×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Casting Director Robert Ulrich Keeps ‘Glee’ Talent Flow Open

Casting director Robert Ulrich is responsible for nearly every character in “Glee’s” 100-episode history. For each of these actors, the first stop was a meeting with Ulrich and his associates in a tiny office.

“They come in and sing five feet from me,” Ulrich says. “We have laid down little mats so they have a dance floor.”

Audiences were treated to an inside look at the show’s casting process thanks to Oxygen’s two-season reality series “The Glee Project.” Through this process, Ulrich discovered current cast members Blake Jenner and Alex Newell, along with a handful of guest actors. The series expanded beyond Ulrich’s tiny office, but it still reflected “Glee’s” casting process.

“ ‘The Glee Project’ was really an extension of the casting of ‘Glee.’ We were looking for the same kind of people,” Ulrich says.

Even when “Glee’s” characters are written first and cast later, the actors’ idiosyncrasies and personalities can shape the roles. Kevin McHale loves hip-hop, and now, Artie Abrams is the glee club’s go-to rapper for numbers like “Billionaire” and “Friday.”

“I would always rap with friends as a joke, never serious at all. The writers took advantage of that and made me rap,” McHale says. “I would never feel comfortable putting out a rap song myself, but because it’s a character, you can get away with more.”

If acting and singing (or rapping) are the two most essential skills of a “Glee” cast member, dancing is the third skill. The show’s choreographers feel free to challenge vets such as Harry Shum Jr., Heather Morris, Becca Tobin and Jacob Artist.

“Jacob was doing backflips, more than we’d ever seen,” says Brooke Lipton, a choreographer on the show since the pilot. “We will ask, ‘Can you, will you do flips like this for six hours?’ It’s a lot on your body.”

While still offering feedback and guidance, the choreographers often gave Shum the space to improvise.

“When (choreographers) set boundaries but also allow the performers to escape and think outside the box, that’s when you can come up with something special,” Shum says. “When everything is specific, it becomes robotic.”

Although many of the show’s actors began the series with little formal dance training, they all have a unique style to be uncovered, Lipton says. While choreographing for a show like “Glee” might be theoretically easier with a “whole lot of Heathers and Harrys,” the passion of a performance is what matters most.

“Cory Monteith (who played Finn)wasn’t our strongest dancer, but he was one of our strongest performers. He sold everything,” Lipton says. “The cast owns who they are in their bodies, and they own movement, and that it was what makes it beautiful.”

More TV

  • GREY'S ANATOMY - "Let's All Go

    'Grey's Anatomy': 5 Biggest Shockers From the Season 16 Midseason Finale

    Spoilers: Do not read the following unless you have watched the season 16 mid-season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy,” titled “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” The always-dramatic “Grey’s Anatomy” made sure to ramp up the action for its Season 16 mid-season finale. Not only has Meredith Grey’s love life just gotten potentially more complicated, but [...]

  • Imelda Staunton'Downton Abbey' photocall, Rome Film

    'The Crown' Has Not Cast Imelda Staunton for Seasons 5 and 6, Netflix Says

    Netflix is shooting down reports that Imelda Staunton is joining “The Crown.” “We are currently filming season 4 of ‘The Crown’ but have not commissioned any further seasons as yet, therefore any news on casting remains pure speculation,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. Staunton, known to many as the despicable Dolores Umbridge in [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    Baby Yoda Merchandise to Debut Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

    Purchase Baby Yoda toys, you will. Fans of the breakout character from the Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian” have been surprised that there was no merchandise pegged to the character available upon the launch of the show, given that the Christmas shopping season is rapidly approaching. But according to an individual with knowledge of the [...]

  • Sean "Diddy" Combs Revolt TV

    Sean Combs Slams 'Illusion of Economic Inclusion' at Comcast Amid Byron Allen Fight

    Sean Combs has come out swinging against Comcast in a lengthy statement prompted by the cable giant’s legal battle with Entertainment Studios chief Byron Allen. Combs accused Comcast of maintaining “the illusion of economic inclusion” in its handling of a carriage agreement with Combs’ Revolt TV channel. Combs was critical of Comcast for failing to [...]

  • Oprah Winfrey during a tribute to

    TV News Roundup: OWN Orders Celebrity Relationship Series '#LoveGoals'

    In today’s TV news roundup, OWN orders a new unscripted relationship series and Disney Channel orders new seasons of “The Owl House” and “Sydney to the Max.”  DATES ABC will live broadcast the “2020 NCAA Gymnastics Championship Final” on April 18. The semi finals will air the day before at 1 and 6 p.m. ET. [...]

  • Sissy book cover

    Showtime to Develop Series Based on Jacob Tobia Memoir 'Sissy' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showtime is developing a half-hour dramedy based on Jacob Tobia’s memoir, Variety has learned exclusively. Tobia is a non-binary LGBTQ rights activist, actor, producer, and author. Their memoir, “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” was published earlier this year by Putnam Books at Penguin Random House. The series, currently titled “Sissy,” would follow Tobi Gibran, a non-binary college [...]

  • Invisible Stories from HBO Asia

    Singapore Festival: HBO Asia Tells ‘Invisible Stories’

    HBO Asia has expanded its burgeoning production slate with six-episode half-hour series “Invisible Stories.” The first two episodes of the show, “Lian” and “Chuan,” play at the Singapore International Film Festival on Nov. 28. The series is by writer and director Ler Jiyuan, who previously directed part of HBO Asia Original series “Grisse.” “Like 80% [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content