"People see themselves in different types of characters," glee writer Brad Falchuk explains when discussing the appeal of the show. "It's that feeling of being on the outside, looking in."
This sentiment epitomizes the theme of many of the show's characters but also the overall arc for season one. After all, New Directions and its members were always the underdogs; they were in the shadow of Vocal Adrenaline, and in the end (well, the season finale), still couldn't quite step up into the inner (winner's) circle. And it's an equally poignant message for the audience, many of whom are still in school themselves and may have not quite yet found where they fit in.
So how do the three men-- who are long since out of high school themselves-- behind glee do it? In the most literal sense, show creator Ryan Murphy smiles with recollection when he says: "We sit in a room...like today Brad said 'I think Sue dated Steve Caras' and you kind of go from there."
They do break down the episodes together, working on the theme and who's going through what within each individual script and write them in order, even though they rotate so that each man writes every third script. "We come back and rewrite together," Murphy explains.
These guys have a unique task at hand, though: in addition to the large undertaking of splitting twenty-something episodes up between only three people, they also have the unique task of writing for about twelve characters. "You write to your strengths," Murphy points out, seemingly nonchalantly. "The roof [is] just lifted off, and you want to pull out your thing and just start writing," he gushes. But in the past this has been problematic because some characters get cast aside as almost incidental as others are allowed to shine time and again.
One of those characters is, of course, Sue Sylvester, played by the fabulous Jane Lynch. At an Outfest panel over the weekend, Lynch credited writer Ian Brennan for all of Sue's infamous quips, saying she just tries to keep up with his scripts. Brennan admits that he didn't realize he had "such a dark side," but that it appears to pour out naturally when crafting Sue's particularly flavorful voice.
"A lot of the times, with Sue, I just think 'What would Ryan say?'" He laughs. "It all just sort of clicked. She's our access point...We all have that voice in our heads of 'You're a nerd,' and it keeps us in check. It keeps us [the show] from being too High School Music-y."
Falchuk adds that Brennan will just write pages and pages of material for Sue that inevitably gets cut down to only the best and most shocking lines. Turning to him he is sincere when he says: "The stuff you have to cut out is like killing children!"
Though Brennan "owns" Sue's voice, Murphy and Falchuk split up the other characters pretty evenly with the exception of Kurt, who is in great part based on Murphy's own life. Not only was he also an openly gay high schooler who was "really weird and popular," but his father also experienced a moment when someone called him up and used the f-word to discuss his son. But Murphy also really relates to Rachel and has the most fun writing her voice because he says he "gets madness and vulnerability."
Falchuk gets "a kick out of writing Finn. I love his naivete and earnestness and how he gets confused about the slightest things," he grins. But on the flip side, he finds Terri really fun to write, as well, because she's who he would be if he was "totally selfish and only spoke out of fear...[but] she's not just a bitch; she has a point of view."
Needless to say, Falchuk doesn't consider the large cast a hinderance but instead a gift. "It's a gift to have so many characters to write for...The challenge of coming up with stories is a gift to have so many talented actors to go to," he stresses. "It makes it, in a way, easier having a cast that's so community oriented and supportive of each other."
"You make this pact with the audience that 'you can trust us,'" Falchuk sums up the expansion and evolution of crazy characters and (what may prove to be) even crazier plots down the line. "And we can stretch reality on our show...[we] can kind of do anything."
Though he was reared on showtunes and show choir (he said when he was five he loved "One Less Bell To Answer" because his mother would walk around the house with a glass of wine white with that song playing) and not soap operas, Murphy shares the same views as the creator of one of my other favorite new shows of last season when it comes to on-screen relationships. "I think the key on television is once they sleep together, it lets the air out of the room," he said. Needless to add, then, he prefers the old school "Will they/won't they" vibe. As he puts it: "It's high school! You break up; you get back together; you sleep with everybody!"
The though these three men, who Falchuk says "together make one good writer," have been Emmy nominated for their work on the first season, they admit that it's a lot for so few guys, especially when one (Falchuk) also directs. Murphy, who had a staff of about eight writers on Nip/Tuck shared that he is looking to bring on about five or six new writers in January. So perhaps the dream I had that Murphy and I were being interviewed conference call style about a new character I created can come true! I am preparing my resume and samples now!!
+ And for more from Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan about what to expect in glee's season two, head over to my Examiner page where I have posted some highlights (and spoilers!) from their Paley Center for Media "Inside The Writer's Room" panel.