and possibly more characters, will be sent off in new directions. (When reached by EW, Fox had no comment.) The producers are already working on adding fresh voices to the mix, casting for two new female parts; plus, the winner of Oxygen’s reality competition The Glee Project will join the ensemble for at least several episodes. Glee‘s third season debuts Sept. 20.

UPDATE: Lea Michele has responded to the news via Twitter, writing, “We always knew we’d graduate in real time. It’s all part of the plan and it’s all good! It’s going to make Season 3 amazing!!!” And: “To Gleeks everywhere, you’re in my heart now and forever. Love u all!!! This is just the beginning!!”

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