Chris Colfer in The Straits Times Singapore (February 4, 2013)
Colfer’s fear factor | The Straits Times LIFE!
Fear is what drives Glee star Chris Colfer, who has penned a bestselling book, and writes and shoots films.
Chris Colfer’s character on the television show Glee, the flamboyantly gay Kurt Hummel, is one of the social outcasts celebrated by the popular musical-comedy series.
Like Kurt, the 22-year-old actor has come into his own since the show first aired in 2009. As a teenager, Colfer was bullied so badly that he had to be home-schooled for a couple of years.
“I spent most of my time stuffed into lockers,” he has said of his middle-school years. “Thank God for cellphones or I’d still be in there.”
Now, he is on of the show’s biggest stars and uses the spotlight to draw attention to the problem of bullying in schools.
He has also emerged as the most multi-talented of the actor-singer-dancers who populate the Glee cast, having branched out into writing books for children and young adults. The first, The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell, topped the New York Times bestseller list last July.
And last month, he appeared in an independent film about another highschool outsider, Struck By Lightning, which he also wrote.
He has managed to do all this while working on Glee, the fourth season of which is now available on mio TV Channel 833. “I was just very, very driven to do those things,” he tells Life! and other reporters on a set visit during the filming of the new season.
“I knew that I would be an idiot if I didn’t take every opportunity that was given to me now because as much as we love Glee, it’s going to over some day,” he says in his crisp, rapid-fire voice. “If I don’t start making a path for myself now, there may not be a path to go to when the show’s over. So it’s a mix of drive and fear. Fear is the best motivator.”
Another thing that fuels the actor, who won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for Glee in 2011, is a sense of responsibility towards his fans.
Many identify with him as an outsider or look up to him because he and his character are openly gay.
He says, “It’s an amazing honour. When I think about the stacks and stacks of thousands of letters I’ve received from kids over the years, just saying, ‘Thank you so much’ or ‘It means so much to me’, you can’t deny the fact that it’s had an amazing impact.”
The adulation can sometimes weigh heavily though.
“Being a role model can be a little hard to bear sometimes. I try to take it very seriously because I know there really was no one like us to look up to when I was growing up,” he says.
“These kids confess their deepest darkest secrets to you because you’re their hero. You want to help everybody who writes but you can’t. That’s definitely the heavy part. But I’m happy to be there for them to do that. You kind of become the world’s psychiatrist.
Colfer’s fans have stayed loyal to him and the show even though his character was one of those who graduated from high school during the previous season and moved to New York.
Shooting scenes in the Big Apple has led to several close encounters with Glee aficionados, he reveals.
“In Los Angeles, it doesn’t matter where we’re shooting, no one cares because people are so used to it. But every time we go to New York, there are so many kids where we shoot. We’ll be filming a scene and someone will interrupt and ask to take a picture of you.”
Colfer reciprocates that loyalty, politely declining when asked to share an example of the most outrageous fan behaviour he has experienced.
“I always feel so bad because every time I tell a story, I know they’re listening somewhere and I hate to hurt their feelings. And thankfully, there are as many nice stories as there are crazy, got-to-call-the-police stories.”
The actor is more forthcoming when it comes to stories he writes himself, including the best-selling novel, The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell, the first tome in a two-book deal.
“It’s about twins who fall into this fairy-tale world,” he explains. “They think they know the characters because the grew up reading them, but once they meet them, they realise that this world is not everything they thought it would be.”
This mirrors his own experience growing up, he says.
“As I got older and had this experience with Glee, I started thinking, that’s kind of how this world is. There have been many people I’ve met who have been villainised in certain situations when I know that they should not have been, and people I know who’ve been praised in situations when they should not have been. I really wanted to play with that idea and get into the heads of kids who read the story, so maybe they will have a better understanding of the way the world works as they get older.”
Also in the works: He has been hired to adapt a children’s book into a TV pilot for The Disney Channel. With talks now in progress over the future of Glee and whether it should be renewed for a fifth season, he may have done well to put his eggs into a few other baskets.
He is having a blast doing it too.
“Right now, when I’m not on Glee, I’m writing and shooting movies and writing books. And I’ve fallen in love with those processes. I hope I can continue doing it forever.”