By Erin Strecker
August 15, 2012 at 03:08 PM EDT
Tyler Golden/Oxygen Media

If there was an underdog going into last night’s Glee Project finale, it was 19-year-old Blake Jenner. And he knew it, too. “I saw one of [the girls] winning,” he told EW this morning. But viewers couldn’t count out the Miami native, who impressed Ryan Murphy with his consistent performances and the fact that he was, as casting director Robert Ulrich said, “the best actor” in the group.

After a last-chance performance of “I’ll Be” — not to mention a surprise poem reading — a jubilant Jenner walked away with the seven-episode arc on the fourth season of the show. Jenner got on the phone with EW this morning to talk about his lack of sleep, why he read a poem, and what he hopes his Glee character gets to do next season (Watch out, Brittany/Santana shippers!)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations!

BLAKE JENNER: I’m so excited, you have no idea. I’m so excited, and so thankful.

Did you sleep at all last night?

I didn’t sleep at all last night. I was talking to family and friends, both in L.A. and also in Miami, my hometown. I honestly got probably an hour and a half of sleep last night, but I’m still so stoked — I don’t even feel tired at all. The excitement is so unbelievable.

How does it feel to finally be able to tell everyone?

It’s amazing. I totally had to keep it under wraps, the whole completion of the show, for months. We finished filming in mid-March, so I’m really excited that everything is out in the open. So grateful, so thankful, so excited for the future.

Why did you decide to read the poem after your performance?

I decided to read the poem because when I was younger, like third [or] fourth grade, I started writing poems. It was a gateway for me, because I’ve always been that person that would be there with advice for friends, family and all that. I never expected that in return from anyone, so for me, the way to vent was through pen and paper. I just figured that was a way to show a different side of me, because Ryan and everyone were always saying they needed to see a different side of me, beyond just the nice-guy exterior. I figured it was my last chance to show what I hadn’t shown yet. I just wanted to show my poetic side.

On the show, other contestants put their stories front and center. It seemed like you just consistently performed and delivered week after week. Were you worried about not seeming vulnerable, and was the poem part of an adjusted strategy?

Of course. It was just weird because, I do consider myself vulnerable. The first week, I was very very sad, I cried in the bathroom before we heard who the bottom three was, because I wanted it so bad and I’d heard so many ‘nos’ before The Glee Project. I didn’t want to hear another no — it would have been heartbreaking. So throughout the competition when they were saying I was being too confident, too strong, I was just waiting for that moment when I was able to show my vulnerable side. That’s why I thought the poem worked for me — that was the most vulnerable I’d been on the show. That was the most I’d ever let anybody inside.

Right before they announced the winner, how were you feeling?

Watching the finale last night, that was the first time I’d seen my performance, or Ali and Aylin’s performance. I didn’t expect it at all. I saw one of them winning. I’m so grateful. I know I’ve said grateful and thankful so many times but that’s all I can say. In that moment, I did not think I was winning. I thought one of them had it for sure. They had such great storylines. You look at me, you don’t know what the story could be. I was just ready to look towards them, when they said, “and the winner is…” I was getting ready to turn to my left and hug one of them. When he said my name, I was shocked! I literally feel like there was so much excitement, I almost levitated. I don’t remember jumping that high. It was the most amazing experience of my life.

NEXT PAGE: Santana beware! Learn why Jenner is hoping his character romances Brittany

Have you and Ryan Murphy been in talks since the show has ended?

Not really. He’s a busy guy. I haven’t really talked to him, but I’m sure once I do, it’ll be amazing. I do know he tweeted yesterday ‘wait till you see who they’re dating…” When I saw that, my mind started racing like, ‘could it be this person, this person, this person?’  That would be amazing. It’s exciting to know that’s coming. As an actor, I’d love to have love, and conflict, and just to know that’s coming is exciting. But that’s the most that I know about my character to come. I haven’t gotten a script yet. My birthday is on the 27th, so maybe if it comes around there it’ll just be the ultimate gift. I’m super stoked.

What would you like to see your character be on Glee?

I’d love to see my character be like a Finn-type character, that go-to guy that everybody goes to and confides in. And he’ll fight for his friends, and fight for the ones that he loves. He has a sense of humor, but can be serious. And definitely just be that leader. Not a douchey guy at all, just a leader for the choir room. But also someone who has problems on his own — I’d love for my character to have some depth.

With regards to the dating tweet, is there anyone you hope it might be?

Since a lot of them have graduated, I’m kind of thinking maybe Heather [Morris’s] character [Brittany] has gotten a little lonely. And then I come in, and maybe I don’t know that she’s with Naya and we start hitting it off. I’d hate to be the person that comes between them, because they’re so funny and a great couple. That could be fun, because I am not as good of a dancer as Heather, at all, so it would be funny. Doing a dance number with her and I’m just doing some goofy dance moves and she’s just rocking out.

Finally, this show is such a platform, and teens really look up to all the Glee characters. What do you hope teens get out of your role?

That’s such an intense question… I want them to realize everyone has got to be there for everyone. Even the people you don’t think are vulnerable at all. I want to get across that everyone is sensitive and has something. No matter how strong you are. Everybody has something and needs someone to be there for them. I would like to show that there is always room for love. I want to get across too that you always have to trust and believe in yourself. I know that sounds cliché and it’s probably been said a bunch of times on Glee, but I would love for my character to stand for that, for sure.

Read more:

8 things we learned from ‘Glee Project’ live chat

‘Glee Project’ exit shocker: Double elimination! ‘Some people might not like it, but that’s me

‘The Glee Project’ exit Q&A: ‘I absolutely thought that Michael should have been in my place’

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