On Friday, Fox announced that production on Glee would be pushed back until August in the wake of Cory Monteith‘s sudden death last week. The postponement subsequently moved the show’s Season 5 premiere back a week, to Sept. 26.
The relatively short delay was met with surprise given the enormity of the tragedy, particularly for the show’s leading lady and Monteith’s real-life girlfriend Lea Michele.
Here, Glee cocreator Ryan Murphy breaks his silence on the actor’s passing, explains the thinking behind the brief postponement (and the role Michele played in the decision), reveals the show’s plan to explore the death of Monteith’s character and offers the first glimpse of how Glee will carry on without Finn.
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TVLINE | Thanks for your time. I know you wanted to talk a little bit about the reason for the one-week delay and why it wasn’t longer. Some people thought maybe it should be.
Well, it’s such uncharted water for me, personally. We had several options. We could delay shooting until November, we could delay shooting until January. But, ultimately, what we decided to do for the cast and crew was start shooting with something that we had already written. We had written two Beatles episodes in May and had been working on that tribute for four years. We just decided that it would probably be the best for everybody to get back together and be working and have grief counselors on set for two weeks, which we’re going to do. But, ultimately, we made no decisions without consulting Lea. [Executive producer] Brad Falchuk and I talked to Lea and really asked her what she wanted to do. We laid out every possible option. And she was very adamant that she thought it was best for the cast and crew to get back together sooner [rather] than later so that mortgages could be paid and people could take care of their families. Cory was so beloved that she felt people really needed to be together in this time. So we sort of followed her lead.
TVLINE | Will you address Finn’s absence in the first two episodes?
I don’t think so. We were supposed to be on in the fall with four episodes, and that’s just not going to happen. So we’re going to go on the air with two episodes and right now we’re writing the third episode, which deals with Finn’s death – which, you can imagine, is a very difficult episode to write. [It] has to be done very carefully and with a lot of taste and really making sure that it’s a tribute to Cory. Then, who knows? Maybe we’ll wait to shoot that. We really have to see how everybody feels… We’re going to take a long writers’ hiatus after that episode to refigure the season and continue to take care of the cast and crew and work on setting things up in Cory’s honor – scholarships, what have you – because that’s something we’re dedicated to doing. It’s just a crazy, really difficult, very emotional time. I think what we’re really trying to do is deal with it as a family, which is what that group of people is. Lea is obviously very grief-stricken but she’s also one of the strongest people I know. She wants people to be better and get back to work. So that’s what we’re going to do.
TVLINE | So Lea will be back with the show at the start of Season 5, including the Beatles two-parter?
Yes. She wants to be with people. The [Glee] family is her family. She wants to be with the cast and the crew.
TVLINE | The tribute episode will be shot immediately after the two-parter, then you go on hiatus?
Yes. I mean, who knows how long it’s going to take to craft and what it’s going to be? I just got back into town Tuesday from shooting [HBO's The Normal Heart] and immediately, even in New York, was dealing with the specifics of Cory’s death. I don’t have all the answers. But I just wanted people to know that no decision has been taken lightly and it’s been a week where everyone, from [20th Century Fox TV chiefs] Dana Walden and Gary Newman to [Fox bosses] Kevin Reilly and Peter Rice to [21st Century Fox chairman and CEO] Rupert Murdoch, everyone has weighed in and wanted us to do the best thing for the cast and crew.
TVLINE | And in terms of what fans will see on TV, the two Beatles episodes will air, followed by the tribute episode, and then a hiatus?
Yes. It’s impossible to start the season with the tribute episode; we have no time to prepare it.
TVLINE | You mentioned that you’ve spoken to Lea. A lot of people are really curious about how she’s holding up.
It’s just a very tragic thing. It’s been a very difficult thing for all of us, including Lea, to love someone who is an addict. It’s something all of us have been dealing with for many months. It’s a disease and, unfortunately, the disease flared up. As soon as we found out, we staged an intervention with Cory that Lea was 100 percent running, out of love and trying to get him better, saying, “Look. Don’t worry about your job; you will always have a job. Don’t worry about fear. Don’t worry about shame. Just worry about getting better and getting stronger…” He was like a son to me… He was both very loving and very sweet and also very stubborn. I really expected him to fight me. He wanted to finish those last two episodes of [Season 4], and that’s when we found out about the addiction flaring up again and I said, “F–k no. We’re writing you out of these episodes. Your life is more important than any stupid TV show. You’re not going to film. You’re going to get in a car right now and get help that I and Brad and Lea have arranged.” I thought he was going to fight me. He said, instead, “OK, I’m so glad it’s over.” He embraced it and went without a fight and got in a car and went to rehab.
TVLINE | And you thought he was doing OK?
All early reports were that he was doing really well. I spoke to him, and he was really grateful. Lea was very instrumental in trying to save his life and get him the help that he needed and I think for everyone, including myself and her, it’s just a shock. It happened so quickly and without warning, as it often does for many people… She’s also been a rock for many people as well. I’ve never, ever met a 26-year-old girl or boy who’s capable of doing what she’s done in the past week. I marvel at it. I really have taken – as we all have – our lead from Lea. We won’t do anything that she doesn’t want to do. We’re planning a memorial service this week for the cast and crew and people at Fox, everybody who loved him. She’s been planning that and making decisions.
TVLINE | Do you have a memory of Cory that epitomizes who he was for you?
The thing that I struggle with is the darkness that befell him, it was so the opposite of the person that I knew and tried to save. It was a really hard part to cast. The first time I saw Cory was on a videotape where he was playing Tupperware drums. But he was in the first scene of the first shot when I directed the Glee pilot. It was a scene with Mr. Schue and Finn where they were in Mr. Schue’s office and Mr. Schue was framing him. It was a very strange pilot and it was a musical, which nobody had really done successfully. So people were nervous, I was nervous about it. And I remember after his first take, he came up to me and said, “This is gonna be fun.”