Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Ryan Murphy Interview (Very long and detailed)

Before creating the cultural phenomenon called Glee, 45-year-old, Indianapolis-born, Irish Catholic Ryan Murphy was probably best known as the writer/producer of the plastic surgery show Nip/Tuck. When Fox approached him to create a musical series that could air after their American Idol franchise, no one gave his hybrid creation a chance, especially given the high-profile flops of such previous efforts as Cop Rock and Pushing Daisies. But Glee proved to be the exception to the rule, launching a cottage industry that has racked up some amazing stats: 19.5 million singles and 7.7 million albums sold worldwide, 93 Hot 100 chart entries (second all-time to Elvis), with all eight album releases debuting in the Top 10, topped off by a pair of Grammy nominations. The show has been a boon to a beleaguered biz, and its creator a one-man advocate for such unlikely causes as arts education, gay bullying and rights of the handicapped, while cooking up a full-blown Broadway musical every week, and one of the most consistently entertaining shows on network TV. Of course, after choosing to speak to HITS’ own chorus-line hoofer Roy Trakin, it was more like getting a slushee in the face while roaming the halls of McKinley High.

I’ve been insisting Glee is the most influential musical show ever on network television in terms of record sales, surpassing American Idol and maybe even going back to The Monkees.I believe so, and I’m proud of that fact.

I know the pair of Grammy nominations, including one for “Don’t Stop Believin’” mean a lot to you, too.That was our first song performed by the cast, from the pilot, and the reason why this show caught on. After the premiere aired in May, it sold all summer long, then we came back on in September. It’s the first time that song has received a nomination. To be able to do that for the Journey guys and Steve Perry, has been amazing. It’s exciting for us to honor them in that way.

Which comes first, the songs or the narrative?The plots always come first. Every episode has a theme, even if the viewer doesn’t realize it. It really is like a Broadway musical, where the songs move the characters and the storyline forward. That being said, after we come up with the story, I go away and work on what songs we’re going to use. I’m working on an episode right now where I’ve changed the songs four times…to the irritation of my music people. I want to get the right tone and express what the character is going through within the story. It’s a very strange process because we use both old and new music, though this year we’ve been doing more current hits. Kids like to see the songs they know and love interpreted instantly.

The beauty of Glee is the way it tries to unify this fragmented pop music world into the ‘60s golden era of Top 40 as a melting pot of the best of the genres.It’s just such a mysterious process by which the show has taken off. I don’t really understand how we do it, and I don’t understand its success. But it’s a very gratifying thing. It’s very enjoyable.

TV musicals like Cop Rock and Pushing Daisies have proven to be unsuccessful in the past. Why has Glee succeeded?This is a show that appeals to all different demographics. What makes the show work is, it has a huge amount of heart, and a core of optimism at its center. By the end of the hour, it touches you and makes you feel good. If you look at the tradition of musicals, they usually flourished in dark economic times, like the Depression, where they provided a panacea.

Was Glee always intended by Fox as a companion to American Idol?When I first pitched it, I knew they’d been looking for something for years to go behind American Idol that had a musical theme. I had lunch with Simon Cowell not too long ago, and he told me he worked on something also. It premiered after the American Idol finale. The thing that shocked everybody is how it has won the night this fall when it aired alone.

In a world of cookie-cutter TV shows and production by committee, you are the auteur of Glee. It seems very personal.It’s written by the three of us, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk and myself. I think it’s personal to all of us. I would never claim to be the only voice. But the themes of the show are personal to me. I was never really an outcast in high school; I was more popular than that. But I do believe in the spirit and power of the underdog, and perseverance. That is a real belief I’ve lived my life by, and in that sense, there’s a lot of me in there.

The albums are hitting the chart one after the other. Are you concerned about overexposure?I don’t think so. I think we’re going to stick to longer albums rather than the shorter EPs in the future. I know we have an album coming out in January tied to our Super Bowl episode, featuring our mash-ups, which we’ve never really released before. The thing about this show is, it won’t go on forever. I certainly won’t be doing it that much longer.

How long can Glee continue?
I do think at some point those kids have to graduate and move on. The show could run forever. There’s always a new crop of kids who can come in and populate that Glee club. At that point, somebody else will be making those decisions. This year, we brought in a couple of new people, including Darren Criss, who is an instant star. And I think that shows its power. The show will last as long as there’s talent, and I think there’s an abundance of it out there.

Have you thought about starting your own label to develop some of the talent you’ve introduced on the show?
Rob Stringer, my good friend and buddy at Sony Music, has talked to me about forming a label, which I think I will do. I would be excited about that. It’s an area of interest for me. I’m a fan of music, and I feel very lucky to have a show like this, where I can showcase talent I see on audition reels and say, “I believe in you,” and then you get to watch that person’s career take off and their dreams come true.

Glee has offered a ray of hope to a beleaguered music business. How important is developing new talent and selling albums for you?To me, that’s the best part of the job. For example, I’ve always been a huge fan of Florence + the Machine, and I love “Dog Days Are Over.” After we did the song, her album vaulted into the Top 5 at iTunes for the first time. There’s a term for it… It’s called the “Glee Effect,” when a song we do re-enters or climbs the chart. My relatives in Indiana or grandmothers who watch the show aren’t familiar with these songs, and this is the first time they’re hearing them. And maybe it interests them enough to buy the original. That’s why the labels and producers are increasingly coming to me pitching their artists and songs. It plays into the show’s themes, what it’s about—underdogs and discovering talent.

Are you open to those kinds of pitches?My music supervisor, P.J. Bloom, comes to me with music, and I listen to it. That’s usually how I do it.

The show’s 8 p.m. time period tends to guarantee a young audience. How do you feel about the criticism of the show’s sexual content and double entendres?
When we premiered, we were at 9 p.m. and designed for an adult audience, but kids still found it. The show was never designed for kids; it was supposed to be like Election. One of the caveats when the network asked us to go to 8 was that the content wouldn’t change. I began hearing from parents, and I started listening to them, which led me to change the material after the first five episodes, which were a little bit more risqué. I am conscious that there are younger eyes on the screen. We’ve removed a lot of that in-your-face, double-entendre stuff, and I don’t think the show has suffered at all. Parents, it’s now safe to watch with your kid. I do want young people to watch, because the lessons are so great.

Did you mind when Rolling Stone, as a compliment, called Glee the gayest show on TV?I think it’s a very glib, lazy thing to say. I really don’t care what they say, but I don’t think that’s true. Out of 13 regulars on our show, only one is a gay character. But I understand people’s needs to label.

What I like is the way you pitch the show between camp and serious emotion.That’s what good musicals do. They make you feel something.

The show is successful all over the world.It may well be bigger internationally than it is in the States. We’re doing a total of eight shows in London and Ireland to show our fans there we care about them. All of them sold out within two minutes.

Glee: The Movie seems a natural, no?I would never do it as a story; I might do it as a live concert thing.

How do you manage to produce an entire Broadway musical for 22 weeks?
I think it’s the hardest show to produce on television, because musicals take a lot of planning. We have a fantastic crew who work between 18-20 hours a day, and at this point of the season, are really looking forward to a vacation. We have great support from our network and studio. For everyone who works on it, including me, it really is a labor of love, and everyone realizes it won’t be like this forever. Sometimes, you just want to pull your hair out. That there’s been such an overwhelming response to it around the world… Whoever thought this show that everybody said would not work, would go on to win all these awards, and to get two Grammy nominations? That’s amazing to me.

Did you foresee the show being this successful?I felt that it was risky. I directed the pilot and I thought it was really, really strong. I believed in it, and so did the cast and crew. I never thought we’d get a full season order, let alone this. So I’m pleasantly shocked by it all. Every day.

Who do you think has the best chance for individual stardom among the cast members?
That’s not really my job. They’re just on my show. They all have album deals with Sony and Columbia. They all have an option of doing a solo album, if they want. I won’t be involved in the production of those records. The past year has been a whirlwind for all of us, and we’re all just beginning to figure out what we want the next two years of our lives to be like.

Does the music on Glee represent your personal tastes?I wouldn’t say they’re all my favorite songs. They work for the story. But I will say I won’t put anything on the show I don’t like. That I don’t hear or love or want to interpret or I think is good for the character.

Chris Colfer’s character is a rare thing on network TV. Do you think he could be a mainstream pop star?What Chris really wants to do is write and direct. I think he can do whatever he wants. He’s so young, and he has such poise. I wish a character like that was on TV when I was a teenager. He walked into the casting room with no real experience, opened his mouth to sing, and we decided to rewrite a character and put him in the cast because his talent was so special and original.

Any message you’d like to address to the music industry?
I have such gratitude for all the artists and all the labels. So many wonderful people have given us music, from
Beyonce to the Rolling Stones to Paul McCartney to Rihanna to Barbra Streisand. Because they understand, at its core, the show is about arts education. It really says the arts matter, and since Glee has been on the air, there has been a resurgence in this around the country. We see it with actual donations and Glee clubs starting. And I’m just thrilled because the show supports the arts, and that’s good for everybody.

One last thing. Did you ever think of turning Nip/Tuck into a musical?No.

Source: hitsdailydouble