The Glee Project and Casting Diversity

Despite my constant love/hate affair with Glee, I was very impressed with the reality show spinoff The Glee Project. The challenges were fair to the contestants and it gave a nice look into the creative process of the show. For example, I don't like the rampant autotune use, but I have a lot more respect for the music department after seeing Nikki Anders work with the contestants on this show. Season 2 did a pre-season casting special that's worth looking into. Contestants were flown in from all over the country to compete for 14 slots on The Glee Project. The producers pulled in all different types for the widest pool they could pull from. If Glee is the show where any underdog can succeed, it only makes sense to allow for as many possible stories to be considered for the guest arc prize package.

AliHere's where things got a little strange. The casting people--for better or worse--seemed a little too enthusiastic about candidates that would add something new to the show. Ali, an Equity actress in a wheelchair (she was a great Olive in the Papermill production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), was practically met with applause because choreographer Zach Woodlee didn't realize someone in a wheelchair could move like she does. Similar reactions were shown for blind contestant Mario, female to male transgender contestant Tyler, and one girl (not cast) who was covered in burns.

I genuinely believe that the judging panel--Nikki, Zach, and Glee casting director Robert Ulrich--meant the best things possible with their enthusiasm. They were just as cheerful when a country singer, a rapper/R&B singer, and a guitar playing alternative singer performed. It's just the show was edited to really stress how different and unique the contestants were.

When Ryan Murphy joined the trio for the final callback and casting session, you could hear a lot of "you need someone like him" or "you need a big singer in this competition" at the table. Ryan Murphy, to his credit, clearly wasn't having it. He wanted 14 different contestants that he could see 14 different storylines in. He did not want to just cast someone who is [insert unique quality here] just because of [unique quality]. He even seemed to fight against one popular perfect casting choice but relented in exchange for booting another pick he didn't care for. Ryan Murphy knows what he wants for Glee and no one will stop him.

The JudgesThere is, of course, an alternate reason why the judges were so cheerful and upbeat and enthusiastic: they're judging kids. I work in educational theater. You can't be cutthroat with a teenager and expect them to pick themselves right back up. You can be honest, but you can't be brutal. If you're positive and send off good energy, they'll be far more relaxed and perform better. Maybe the enthusiasm towards certain contestants was a way of easing some of the more inexperienced competitors into the right mindset for an audition? The editing will always choose big emotional moments. It becomes the viewer's job to figure out the missing pieces when necessary.

I like that The Glee Project is trying to give a wide variety of performers a chance. I just hope that it doesn't become a battle of who is the most different rather than a competition for the best singer/dancer/actor who could fit in Glee.

What do you think? Will you be tuning in for Season 2? I'm debating whether or not to write about it this season. Decisions, decisions. Sound off below with your own thoughts on the show.

The Other Best Movie Musical Moments

Missing the Point: "O Superman" for HTC One