Glee Boss Ryan Murphy: 'Amazing Stories' Coming for Mercedes, Mike, Tina, and Sue

Glee co-creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy used to worry about how fans would react to the introduction of new characters to the show’s merry band of musical high-school outcasts. But as he plans Season 3 of Fox’s smash hit — including a long-envisioned “endgame,” a graduation strategy for New Directions’ senior classmen, and a fresh crop of young talent (including one warbler from his new Oxygen reality series The Glee Project) — Murphy says he’s put those worries behind him. “It’s all about the stories and characters,” says Murphy. “It’s our job to find new [stars] that people will love, but I never feel like we’re replacing anybody. The [core] characters are irreplaceable.” With that philosophy in mind, here’s what Murphy says you can expect from Season 3:

Character Will Trump Razzle-Dazzle and Bold-Faced Guest Stars | “Season 2 was definitely about bigger, better, flashier,” says Murphy. “And I loved so much about Season 2. I loved the Gwyneth story. I loved the bullying story. Chris Colfer and Darren Criss did an amazing job, as did Max Adler. But Season 3 we decided is going to be character, character, character.” How will that manifest itself? For starters, there’ll be only one musical tribute episode — though it’ll be a biggie. “It’s one I’ve been working on for two years — it took forever to clear — with a really big artist,” Murphy teases. Oh, and don’t expect a parade of Oscar winners, pop divas, and Broadway vets to populate the McKinley High hallways. “We’re not going to have any guest stars,” says Murphy. “And we’re going to do fewer songs.”

New Directions’ Unsung Heroes Are About to Start Singing | “We’re writing stuff this year for [characters] who haven’t had those big stories,” says the exec producer. “We have an amazing Mercedes story. We have a great Mike and Tina story. They’re fascinating. I love them as performers and it’s time they get their due. Also, Matt Morrison last year didn’t really have the big, huge arc he had in Season 1, but he will in the upcoming season.”

A Change Is Gonna Come for Sue Sylvester — Personally and Professionally | “We have an amazing 20-episode arc for Jane Lynch that’s quite fantastic,” says Murphy, and it will partly focus on her character’s campaign for Congress. “We’ve decided it’s a little tired for Sue to be constantly trying to destroy the glee club. We did that, and we did that well. But now it’s time for Sue to stop picking on the glee club and time for her to start picking on the country,” Murphy says with a laugh. What’s more, Our Lady of Track Suits will also be involved in some romantic intrigue. “One thing I’m looking for is someone for Sue Sylvester to love. Who is that person — man or woman? Who is man enough to love Sue Sylvester? That’s an interesting idea,” Murphy adds. “Jane did that Rod Remington romantic arc so well, so it’s something I’ve always wanted to find for her. How would Sue date? I’m interested in that.”

Blaine, Sam, and Lauren Are in Limbo…Till at Least Next Week Anyway | Murphy says no decision has been made regarding the status for Darren Criss (Blaine), Chord Overstreet (Sam), or Ashley Fink (Lauren). “We’ve just started to write [the new season], so I don’t know who we’re bringing back or who we’re letting go. We’ll be deciding that in the next week or so,” says Murphy. “I don’t think of it as coming down to the wire, I just look at it as, ‘Okay, what are the stories?’ That’s what it’s about for me next season.”

Murphy Has Been Planning the Season 3 Endgame for Three Years Now | “We now have a writing staff of nine people, and they’re all great, heavy hitters,” boasts Murphy. As a result, he and co-creator Brad Falchuk have decided to point the show toward the exact endgame Murphy envisioned when he first pitched Glee more than three years ago. To that end…

Don’t Look for the McKinley Class of 2012 to Roam the School’s Hallways Come Sept. 2012, Unless… | Murphy says he was shocked that his recent interview with Ryan Seacrest — during which he reiterated his plans to have McKinley’s seniors get their caps and gowns by season’s end — got such widespread pickup, seeing how he’s made his plan public for the last year. “The show to me is about the way you express yourself as you start to move out into the world as a fresh, young person. Do we really want to have an eight-year senior?” he asks. “The only way somebody could stay on the show is if they flunk, and that is always a possibility. I think Brittany is pulling straight Fs.” Asked if he might change course and brainstorm some last-minute plot twists that would allow, for example, Puck to score a gig as an assistant football coach at McKinley, Murphy offers a firm “No.”

Then Again, Don’t Assume Some of Your Favorite New Directions Members Won’t Resurface in a Spinoff Series | Presented with the concept of Rachel and Kurt and a few of their pals spearheading a new hour on Fox about a group of young artists who head to New York City to pursue their musical theater dreams, Murphy doesn’t immediately shoot it down. “It’s an interesting idea,” he says. “The questions are ‘How would we do it? And when would we do it?’ It would have to be something I would talk about to Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly and Dana Walden and Gary Newman. What we’re trying to do now — maybe those discussions will happen around December — we’re just now trying to do the first 10 episodes.” Not that Murphy’s brain hasn’t dabbled with a flash-forward to Rachel’s future. “I keep saying that with the new Funny Girl revival, they should just say it’s Rachel Berry in Funny Girl — get Lea to do that, but as Rachel Berry. It would be a crowd-pleaser.”

What do you think of Murphy’s plans for Season 3? Anything strike you as genius or scary? Sound off below, and for all the Glee news you need to get you through the summer, follow us on Twitter @TVLineNews!