If you hear the term “Final Four” being thrown around this week by your Gleek friends, know this: They are not talking about basketball. (In fact, if you’re reading this, chances are you don’t even know why I’d bring up basketball at all. It’s okay. Maybe I’ll toss you a “Wicked” reference later and you’ll be totally in-the-know.)
The Final Four who are currently flexing their jazz hands in the reality TV spotlight are Alex Newell, Damian McGinty, Lindsay Pearce and Samuel Larsen of “The Glee Project.” Next Sunday night, one of them will be declared the winner of the competition’s inaugural season. They gathered together for a conference call Monday to chat about their experiences on the show.
The penultimate episode was expected to end with one more elimination before the season finale, leaving only three contenders standing. Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s decision to keep everyone had the Final Four reeling.
“To get that extra chance felt a-ma-zing,” sang Samuel, who felt certain he was almost “on the chopping block” because he was listed last on the callback list.
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At that late stage in the competition, Lindsay, like Samuel, had only just adjusted to being in the last chance rounds, and the two were quite concerned that they wouldn’t have enough time left to prove themselves to Murphy.
“I think if Sam and I had been in the Bottom Three earlier, we might have kind of known that it’s okay to be vulnerable, you know, that that’s what Ryan wants to see,” said Lindsay. She added that breakdowns and picking yourself up by the bootstraps (AKA underdog behavior) are what “Glee” is about.
Samuel admitted that hearing he came across as anything but vulnerable and authentic during his last-chance performances was his hardest moment in the competition. “Finding out that what I had thought was a good quality in me, which was, like, to fight through and not show weakness, was actually the complete opposite [of what] Ryan wanted,” said Samuel, was unnerving, so close to the end. He’d spent eight weeks pushing in the wrong direction, and Murphy knew nothing else of him to go on. “He had a relationship with everyone else that had been in the Bottom Three a few times; he didn’t have that with me.”
Being on Murphy’s radar may have seemed like a good thing to Samuel, but Damian hardly felt that way. “The hardest moment for me was definitely when Cameron quit and kind of saved my behind,” he said. “It was good because I was saved, but… I lost… one of my best friends on the show.” And Murphy? “It was going through my head, you know, ‘Ryan obviously doesn’t like me that much. He was willing to send me home.’”
Damian got to stick around, though, which luckily led to one of his favorite moments, shooting the video for My Chemical Romance’s “Sing.” In fact, all of the Final Four cited video shoots as highlights of their time with “The Glee Project,” with Lindsay also enjoying “Sing” and Samuel picking “Don’t You Want Me” with Marissa.
“Mine probably would have to have been working with Hannah and doing ‘Nowadays’ in drag,” chimed in Alex, who wasn’t even out to most of his family as gay before he left for the competition. But it sounds like they’re embracing the news. “My family loves it. They eat it up; they think it’s hilarious,” he said. “They love seeing me in a dress, for some strange reason. They get a kick out of it.”
It’s a good thing Alex has family support, because fame hasn’t been universally kind to him. “It’s hard because little things that I’ve said or have done have been blown completely out of proportion,” he said. “And I’m hated by, like, a lot of people. And I get ‘I hate you,’ and I get slurs.”
Alex and Lindsay feel that the editing of the show may have led to some of their comments and behavior being taken out of context. Like, to the point that fans are complaining they both need personality dialysis*. But they have accepted this practice as part of the reality TV business and are able to joke about it.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh no!’ and then I got over it,” said Lindsay. As for fan feedback, she said, “There’s always more love than there is hate.”
Samuel pointed out that besides editing, fans should consider the stress the contenders were under throughout the season. “Anything we say and we do that gets on camera a lot of the time might not be 100 percent true [to who] we are in real life,” he said.
The phrase “hard work” was uttered more than once by the contenders, who also emphasized how little down time they had. Damian pointed out that the videos were challenging – especially the vulnerability one – but at least they were also fun, whereas the last-chance performances were just grueling. Everyone agreed, with Alex summing it up: “I mean, one is making a piece of art, and the other one is saving your ass.”
All of the Final Four hope to be making more art in the future, but like us, they’ll have to wait until after the finale to find out where or when that might take place. They’re barred from receiving any job offers until “The Glee Project” has officially ended. But it’s safe to say that, win or lose, the journey has been a success for all of them, and right about now they’re having a ball dancing through life.**
*”Wicked” reference, as promised.
**That makes two. You’re welcome.