Glee Project's Lindsay Pearce on Her 'Villain Edit,' 'God-Given' Gift, and 'Kissing Bandit' Rep

Lindsay Pearce says she’s not about to pretend she doesn’t have a God-given talent for acting and singing, but The Glee Project finalist also understands she has a lot of room for growth — both personally and professionally. Lindsay, whose Top 4 finish on Oxygen’s recently concluded reality competition earned her a consolation prize of a two-episode arc on Season 3 of Glee, chatted with TVLine about how she coped with the not-always-flattering way she was portrayed on the show, why she was happy to have to have her emotional walls broken down by Glee creator Ryan Murphy, and what really happened during that “spontaneous” kissing incident with fellow contestant Cameron Mitchell.

TVLINE | You head an interesting run from the beginning of Glee Project all the way to the end…
[Laughs] Yeah, right?

TVLINE | How did you feel watching the season unfold and realizing there were instances where you were getting the classic, reality TV “villain edit”?
I had no idea what the show was gonna look like, or what my or anybody’s edit was going to portray. But I remember I called my mom after episode 3 [in which contestants had to reveal their biggest vulnerabilities], when they didn’t really give the full [story] for a lot of people. On my end and with a few others, it wasn’t actually what we had shared, and I called my mom and was like “Why are they doing this? I don’t understand!” [Laughs] I was just so upset. And she was like, “It’s gonna be okay. There’s a reason. You’re gonna get redeemed.” The people that know me and love me know that’s not who I am or what I’m like. It was a rough go at the beginning. And I had no idea it was going to be that way, but it all turned out okay in the end.

TVLINE | What was the vulnerability you actually revealed that we didn’t get to see?
I had shared — and it’s on the Oxygen blog and on my fan page — that I was abused by a boyfriend in the past. So it kind of gave me a fear of men, and that kind of fear caused me to put on that mask of “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay,” when I’d never really addressed the issue. And I wasn’t okay, I just pretended like I was, ’cause that’s how I am. You be tough, you be strong, and you get through things when sometimes it’s not the best way to handle any kind of trauma. You have to get the skeleton out of the closet, and then keep it out.

TVLINE | It’s a strange show because so much of the judging seemed to be about whether Ryan and his team could see who you were as a person, and whether you inspired them to write, as opposed to a normal casting process of whether you could be convincing in a particular role.
It was definitely interesting to find that we would have to bare so much of ourselves, when it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to do. On Glee, they do portray characters, but a lot of the characters are written around the actors themselves. Like, for example, Rachel Berry having a big nose and that being an insecurity, that actually happened to Lea [Michele]. She was one of the only girls in her area growing up that didn’t get a nose job. She could have, but she didn’t. And liking boys, I’m sure Chris Colfer went through that. So I understood it was a personal thing to have to do, but at the same time I’m sure Ryan Murphy knows a lot of intimate details about his actors. And so he chooses to pull from that actual life experience for the roles, and that’s why Glee is so relatable. The characters are in part factual, not fictional.

TVLINE | You got a lot of feedback from the judges and coaches that you were the strongest actor among the finalists, and there wasn’t really much questioning of your singing skills, either, so that had to feel good, at least.
You know, honestly, they could tell me that I was a great singer or the best actor of the group, blah blah blah blah blah. But in the end, all I needed to hear from Ryan was that he saw me and I was a light. That made me win. The minute he said that, I was like, “I’m good.” Because I’ve gone through that in my life where I meet people and they don’t understand me at first, just because they don’t take the time to look. They take the time to judge, but not to look, to really look. And every single person who’s forced to take the time, or takes the time themselves, ends up as a dear friend. It’s not hard to be my friend. It’s not. I’m open and extremely friendly. So Ryan saying to me, “Lindsay, I feel like I finally saw you tonight, and out of all of them you have grown the most. I’ve given you the hardest road and you succeeded.” That’s all I needed. He saw me for more than my talent. ‘Cause I was told the entire competition and for a lot of my life that my talent is the best thing about me, when it’s really not.

TVLINE | I suppose as a person, you don’t want to be completely defined by your career skills.
I would never dispute that I’ve been given a gift by God. That’s something I’ve been raised to believe. I’m not an idiot: I know that I can sing and I know that I can act. Am I the best? No. Do I have a lot to learn? Absolutely. Is there a lot of room for growth? You betcha. But it is nice to break out of that old skin of mine. It came to the point where I was evaluating myself just as a talent and not as a person, when I am a human being. And it’s okay to be human. And I had to remember that. For a little while, I became a machine. “Yeah, talent! Watch my high kick! Hear me belt!” Ryan doesn’t care about that. It’s impressive, yeah, but he wants to know about you. He’s like, “I don’t give a care about what note you can sing, or whether you have a split or not, or if you can make me cry with your acting. I want to know who you are, what makes you tick.” That made the experience special to me.

TVLINE | Talk to me about the experience of a “sing for your life” performance.
I remember Samuel and I talking and saying, “God I wish I was in the Bottom 3 more often, because it would’ve given us some sort of insight on what the heck to do.” We had similar journeys in the sense that we had to be tough, and were always trying to please depending on the role. We’ve been auditioning for a long time and that’s what you do: You go into an audition saying “I’m this character! This is me, and I’m the best at this character.” But while I wish I’d been in the Bottom 3 a lot more, I can’t say I look back and say I regret any of the Bottom 3 performances, because they helped me grow. In the moment, “Maybe This Time,” I remember walking off that stage and I bawled my eyes out. I was like, “That’s it for me.” They didn’t show half the stuff Ryan said to us, but I was like, “And I’m defeated. And that’s it for me. This has been great. I love you guys and I’ll miss you.” But looking back on it, I’m glad it went the way it did, because they brought me to where I was and helped me personally grow.

TVLINE | Ryan actually talked at one point about how he never found himself rooting for you.
The sweet thing is that everyone who’s watched the show says to me, “But I do root for you. And I do strive for perfection. And I do understand.” And that almost completely paints over the observation Ryan made that he can’t root for me because I strive for perfection, because that’s not what people root for, that people don’t want to be perfect. Because actually, some people do. And I personally have been getting over that need to be perfect, but the hard work will never cease with me. What I’ve learned is you don’t have to strive for perfection, but you do have to strive to be a very hard worker. There’s a big difference. Hearing it from Ryan, if you watch the episode, my face looks like I got kicked in the stomach. It wasn’t even about the competition. He said that not to push me down — that’s never Ryan’s intention — but he said it in a way to completely shatter all those walls in my brain that keep me strong and tough. That’s something I needed, but it wasn’t exactly easy. But that’s what makes him so good at what he does. He’s able to look at me and say, “You know it’s really great that you’re a great singer. But I don’t give a care! Who are you? Stop being who you think I want you to be, and be you. That should be enough.” To hear that from him, it makes me think completely differently as a performer, and as a person, too, I suppose. It made me take a step back, and go, “Wait. Time out. How can you want to know who I am when I don’t even know who I am? I’m not even 20 yet.” I was 19 during the competition. I was like, “I’m just a kid. I have no idea who I am: I can tell you my favorite color is green, and I love musical theater and the Beatles, and I like ice cream.” But it helped me grow, and will continue to make me grow. It was so monumental for me.

TVLINE  | I wanted to ask you about the video shoot for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where you spontaneously decided to kiss Cameron at the end, and he went into something of an existential and moral tailspin.
It’s so funny the amount of near death threats and negative feedback I got, when that moment was directed. They didn’t show it, but you can read our blogs or talk to both of us: [Director Erik White asked] for it. I didn’t want to kiss him. It was one of those things where we didn’t discuss it [beforehand] because we didn’t know it was going to be asked of us. And had I known he would be even a little uncomfortable… Erik was like “I just need you to kiss him, but don’t tell him.” I was so nervous, and I remember pulling away and seeing his face and being like, “Oh, God! Oh, God! This sucks.” He had my red lipstick all over his mouth, and then the poor kid gets told by Erik in the next take, it’s his turn to kiss me, and he was just shaking. I had a boyfriend, too. It wasn’t one of those “Marissa did it so I have to do it!” moments. I don’t enjoy kissing boys I’m not dating. We walked off the set and were like “That sucked!”

TVLINE | So you’re not a kissing bandit?
I’m not a kissing fiend. I’m not the quote-unquote slut of the show.

TVLINE | Tell me about the season finale, where you found out you weren’t the winner, but almost just as quickly discovered both you and Alex were getting two-episode arcs, in addition to Damian and Samuel getting seven-episode arcs as the co-winners.
I wasn’t expecting anything. I thought it would be “Sorry, but at least you got your foot in the door.” Ryan didn’t have to give us two episodes. We already had this incredible audition. There’s so much footage of Alex and I at our best and at our worst, and that is priceless for the two of us. But then to be told we’re going to have an opportunity at something we worked so hard for: Whether it’s two episodes or I’m just that awkward kick-dancer in the background, I wouldn’t care at all. It’s just something we wanted to experience. I still look back on the finale and say “Oh God, that was so cool!” [Laughs] Seven episodes or two, we all won.

TVLINE | That’s not what you expect in a reality TV scenario. You expect one person to win, and everyone else to endure a tearful defeat.
Well, it was a very Glee ending. Finally the underdogs get a freaking chance. [Laughs]

TVLINE | So, any intel on the character you’ll be playing?
I don’t know anything. It’s one of those things where you desperately want to know, but it’s all about “Let his people contact you.” I can say that I’m extremely excited, and I’ve been calling the boys and asking “Have you heard anything?” [Laughs]

TVLINE | So you have not seen a script or been told who or what you’ll be playing?
I can neither confirm nor deny, unfortunately. It’s one of those situations. I can say when the season starts, you will be pleasantly surprised. Hopefully pleasantly!

TVLINE | I understand. You’ve got a two-episode arc, and I’m sure you’d like it to go longer. You don’t want to be the one dropping spoilers.
[Laughs] I can’t shoot myself in the foot before I get in the chorus line.

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  1. Raksha says:

    I actually like her. A lot. If I knew they’d have two winners, I would’ve wanted her and Damian to win.

  2. Lily says:

    I wish she would have won with Damian. Her final performance was phenomenal. I rooted for her because I understand wanting perfection. Shame that she was painted the villan, but that is reality tv for you.

  3. champmav says:

    I’m SO GLAD that the “reality-show-villain-edit” is being publicly discussed by you and some of the posters (not enough)! People need to understand that “reality TV” is covertly scripted in the editing room. I’d wish for people to be less stridently personal in their judgement of the kids in TGP. I suppose that comes with maturity and a lot of fans are just too young. At least, I hope that’s the reason…

  4. Marcie says:

    Great interview, Michael. Good to see the human side.

  5. Henrique says:

    She’s so adorable. I love her!

  6. Kate says:

    I really wanted her and Damian to win, and Samuel and Alex to get two episodes. Her an Damian were so sweet and Linsday’s phenomenal. Who knows, maybe Ryan will realise that people really love her and give her more time on the show? *hopefully!*

  7. wordsmith says:

    I actually really liked her all the way through the series,, despite the often unflattering edit they gave her. I had a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t entirely charitable how she was being portrayed, and this interview only seemed to further drive that point home. She’s awesome, and a good fit for Glee. I hope they end up keeping her around longer than two episodes.

  8. Maysa says:

    She’s so cool. She has a lot of talent, but once you know a bit more about her, shes even more lovely. I rooted for her, hands down. Love Lindsay.

  9. Jake says:

    If I could choose four winners: Damien, Sam, Marissa and Linsday
    Alex, you suck!

  10. Tim says:

    I LOVE her! She is so talented and, as you can see in the interview, very grounded, appreciative and able to take criticism. It’s a shame the editors led people to believe false things about her. She is so sweet on her twitter account. I hope Ryan realizes what a prize she is and gives her more than 2 episodes.

  11. Andrew says:

    I always liked her and am glad she’s getting at least two episodes, though I hope she’ll get more. I really wanted her or Damian to win so at least they both are appearing after all. Plus, anyone who compares her to Rachel Berry needs to realize that she’s a good enough actress to play something different than her. Part of what makes Rachel the way she is too is her relationship with Finn and so any character Lindsay would portray would be different in that respect as well.

  12. Deb says:

    What am I missing? I really didn’t like her. She came across as a know-it-all who didn’t take criticism well. I found it grating when she felt qualified to critique the other contestants.
    They didn’t put those words in her mouth, but it is a sure bet when she said them they were going to use the footage. What amazes me is that reality contestants complain after they provide the ammunition. You can’t be cast as a villain unless you give them something to work with.
    That said, I do question why she and Sam had similar attitudes but got different edits.

    • Pay closer attention says:

      YES they DID put those words in her mouth. You need to LEARN that audio and video are cut and pasted together. For instance, she never said, “I should have won” during Sexuality week. She said “Hannah should have won”. They took “Hannah” out and inserted “I” in there to make her look arrogant. PLEASE PEOPLE. Get a clue! Reality TV is not REAL!

    • J says:

      Honestly, even in this interview I didn’t like her either. Never did, still don’t.

  13. dan says:

    I hope her iTunes songs sell really well, so that maybe they’ll keep her around longer.

  14. Aileen says:

    I wanted to like her but can’t – she seems to fake to me. Just my opionin. It’s ok to disagree. :O)

  15. Zelda Smite says:

    At the beginning of the glee project season Lindsey was really mean to Ellis. So after that i sorta hated her. But after Ellis left she was really nice and stuff so i sorta liked Lindsey again but i was on the edge still. Overall, i liked Damian and Samual much much more so i am glad they won. And im still glad Alex and Lindsey got to be on glee too. :)

    • Well says:

      Lindsay and Ellis are friends now. The editors on this show were really mean to Lindsay because they just had to have a “villain” for the drama.

      • Jason says:

        Personally I think Ellis was being melodramatic and taking everthing she said personally. Lyndsay was a little oblivious to her oversensitive nature but that was all.

  16. Captain says:

    I loved her despite her edit. I figured it was pretty edited and I couldn’t deny her talent. She’s one of the few cast members that was truly a “star”

  17. Cate says:

    She is very talented and very beautiful. I think she has a good chance of a decent career, but reality shows are hard because people think they know what someone is like – as has been pointed out, she was edited to be the bitchy villain a lot of the time.

    Not to forget, she is very young too. I hope she can make an impression in her two episodes and I’m keen to see whether they use her well.

  18. Rick says:

    I liked Lindsey all season, and I feel bad that they gave her a negative edit. That edit made it clear she wouldn’t win, but I’m glad she at least got a two-episode arc, and hopefully they expand that one. I’d hoped she would be the new character Sheila.

  19. Jason says:

    I really liked Lindsey and felt she was getting unfairly portrayed as a villain when she was actually very nice to the rest of the cast most of the time. I hope she will play a love interest for Santana.

  20. Thomas says:

    Imagine if Cameron hadn’t quit… Damian would have gone home in Top 6, and Cameron would have held onto the Christian indie rocker role without it even coming up for Samuel. This season could have ended on a completely different note, one that would probably have had only one winner, Cameron. They wouldn’t have given roles to both Cameron and Samuel because they are so similar in “type,” so Samuel likely would have gone home since Cameron had the Christian edge.

  21. Alex says:

    Loved this girl from the beginning. Every time I saw her I needed to check a map, because I got lost in her eyes. And then when she started to sing I was absolutely sold.

    I was one of the ones who liked her because of her determination. What’s so wrong with wanting to be the best at what you’re passionate about? That is an admirable quality to find in anyone.

  22. msoraclepaul says:

    I am really glad this interview happened. I have been rooting for her and Cameron since Day 1 of the Glee Project. I knew all along that editing of the show was intentionally made to make her some sort of villain type or mean girl to that effect because they want to spice up the show. It so happened that the show manipulated one misunderstanding or mistakes of one or two contestants to make the situation spontaneous. Reality TV indeed! Otherwise, would you care to watch if the show is just about singing and dancing? I don’t think so! Some people need to grow up…it takes time to know someone! What you see people behaving in front of the camera does not reflect their true personality. Way to go Lindsay and Cameron!

  23. doug says:

    I thought she sang well, but at the same time, I could see why Ryan said many times that he never felt connected to her. I liked her, but I never felt an emotion while hearing her sing. I suppose that is what I was looking for from a singer. I thought Marissa drew more emotion from me as a singer which is why I liked her better. I could certainly think of Lindsay on Glee playing Rachel’s sister or cousin…a relation of hers would make sense to me.

    I didn’t understand Samuel’s talent as, to me, he had the same stare and same vocal performance for every song. I thought Damian was a better singer than he was and I couldn’t understand why Ryan and the others thought Damian was the least talented as a singer. He was definitely better than Samuel. Alex drove me nuts with his vocal gymnastics and drag dressing. I just didn’t care for his overdoing almost every single song. He made his songs much worse because he overdid them. I am sure they will not let that fly on Glee. He will need to tone it down or people will turn the channel in droves when he is on it. I know I will.

    • Jo says:

      Funny, I think Lindsay was the only one who ever seemed completely emotionally connected in her songs. Just look at her face in Gimme Gimme and Maybe This Time, you can read every emotion coming across. And I do think Samuel is a better singer than Damian. Damian was just goofy in every song he sang. I guess that’s his “charm” but he was pretty much the least talented all around.

  24. Lily says:

    Thank you for this interview. We only see on our TV screen what the editor wants us to see. Hope that we will see Lindsay in Season 4 as well !!

  25. Laugh says:

    I hope she matures from this and gains a good reputation from the experience. It reminds me of Jenna Morasca, who won Survivor Amazon at age 21. She was a brat but the show really opened her eyes and she turned into a really respectable person!

    • No need for that says:

      Follow her on twitter and facebook and you’ll see that she already is a wonderful person. She sure has a hell of a lot of friends who call her sweet to be this image that TGP portrayed. Reality shows aren’t real people.

  26. Sheryl says:

    I am a mother of daughters. I went to Juilliard and did well as a performer. Lindsay’s claim that her image was edited as the villain is a cop-out. She said some very to-the-point egotistical things. Recognizing talent as a gift is fine, but practice some humility!

    • Josh says:

      So I guess her putting down on Ellis with the “how was your first kiss” was inserted. She’s said things straight from her mouth beyond editing. I’m still finding a hard time in liking her really. Great voice but her attitude really puts me off.

      • Come one says:

        Lindsay and Ellis are FRIENDS now. They tweet each other. Just like Lindsay and Emily do. Maybe you should grow up and realize that you don’t know everything that went on between them just because you watched a highly edited reality show. If you really want to know what Lindsay is like then follow her AFTER the glee project when she isn’t being edited as the token “villain”.

    • You're still CLUELESS says:

      She did say things out of humility. Like Alex was a better singer than her. Like Hannah should have won the “Sexuality” homework assignment. Like she thought Damian was going to be the winner. Obviously YOU WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION. You just buy into reality show editing and don’t even realize you are being manipulated. You don’t even see that “egotistical” words are being edited together. Maybe you should STUDY editing techniques to see how they FOOLED YOU.