“Yay musicals! This is fun!”
Darren Criss is trying to hype the 20+ dancers assembled for one of The Flash–Supergirl musical crossover’s most epic moments, a giant dance number set in a ’40s nightclub to Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
The Glee alum has reunited with former costars and classmates to play the Music Meister, a dastardly villain who causes his victims to break into song — a role first made famous when Neil Patrick Harris voiced the character during an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
During the crossover, however, the Meister sets his sights on The Flash (Grant Gustin) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), trapping them in an alternate reality movie musical in which their only means of escape is to play through the Meister’s script, complete with singing and dancing. EW hit the set to get Criss’ take on entering the world of singing superheroes (check out photos here, and get more scoop here).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like getting to reunite with Grant and Melissa?
DARREN CRISS: Well that is very exciting, but this whole episode has been a personal crossover episode for me because it’s not just the Glee thing — which is obviously a big factor because Melissa, Grant, and Zach Woodlee is our choreographer, who was our choreographer on Glee — it’s a reunion of many sorts because I went to college with Carlos Valdes. Last time we worked together was a show called Me and My Dick, which was a big hit for us. That was years ago. I haven’t seen him since he got this TV gig, so that has been really special to see all my worlds collide, college and Glee. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who are my friends from Michigan as well, who also knew Carlos, they wrote an original song for this, which is the final song that Grant sings, and they also know Grant from another life. I know Chris Wood on Supergirl went to college with Grant. They did, like, Kiss Me, Kate” together in college. There are so many threads that weave in and out of all of our lives that have led us here. Beyond Glee, it’s been a very sentimental crossover on so many levels and every day, every scene my mind is being blown. I can’t believe I’m here with Melissa Benoist and Carlos Valdes. “How do you guys even know each other? Oh, that’s right you’re both superheroes!” It’s been just mind-blowing to be around all these folks that I’ve known for a while.
When you were being cast as the Music Meister, what did they tell you about the character?
Nothing. Let me know if you know anything. [Laughs] He’s a Meister. He’s sort of a stinker. They’ve let me play that up a little bit. A lot of people have been asking me, “What villain are you playing?” I’m like, “He’s not really a villain, he’s more just kind of an a–hole.” They let me run loose a little bit as far as being silly and goofy with the character, and I push it a little too far and they’re like, “Make sure to dial back a little bit,” because I’m trying to keep it in the tone of the world. But he’s definitely a goofy — a meister. Here, let me look up right now. Hold on. Watch this. I’m going to ask Siri. Hey Siri, what is the definition of the word meister?
[A British male version of Siri responds: “I found this on the web for ‘What is the definition of the word meister?'”]
I was hoping he would read it. “One who has knowledge about something specified, often used in combination…” Oh, he’s like a smart person. Okay. I’ve always thought of the word meister as, like, a trickster guy, I guess because there’s “ster” in it. But yeah he’s sort of a goofball that has some ulterior motives for the characters in the show. I don’t want to give away too much.
When you got the role, did you go back and watch the animated episode in which Neil Patrick Harris voiced the Music Meister?
Of course. I remember when that episode came out because I was a fan of Brave and the Bold. That episode is so good. It’s the best musical superhero episode. If Buffy is like the benchmark of a really good musical genre, that one’s really up there, too. It’s really fun. The music’s really good. Anyway, I don’t have as colorful of a wardrobe as the one that Neil got to voice. I wish I did, but that’s the fun thing about animation versus TV.
I have made a pretty decent career of only taking over roles as made famous by famous child stars. Daniel Radcliffe, so I did a Harry Potter musical, and then I took over for him on Broadway [in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying], and then Doogie Howser, Neil Patrick Harris, did Hedwig, so I did Hedwig, and he did the Music Meister, so I did that. So yeah when they do the Doogie Howser reboot, I’ll step in there. I’ll be too old, but I’ll be an old Doogie Howser. It has to be a role that he did, so when they reboot the Smurfs movie… [Laughs]
On Glee, Grant threw a slushie in your face. Are you finally getting your vengeance on him now?
I forgot about that. No. First of all, you can print that I totally forgot about that because everything on that show is such a blur at this point — flash, if you will; not really, those are two different things. [Laughs] But it is funny that the last time I worked with Grant he was the bad guy and he was singing at me, and now I’m the bad guy singing at him. So I wouldn’t call that payback, but definitely a full circle moment.
Talk about what the prep has been like for this episode.
It’s TV, there’s no prep. I mean it’s just Glee. It was just Glee in Vancouver in CW-DC Universe. It’s just getting back in the saddle. Thank god that I’ve done this a lot before with Zach, so he knows my own learning curve. We’ve been dancing all day and I’ve been extremely mad at myself because it’s been the first time in a long time where I haven’t been able to do choreography the way I want. But it’s nice to know that having done Glee for many years, the things I used to get mad about I can go “Oh…” For instance, there’s a bunch of stuff that I can’t seem to get right, but I go, “Even if I did get it right, they’ll never use it.” I learned that on Glee. That kind of lets me loosen my grip on trying to be perfect all the time, as a guest on a show like this where singing and dancing isn’t even necessarily the main component.
What was that first moment stepping on set for your first music number like? Were you nervous?
No. No. I mean you don’t get nervous for musical numbers because you just do them. I will say on the flip side there’s a much more interesting point: For most people, doing an episode like this, what’s so fun is that you get to sing and dance and for a lot of the fans that know a lot of these actors from the theatre work — a lot of people in DC-CW universe are seasoned theatre vets — the fans that do know this have been waiting to see them do this, and there’s people that don’t know that they can do this. It’s really cool to be able to watch those people finally get to do that again. So for them it’s exciting because they get to do the thing that they’re good at, their true superpowers, so to speak. But for me, because I do it so much and it’s the main thing I did on a TV show for so long, I’ve been looking forward to doing the stuff that they do every day, which is all the action stuff — throwing punches, taking punches, and flying through the air. That, to me, is fun. I’m an athletic person. I’m not a dancer. I had to learn how to dance and use whatever athleticism I have to be as convincing of a dancer as possible. But to me doing all that fun action stuff is something I’ve always wanted to do, so that’s been the most exciting thing about this entire process.
Had you watched the DC-CW shows before?
Of course. Duh. You kidding me? No question. Of course, I’ve watched these shows.
Are you a big superhero fan?
Yes. Duh. Of course. What’s wrong with you? [Laughs]
Who’s your favorite superhero then?
When I was a kid, Daredevil was my favorite because my name’s Darren and that was my nickname. I’ve been really happy with what the TV world has done for a lot of these superheroes, and being able to tell their stories in long form, as comic books do, because it isn’t always about one villain, one movie, one story line. The tale of superheroes is a long one, from origin stories to love stories. There’s so many different things that happen for superheroes. I enjoy seeing all these different villains. I mean all villains are kind of silly, but The Flash has some really silly villains, so I’ve enjoyed seeing them come to life on TV and done really well. I remember when The Flash became a show and I was like, “Oh, what are they going to do, have Gorilla Grodd come out? How are they going to do that on TV?” And they did a great job. I was really impressed.
Had you wanted to come on the show and play a villain?
Yeah. I was wondering why everybody else I knew had been on the show but me. My other buddy from Michigan, Andy Mientus, was a bad guy on this show and after he got the show I was like, “This is just ridiculous. Everybody I know is on the show but me.” So now I know why — they saved it for a really special one.
What’s been the hardest part about doing the musical?
Nothing. I mean, right now, f—ing up is one thing, but that’s just my own problem. I don’t want to say there’s nothing not hard about it. I almost sound like a jerk being so cocksure about what I’m doing because I’m not, obviously. It’s hard not to constantly freak out that all these people in your life are together doing this show. It’s really bizarre. I can’t articulate that more. Your friend from grade school is hanging out with a bar with [your partner] and you’re like, “What? How do you guys even f—ing know each other? What? These are two different things. They’re compartmentalized in different boxes in my brain. How are you interacting?” That’s literally what it’s like for me. It’s special, but it takes a second. “We’re in Vancouver shooting what? Where Supergirl’s doing what? What? What?” It’s all madness.
Is it also fun for you to work in this ’40s atmosphere?
Yeah. It’s fun. I mean, I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but we’re in ’40s gear singing a song from the early ’70s. [Laughs] Then again, it’s a musical and superheroes — not everything has to make perfect sense. It’s always fun to dress up and dance a little bit. I certainly never got to wear this kind of an outfit and dance around, so that’s a new thing that I’m excited about. This [giant tie] will definitely be making a comeback in the next two years. I guarantee it. This show’s the first place.
We know that Music Meister survives his run-in with the Girl of Steel and Scarlet Speedster because of the future headlines, in which the villain lands a six-figure book deal.
Oh, nice. I didn’t know that. That’s awesome. I’m actually kind of scandalized that it wasn’t an eight-figure deal.
Do these future headlines mean you will return?
I certainly hope so. I would love to be able to — if I put this out there I’m going to jinx it. This happened so fast, and as much as I’m thrilled to be singing any song, I would have liked to have written some songs. In fact, I knew about this gig because — this is another crossover connection, but it’s a big part of why I had to do this episode — my buddies Benj and Justin from Michigan, who also know Carlos because we all wrote music in college, we were all in the same program; I was in a slightly different program, but I still knew them and idolized them in college. So Benj has always been a pal of mine and I was asking him a few things. I was like, “Oh, are you going to get that EGOT in one year?” And I was like, “Oh, you have to get a gig.” He’s like, “I’m doing a Supergirl episode.” I was like, “What? Do they have songs for that? There’s a musical crossover episode, right? Are they still collecting songs?” He’s like, “I think they’re already done.” Like, “S—, I guess I missed my opportunity. F—. Well, I better see if I can at least be in it.” To me, if anybody else did this role, I would have had to throw a hissy fit. Getting to hang out with Carlos, getting to be in an episode where my buddy’s music is featured for which they may or may not win an EGOT for in one year, to be with my Glee friends that I haven’t seen in years since they’ve had successes in these shows, to watch somebody else do that, I wouldn’t have been able to handle that. So yeah, it’s a reunion on many, many levels and I’m so f—ing happy to be here. So we need more. To answer your question, I would love that. I almost don’t want to say it, because I don’t want to jinx it, but I want to come back. I’m not done — then I’ll have my true payback!
The musical crossover will kick off at the end of Supergirl’s March 20 hour, with the majority of the action taking place during The Flash‘s March 21 episode, both airing at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Check out our full gallery of The Flash-Supergirl musical crossover photos here, and get the scoop here.