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"GLEE" director in Cancun. Ryan Murphy also talks to PDI about developments in the series, and and directing Julia Roberts in "Eat Pray Love." PHOTO BY RUBEN V. NEPALES

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Only in Hollywood
How Charice was cast in ‘Glee’

By Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:06:00 07/29/2010

Filed Under: Entertainment (general)

LOS ANGELES ? When we interviewed director Ryan Murphy in Cancun, Mexico about ?Eat Pray Love,? his film with Julia Roberts, we grabbed the chance to ask him how he came to cast Charice Pempengco in his hit TV show ?Glee.?

?I knew of Charice because she was on ?Oprah,?? began Ryan, casual in an all-white outfit in a Ritz Carlton meeting room with a stunning view of the Yucatan Peninsula coastline. ?I saw those clips of her singing. One of the producers had heard of her, too, and met with her. I had to meet her, myself. She came in ? she?s so tiny and cute. I thought we were just going to be introduced. I?d heard her album. She said, ?Do you want me to sing for you?? I said, ?Okay.? She opened her laptop... she had a demo?she hit play and she sang. She was in my office for half an hour. When that girl opens her mouth, angels fly out.?

?I was just so taken by Charice,? enthused the director, who created the series about a high school glee club, which won the Golden Globe Best TV Series-Musical or Comedy early this year and earned 19 nominations in the coming Emmy Awards. ?I loved her spirit. I loved the story of her and her mother. She was just so proud telling me that she had bought her mother a house. So it went from just being a meeting to, ?Oh, I have to put that girl in that show somehow.? So we?re writing her a really good role. She?s going to start in the first episode of the new season. I?m really happy. That?s one of those things where somebody walks in and you?re just so touched that you say, ?I have to write something for you.? So that?s how it happened.?

We asked Ryan, who also created the acclaimed FX drama series ?Nip/Tuck? and directed the feature film ?Running with Scissors,? to confirm if Charice?s character is a recurring one that we?ll see in coming seasons. He answered, ?You never know with that show, but Charice?s role is the same size that Jonathan Groff?s character had this year?her character is not in every episode but she will be in a lot of episodes. She is the rival of Lea Michele?s character. That?s what Charice plays. I wanted to do a diva-off thing.?

Casting controversy

On the controversy about stories announcing that the Filipina singing sensation has been cast in the phenomenally popular show before it was made official, Ryan said with a smile, ?I heard about that.?

We talked to Ryan before the uproar over Charice, who is only 18, having Botox injections and an anti-aging procedure in preparation for her appearances on ?Glee.? We were also outraged that the young Filipina singer/actress underwent such treatment despite the fact that Ryan cast her based on her talent.

Asked about a feature film version of ?Glee,? Ryan demurred, saying, ?I don?t know. I always thought that if I was going to do a ?Glee? movie, it would be like the Madonna episode. But it would be an event. We?re going to be on after the Super Bowl this year. We?re going to do a big tribute episode to a big artist and that?s going to be an event. I have a philosophy about television like, if you have an idea, don?t hold it back for six months because you may no longer be on the air by that time. Do it now. Use your weapons that you have now. That?s what makes for really lively, exciting television because there?s a lot of story that you move through, as opposed to little dollops.?

?Glee? tour

Ryan revealed plans for the next ?Glee? concert tour. ?The first tour was so big and unexpectedly popular,? he remarked. ?I had never directed a tour before. I didn?t know what the hell I was doing but it worked. So next year, we?re going to do 45 to 60 dates. This year, we did 12 dates. We?re going to do a really big tour and maybe we?ll film that. Maybe we?ll do that as a movie. But I don?t know what a ?Glee? movie would be. Also, the thing about television is that you need to go away for a while. Let people miss you. If you?re on a tour and in a movie, they may be like, ?Enough, it?s too much.? So I don?t want to kill it.?

?Glee?s? second season, in which Charice debuts, is on Sept. 21. Javier Bardem, who co-stars in ?Eat Pray Love,? and John Stamos are the other stars appearing in the series set in McKinley High School. Also in store are episodes highlighting the songs of Britney Spears, a tribute to the cult camp classic ?The Rocky Horror Picture Show? and another ode to Madonna. There?s a lot of speculation as to who the ?big artist? will be featured in the episode which Ryan mentioned will be shown after the Super Bowl.

High profile

Ryan goes high profile as a writer-director when ?Eat Pray Love,? his adaptation of Elizabeth ?Liz? Gilbert?s best-selling memoir in search of herself across Italy, India and Indonesia, is released in the US in August. Julia portrays Liz with Javier Bardem as Felipe (Liz?s current husband), James Franco (David), Billy Crudup (ex-husband Steven) and Richard Jenkins (Richard).

He explained how ?Glee? and his other projects, including ?Eat?,? reflect what?s going on in his life. ?I read that book as a fan and I gave copies of the book as gifts to a lot of people,? Ryan shared. ?Then I got a call that Julia was also a fan of the book and would I work with her on it. I said yes. All my work, even ?Glee? and ?Nip/Tuck,? is a reflection of what I was feeling at that particular period I was doing each of those projects. Each project reflects what I am trying to work through.?

?When I did ?Glee,? I was so sick of all the darkness of ?Nip/Tuck.? It was really killing me because if you write a show, you have to feel it. I was like, I want to be happy. I want to sing. I want to wear bright colors or something (laughs). So that?s what where ?Glee? came from. I was tired of the nihilism in ?Nip/Tuck.??

?This movie came out because I?m somewhat of a rigid person,? he admitted. ?I do the same thing every day. I got really tired of that. What the movie, even the tag line clearly says is, let yourself go and that everybody has the right to be happy. I?m much happier now that I did the movie. I really learned a lot of lessons and it changed my life.?

?Liz was really amazing to me,? said the Indiana native, who started as a journalist, of the author. ?When I got the job to do it with Julia, I was very intimidated because at that point, the book had just started to be a phenomenon. When I started the adaptation of the book, it was number one in every country. I decided I didn?t want to talk to Liz yet. I wanted to do my version of the book and so I did. I sent the draft to Liz.

Baby project

?She called and she really liked it. I said, ?I feel very uncomfortable, talking to you, asking for your critique.? She said, ?Look, here?s the thing about ?Eat Pray Love.? Did you ever have babies in your life like that project is your baby?? I said, ?Like ?Nip/Tuck? was my baby.? She said, ?Well, ?Eat Pray Love? was never my baby. I feel like it came into me and channeled me. It got sent out into the world and it?s like a giving tree. It changed all these people?s lives so you do whatever you want and I will never be offended. Make it your own ? change it.?

?Liz had that kind of loving relationship with the book,? Ryan continued. ?I sent her every draft and she gave me notes. I would do them. I?d call her up at 3 a.m. I?m like, ?I?m shooting this scene tomorrow. What did the real life Felipe do?? She was very involved, like Julia.?

Of his muses, Julia and Liz, he gushed, ?The thing I like about Julia is that when she smiles, it?s like the clouds part and suddenly you?re in the midst of sunshine. Liz is like that, too. They?re almost the same in height. Liz visited us in Rome. I was surrounded by these tall goddesses. They both have the great optimism and the same body type, smile and energy.?

Ryan recalled, ?We showed the film to Liz and her husband, Jose, who is named Felipe in the movie, and is played by Javier. She called me in tears and said she was appreciative. She felt that I took such great care with her life. She loved the movie and Julia.? Laughing, he said, ?She said how thrilled she and her husband were to be played by Julia and Javier.?

Email the columnist at rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com.

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