Glee Boss: Chris Colfer, Cory Monteith and Lea Michele Are Staying, But Sam Won't Be Back

Reports of a mass exodus at the end of Glee‘s upcoming third season have apparently been greatly exaggerated.

On Sunday morning, Glee co-creator and exec producer Brad Falchuk told the standing room-only crowd attending the Fox megahit’s San Diego Comic-Con panel that Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Cory Monteith are not being let go from the show upon their characters’ May 2012 “graduation” and may very well be back for Season 4 — if not beyond.

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“Here’s the exact thing: [Rachel, Kurt and Finn] are seniors, so they’re graduating,” Falchuk explained, “but because they’re graduating doesn’t mean they’re leaving the show. If you have Lea Michele under contract, you don’t say, ‘We’re gonna let you go.'” Plus, the EP pointed out, “A number of the original [cast members’ characters] are not graduating this year.”

Falchuk reiterated, “It was never our plan or our intention to let them go…. They are not done with the show after this season.”

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The other, less positive piece of news coming out of the session — which was moderated by TVLine Editor-in-Chief Michael Ausiello — is that Chord Overstreet will not be back this fall — at all. According to Falchuk, Overstreet was offered a deal to return for 10 episodes with an eye towards becoming a series regular at midseason, but the 22-year-old actor declined.

Falchuck explained that Harry Shum Jr. (aka Mike) and Darren Criss (Blaine) successfully parlayed guest-starring turns into full-time promotions, and hoped to accomplish same for Overstreet. To that end, he said, “We did invite [Chord] back for a portion of the season … to see if being a regular was a possibility. But he declined the offer, which we were really disappointed by.”

Added Falchuk, “We wanted him back because we like Chord personally and had some good stories planned for him and with Mercedes. He decided he would have opportunities elsewhere that he would like to pursue, and we can’t force him to work, so we wished him well.”

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Click here for other highlights and sound bites from Glee‘s Comic-Con panel!