Journalist Allison Hope Weiner is a special correspondent to Deadline and files this exclusive breaking news that executive producer Ryan Murphy stopped work on a Glee post-high school spinoff after three of the show’s stars feigned ignorance over his plans to have them leave the original series at the end of Season 4 and star in the series. We’ll be posting Weiner’s full interview with Murphy shortly:
Glee Executive Producer Ryan Murphy told me in an exclusive Deadline interview that up until a few weeks ago he was working on a planned scripted hourlong spin-off to Glee. But after several of the show’s stars claimed surprise at Murphy’s announcement that this year would be their last on the first series, he opted to put the new show on hold. Murphy told Deadline that as early as March of this year, he talked to Glee stars Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith about a possible spin-off in which their characters would graduate from high school and go on to college at NYC’s Juilliard which he called. Murphy said he opted to include the actors in the plans for a spin-off because he wanted their input on how they saw their characters changing and because he wanted to know whether they’d be willing to relocate to New York to film the series. Here’s what he says happened:
Allison Hope Weiner: So what is accurate and inaccurate about Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Cory Monteith staying, leaving, what they claim, and what you told them?
Ryan Murphy: I said two things in an interview: I said, yes, they are graduating and they will not be back on the show for Season Four. And when I did that interview, what was happening was we were asked to investigate doing a spin-off and it was a spin-off specifically for three of them, Chris, Cory and Lea. In March, Brad Falchuk and I started talking to all three of those actors about it because you can’t make people do spin-offs. So, we went to them and asked, ‘What do you think about this? Are you interested? If you are interested, what would you want your character to do? Where do you think we should shoot it?’ So, it was a discussion with all three of those actors about it. At the time, all three of them expressed interest. ‘Yeah, that sounds good. It’s good to graduate. It’s good to grow the characters. It’s good to not have to sit in that choir room. It’s good to sort of expand and continue the evolution of these people.’ They were involved in the process for 3 to 4 months to the point where we were even talking about cities and relocations and we called Juilliard and what would that mean and how would we do it. So, for any of those actors to say, ‘I found out that I was fired off the show from Twitter,’ is absolutely 100% not true. None of them were fired. It was never about that. We were going to do a spin-off where the three of them were going to go on. They all knew what was happening, they all had approved it, they all said they wanted to do it. Some of them had different caveats. Some of them, to be honest, were not thrilled about moving to a different city. Some had families here and some had families elsewhere. I feel sensitive about that. So then what happened was it blew up and a lot of articles were written about it. Some people were writing they’re not on the show so that means they must be fired. Well, no. That was 100% incorrect.
Weiner: How did it get so wrong?
Murphy: I think that some of those actors’ representatives spun it in a certain way, to be quite honest, I don’t understand. We weren’t allowed to talk about a spin-off. It was too premature. We didn’t want to do it then. The idea was to do it this fall when Glee gets back on the air. Then, to pick up and read the actors saying, “We found out we were fired from Twitter.” All of us, the studio, the network, were like, ‘OK, that isn’t exactly cool,’ because we involved all three of them in that decision. So then what happened is that we decided, ‘OK, let’s not do it.’ So that’s where we are today. Maybe we’ll talk about it in April or May, but for now let’s just concentrate on making Season 3 the best that we can do. When I say they’re seniors and they’re not coming back to the show, what I did not say is they’re not coming back to the show because there will be another show. What Brad [Falchuk] said this weekend at Comic-Con is now correct: they’re graduating. What we wanted is to get people away from this idea that the actors were fired which is ludicrous. Nobody was fired. They were talked to for months about the show.
Weiner: Do you think the actors were trying to position themselves for pay increases for a possible sequel?
Murphy: No, it wasn’t even to that point. We wanted to get those actors on the same page creatively. If they all agreed creatively, we would then move forward. We don’t have a deal with the network. 20th TV doesn’t have a deal with the network. I think what happened is Chris Colfer did an interview and the timing probably was a little bit unfortunate. I think that he was getting a lot of calls with people saying, ‘You’re fired. You’re fired.’ And all of them knew they weren’t fired, but it was an awful thing to read. And I felt for them. And they couldn’t come out and say, ‘No, we weren’t fired. We’re talking about a spin-off.’ Because we told them not to. And this has blown up. So now we’re not doing the spin-off. It’s not my call. Those actors have a contract for seven years. So just because they’re graduating and so many of them are beloved, if they don’t go to New York, maybe they’ll do something else. We haven’t even thought of that.
Weiner: So is anyone getting things ready for a spin-off?
Murphy: We were. Not now.
Weiner: You’re just putting it on hold in terms of sending them to a place like Juilliard?
Murphy: That was the original place. That was what [last season’s] whole New York Episode was about, the finale. But to be honest, since then because of the press and because of the perception and because Brad and I have had another show picked up, we have simply stopped with everyone’s understanding. You know, I had dinner with Lea last night where we talked about it. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We were going to start talking about it in September and now we’re not. We’re going to talk about it in April. The thing that I really wanted to reiterate was that no one was ever going to be fired. And the actors were very involved in the idea. Cory was discussed. Chris was discussed. We talked to Naya. We talked to the kids. And I think that the media has glommed on to this idea that we were graduating them and firing them and bringing in like Glee Project kids.
Weiner: I don’t think that’s fair about the media. These kids said things.
Murphy: Maybe they did. If they did, I think that I can say on behalf on Brad and myself that if they tried to spin it that they were under the thumb of the evil showrunners who were trying to manipulate them, I say, ‘Well, I’m sorry about that. They know that’s not true.’ But I don’t think that they think that. I don’t think Chris and Corey and Lea think that. I think it was a story that, because the truth couldn’t come out, blossomed into a thing. I’ve learned a lesson from this experience. I’ve learned to really really monitor what I say. Before I didn’t do that. My bad. Stupid. Particularly what has happened with Glee. I just read an article that Glee is one of the most discussed shows on the Internet between the blogs and the recap. Fans are excited. If I don’t keep them excited and involved, that’s my job. Glee is not Super 8 trying to keep something secret. The monster here was the spin-off and now it’s enough.
Weiner: I want to be clear about this: it’s still going forward or it’s not?
Murphy: We were actively talking to actors, we were actively writing, we were actively getting ready to pitch. OK, here’s the three actors, and they want to do it, so here’s the story for them. Now that that has collapsed. We’re not talking about it, we’re not pitching it. We’re not doing anything for the next several months except for this third season. I would prefer and I know Brad would prefer and I think the actors will prefer to roll up our sleeves and do a really good season and if there is a spin-off, talk about it in April. Could we do a spin-off? To be quite honest with you, maybe. Some of the actors that we discussed doing spin-offs do not want to do a spin-off. It’s hard to do a spin-off on a show where an actor says no. And if there’s no spin-off, then we’ll announce that there’s not. But as of now, I can tell you I’m not working on it.