Melissa Benoist, Alex Newell, Jenna Ushkowitz
Most of the hype for the new season of Glee has been focused on the show's new setting — New York! — and new students. So when the Fox musical welcomed back a familiar face, namely one of the New Directions' former competitors — to join the glee club in Season 4, fans were shocked. But not as shocked as the actor himself, Glee Project Season 1 finalist Alex Newell.
"I was packing my bags to do a show in a different state," Newell, who plays Wade "Unique" Adams, tells TVGuide.com. "My agent called and said, 'Sweetie, you won't be doing that show.' I was like, 'Oh, OK.' She's like, 'Because you're going to be on Glee.'"
Insert Newell's vibrant scream here.
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"I started crying, foaming at the mouth, fainting. My mom walked in the house and she said, 'Did someone die?'"
It's safe to say Newell's world was thrown upside down. After winning a two-episode appearance on Season 1 of The Glee Project, Newell made his debut last year as Vocal Adrenaline's cross-dressing vocal powerhouse. But after Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Mercedes (Amber Riley) reached out and encouraged Unique to be his — or should we say her — true self, Unique officially left Vocal Adrenaline for more accepting pastures and transferred to McKinley High in the first episode this season.
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"I remember someone saying, 'Don't make any plans' before I left last season," says Newell, who was originally all set to attend the University of California, Berkeley in the fall before getting the call from Glee. It may have been slightly out of left field, but he understands why the character was brought back. "It's such an extremely different character that no one's ever seen and it's something that actual people go through," Newell says. "I think they want to explore it more, to show that this is what's happening in the world today. That's one of the amazing things that happen on this show — they always play up the things that need to be seen."
Like the other New Direction-ers, look for Unique to turn to Mr. Schue (Matthew Morrison) for advice, but the journey from former enemies to new allies will have its bumps. "It's different because Unique confides in him, but at the same time, it's that limbo where I don't know you that well, but you helped me get into this group," Newell says of the dynamic.
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Behind the scenes, Newell has been leaning on his former Glee Project opponent Samuel Larsen, who also reprises his role this year. "Literally, he is my brother," he explains. "Samuel's someone that I can confide in and someone that I can talk to." In fact, he even keeps in touch with most of his Glee Project castmates, including "the ones you wouldn't think I talk to."
So far this season, Newell has also sought out support from Glee's new blood. "They're giving me the advice because they're all so super talented," Newell says. "I go to them for comfort."
However, Newell is more than ready to pass on his own words of wisdom as a possible guest mentor on The Glee Project if it returns for another season. "I would want to mentor in heel-ability where everyone has to wear heels," he says with a laugh.
Glee airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox. Are you glad Unique is back?
Watch a clip from the episode: