Lea Michele on Finding Her Glee in ‘Scream Queens’

After seven seasons on “Glee,” Lea Michele has taken on a decidedly different role in “Scream Queens,” as the glamour-challenged, neckbrace-wearing Hester who desperately just wants to fit in. No singing required!

How did you get cast?

Ryan called me in October when we were starting the final season of “Glee,” and he said I love you and I want us to keep working together and it will help the sad “Glee” transition so we never have to say goodbye. All he said was “Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, neckbrace.” And I said, “I’m in.” I had no idea what it was. I was so excited. I had to keep it quiet for a really long time. I thought it was maybe another season of “American Horror Story” that he was asking me to be a part of. It wasn’t until it was announced online that he told me that it was “Scream Queens.” More than anything, it’s giving me the opportunity to play someone other than Rachel Berry. 

Talk about your character. She certainly doesn’t look like Rachel Berry.

Having no hair and no makeup and getting to show more of my physical comedy has been really fun. We were in such a rhythm at “Glee” – to jump into another character came easily to me. When I read the script I thought this was so insane, some of the things I have to say, some of things that I’m doing. I’ve had the most fun getting to play around with who Hester is. I get to do the weirdest things. And they let me have fun. Whenever I think I’ve done something or I’ve gone too far – it’s too weird, too crazy – they’re like, it’s good. I’m basing her on the craziest characters I’ve seen. I grew up watching women like Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri and Gilda Radner — a lot of these comedic actresses who use their physical comedy. Molly Shannon in “Superstar” playing Mary Catherine Gallagher flying backward, Kristen Wiig playing Gilly — that’s what I’m drawing on playing Hester.

Do you mind not singing or performing?

I’m working on music outside the show. I’m enjoying the break from that. I’m enjoying getting to focus on being an actor. I love to sing. I’ll always sing. I’ll always have that performing side. I’m actually happy to have that separate right now from my acting because it allows me to focus on each thing with more attention and give each thing more care. I think it’s good for people to see me not singing for a minute. And it is a lot of work. Thinking back to “Glee,” I can’t believe we did that. Now just doing a regular show, it’s a lot easier.

Do you like horror movies?

Are you kidding? I’m the biggest fan here! I would win a competition of horror film knowledge. My perfect Saturday night is a pizza and a horror film with my boyfriend and my cat. Now it’s ruined for me, though. I watch horror films and a girl is screaming and running through the woods, and I’m like, “I feel you. You’re exhausted, you don’t want to be screaming anymore. Your trailer’s right around the corner, your cell phone is in your pocket. You could escape if you wanted to.” It broke the third wall for me.

As a fan you must appreciate then how “Scream Queens” sends up the genre.

Every episode counters and really focuses on classic horror films in this way that’s really nice. Ryan does pay homage to the great films that have been made.

Especially that the girls save themselves.

That’s why I think the killer is a girl. He’s so incredible with what he’s done for girl power. I loved “Coven.” This is an extension of that without being a spinoff. It was a force of powerful women. I love what Ryan does for women as actresses. He writes for women so well — so strong, so powerful. Look at Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson. He’s doing just that here for us.

Are you officially a member of Ryan’s troupe now?

I don’t want to be anywhere else. TV is in its prime right now. There are the most incredible shows on TV. There are a few people in TV making their mark and paving their way for TV – Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy. I want to be there. I want to be with those people, who are breaking the rules, who are making the difference. That’s what Ryan does.

You and the cast are all living in New Orleans. How are you getting along?

It’s kind of embarrassing, but we’ve been all become close and supportive of each other. Having been a part of a show for 7 years, as a cast you always go through your ups and downs and become a family. Within the family, there’s always highs and lows. But there’s always support. We’re all away from our families and away from home. So in and of itself that creates a deeper bond. We are all we have here. We want to make sure we’re all OK. I’m a homebody and I love being in LA. So we’ve all been there for each other.

The cast is so big, but the dialogue is so specific to each character.

Absolutely. That’s what’s so great. That’s what Ryan does. They did it on “Glee.” They create the richest characters. For “Glee” you could have done the same thing. That’s line for Kurt. That’s Mercedes. That’s why when you’re here, there’s no competition. Everyone gets their moment. Everyone gets their time to shine.

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