On any given episode, the cast of Glee goes through intense choreography lessons and lengthy recording studio sessions on top of the many hours spent on set filming. But star Chris Colfer had to go to even further lengths, and greater pains, for Tuesday's new episode of the Fox musical (8/7c, Fox) in particular.
"I should have taken pictures of the welts that the wires caused," Colfer tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I definitely suffered for this art."
The Golden Globe winner went the extra mile in more ways than one. In addition to the injuries he sustained while in harnesses for his character's latest role playing Peter Pan, Tuesday's episode also marks Colfer's writing debut for the series.
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In the years since Glee's premiere, Colfer has written a film, Struck By Lightning — in which he also starred — and two New York Times best-selling children's novels. (The third in the series hits stores July 8.) But despite his extensive writing experience, Colfer admits he was very hesitant to take the "steering wheel of the bus that is Glee," as he puts it. "Glee is not my world. These aren't my characters. I would never want to tamper or damage them," Colfer says. "I certainly have been in Kurt's head for a long time so I definitely knew how to voice him. ... I was just terrified to write for my co-stars because I would never want to write something that they didn't agree with or they didn't like."
One character in particular gave him pause. "Rachel's been such a main focus of the show for a very long time and I didn't want to give her anything that would come across as repetitive or that would make the character unlikeable or overly compassionate," he says.
However, the writers were able to convince Colfer to take the leap. "I went into it really terrified, not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if I would have guidelines and what they would be or if I would get to tell a story that I wanted to tell," he says. "I think I was very, very spoiled when it comes to this because they were really so open-minded and they really let me tell a story that I wanted."
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Although Colfer was unable to fulfill his dream of sinking a ship on stage — "that was going to be very expensive," he explains — the actor did get the thumbs up for Kurt's story line, in which he joins an assisted living home production about the boy from Neverland. "I've always wanted to do something like Peter Pan that involved harnesses and cool special effects," he says.
Starring in the (fictional) production not only symbolizes a dream realized for Colfer, but an important achievement for his character as well. "Kurt himself was feeling very much cast aside by his friends in this particular episode," he says. "It is a very, very unlikely place that he finds himself in, but he really finds the validation that he's been looking for since he arrived in New York."
Despite his initial fears, Colfer received the same validation from his co-stars about his first Glee script behind the scenes. "My phone was blowing up," he recalls. "They were very supportive, and I think they all really enjoyed the story. ... I hope so. At least that's what they said."
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In contrast to his writing anxieties, Colfer was at ease when it came time to actually shoot the Peter Pan sequences. "The costume was very comfortable. I am very, very excited that they didn't go with the typical tights and spandex that he usually wears, and the harness was actually more comfortable than I thought," he says. "I did have major, huge flesh wounds from hitting the wires constantly on my shoulders but other than that, it was pretty seamless."
It's not only the costume that deviates from the traditional Peter Pan get-up. "When they're doing Peter Pan, they do a modern twist to it. They sing 'Lucky Star' when he's talking about Neverland," says Colfer, who also picked out many of Kurt's songs for the episode. "Even though everyone knows I'm a very selfish writer and I wrote a lot of things that I wanted to do, I really picked songs that fit the story line the best. He sings 'Memory' from Cats, and I think it's very, very fitting because he's in a retirement home and that song, it's so beautiful and it's all about a life that someone used to live."
The episode may be wrapped and ready to air, but Colfer's nerves haven't completely subsided quite yet. "I think I will be tweeting up a storm leading up to it but once it airs, I might take a step back because I'm terrified to be honest. I just hope people like it and I hope its good and I hope that the message that I intended comes across," he says. "I just don't want to let anyone down. There's a lot riding on it."
Public approval from the always vocal Gleeks, Colfer says, is also a determining factor in whether he'll write another episode for Glee next season — the show's last. "Then maybe I will get asked to come back, and then I'll have to think of another story I want to tell," he says. "There's no such thing as a day off on Glee because you're either in the recording studio or in dance rehearsals. So it doesn't quite seem like the end is as close to us as it does to the rest of the world because we still have a full season to do. So I think once Season 6 is over with, I think that's when I'll be a little sad."
Watch a clip from the episode:
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Fox.