‘Glee’ Stars On If They Ever Thought About Quitting (Exclusive) – Hollywood Life

‘Glee’s Kevin McHale & Jenna Ushkowitz Reveal If They Thought About Quitting In Exhausting Early Seasons (Exclusive)

'Glee' alums Kevin McHale and Jenna Ushkowitz open up about their podcast, the stress of the early seasons, and the new docuseries.

Reading Time: 6 minutes
View gallery
Image Credit: FOX/Everett Collection

The Gleeks out there are rejoicing now that Kevin McHale and Jenna Ushkowitz have brought back their podcast. They’re starting over from the beginning with their And That’s What You REALLY Missed podcast and opening up about everything. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Kevin and Jenna about whether or not they ever thought about quitting the show when they were doing everything from filming the show to going on tour to constant press.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever asked me that,” Jenna said. “I think in those early days if you had asked me that, I think from season 3, 2, 1, pilot time, there was never a thought in my mind that I would quit. It just wasn’t an option. I loved the show too much. I think after we started to see cast members go from series regular to recur or leave or whatever it was, and after, obviously, Cory [Monteith] passing, I think it was a different story. I think there are definitely times when I think we all felt like that. There were definitely times where I said, ‘It’s time for me to move on.’ But looking back in hindsight, I don’t know that I would do anything different. But the perspective and time make you really appreciate things.”

The ‘Glee’ cast in the pilot episode. (FOX/Everett Collection)

Kevin added, “I don’t think I ever felt that way. I think it was just things got weird toward the end, for lack of a better word. I think we had all come from a place of we all worked a little bit, but we were sort of like workhorses. We loved what we did, regardless of what background we came from, whether it was theater or TV or music, we all were really obsessed with what we were doing. We were obsessed with each other, and we knew what we were doing was unique and like rarefied air and special. Especially as the show grew in success and, beyond just the numbers of it, just how much it actually meant to people, I think it really made us really grateful day and day out to just be there.”

He continued, “I can’t speak for everyone. I think there were some people who wanted to get out sooner, which I understand because, as you heard, we didn’t have even a hiatus to do really other projects where on a normal show you do get that time to do things. That did become an issue for some of us because we were getting offers to do things left and right. At some point, you’re like, I had to turn down every other opportunity I’m getting. But at the same time it’s like, well, we’re only getting these opportunities because we’re on this thing. I think you have to give the respect to whoever’s given it to you.”

Even though they were “exhausted” balancing so many things as Glee exploded in popularity, Jenna said the cast tried to “soak” all of these experiences in. “Thank God we had the energy to do it because I don’t know how we would do it now. Even on the weekends, we were doing photoshoots. That’s the only time they could get press in or get us to do a photo shoot because we were working so much. I think at the time it was all new and exciting. Everything was like checking things off bucket lists, like being in the Vogue September issue and being on the cover of Rolling Stone and just all these amazing things that, even in the madness of it all and how hard we were working and how exhausted we were, we were still really grateful.”

Kevin noted that the cast “kept each other propped up in those times where everybody’s tired, the crew is tired. And that’s the other thing too. It’s like, the crew was there before you, and they leave after you. I think being reminded of that perspective of, at the end of the day, it’s long hours and it’s hard, but we’re getting to sing, we’re getting to dance, make people laugh and cry, and that’s a privilege.”

This isn’t their first rodeo with a Glee podcast. Their Showmance podcast was put on hiatus after Naya Rivera’s tragic death in 2020. When it came to returning to the podcast platform, Kevin admitted that it wasn’t an immediate decision. “It was sort of iHeart speaking up and then us being like, ‘What does this look like if we do it again? Do we want to? Is it going to be too hard, honestly, to watch the show again?'” he said.

The actor said the iHeartRadio team made him and Jenna feel “really safe and protected.” He added, “I feel like that made us excited to do this again, do it in a different, more thoughtful way I think, and really service the fans I think in a way that they deserve to get an unfiltered view of our perspective of our experience.”

The cultural climate of 2022 is very different than it was in 2009. However, Jenna and Kevin aren’t daunted by addressing things about Glee that don’t work in today’s world.

“It’s actually a sign of the times and the progression we’ve made. I think it’s actually a good thing if there are clear things that don’t work anymore and to be able to point them out and talk about that,” Jenna told HollywoodLife. “Even on another hit show like Friends, things don’t age well. It’s just things don’t work. I actually think it’s a really good thing. I think we’re going to definitely lean into stuff like that because there’s no reason to shy away from it. It’s the only way you make progress.”

Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale with the cast of ‘Glee.’ (FOX/Everett Collection)

Kevin agreed with Jenna about constructively criticizing the show. “We love the show and respect the show. It’s okay if things aren’t as great as they used to be. It’s fine,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be able to call out and be truthful about something that happened. It’s a snapshot of the era and where we were.”

The co-stars revisited the pilot episode with creator Ryan Murphy in the first episode of their new podcast. HollywoodLife asked the duo if anything in the pilot got altered before it went to air.

“I do believe, and I think I can say this, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ was supposed to be a different song,” Jenna said. “It didn’t clear or something, so it switched very quickly to ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane,’ which Matt [Morrison] sang. I can’t imagine it being anything else at this point. Obviously, Ryan talked about that musical number of Mr. Schu and when he was in high school doing that number, which was a bit polarizing, and they took it out. We also shot a musical number. We did one from A Chorus Line and that was in it as well. And then reshooting the ‘being a part of something special makes you special’ scene as well when Lea [Michele] is not in that yellow costume anymore because it just wasn’t reading right. That scene hits so hard and it’s so iconic, so I’m really glad that Ryan had the wherewithal to see that.”

Discovery+ will be releasing a Glee docuseries that will dive into the highs and lows of the hit series. When asked if they’ll address the docuseries when it comes out, Kevin said, “We’re not a part of it.” Jenna followed with, “I don’t know who is a part of it… There’s nobody we know that’s a part of it at least. That says a lot, I think, already. I don’t know. I mean, we’ll just have to see when it comes out, to be honest. Like what kind of rises to the top because, as I’ve said before, you just have to look at your sources. You have to look at who’s making things and whose experiences you’re looking at.”