McKinley High's resident bully Dave Karofsky says in real life, he's "all for dancing and singing."
"I'd jump on 'Thriller' in a heartbeat," Max Adler, who plays Karofsky, told TVGuide.com Monday morning, right after Glee 's post-Super Bowl episode drew a staggering 26.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched episode of a scripted series in three years. It so happens that Adler was a First Chair All-State show choir member in high school.
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To portray the closeted jock, Adler researched what gay celebrities who came out publicly -- like Ricky Martin, Portia de Rossi and rugby player Gareth Thomas -- went through in order to identify with Karofsky's inner battle. "I dove into that world. Before the role I didn't really pay too much attention to how hard it must be," he says. "I never talked to people about it, just living with this thing, their secret and how they're ashamed. But there's no reason to be because it's just who they are. It started a whole new life for me, being aware about what's going on out there. Hopefully this story will make a difference and change people's attitudes."
But for now, being Karofsky is "playing the villain and the bad guy," Adler says of his challenge. "I'm the kink in the armor." In Sunday's episode Karofsky was able to put aside his tormenting of the glee club long enough to help the football team win the championship.
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Karofsky initially resists the urge to join the halftime show — a mash-up of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Heads Will Roll" -- fearing for his macho reputation, but enthusiastically joins the performance once he observes the crowd's positive reaction.
"I feel like that it did make him happy and, obviously, he has some natural abilities that Mr. Schuester was able to spot," Adler says. "I don't think he's ever allowed himself to do that ever in his life, to dance or learn a song, especially to do that in public. ...Doing that was such an obstacle to overcome."
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But Karofsky didn't convert completely. At the end of the episode, he refused Finn's (Cory Monteith) offer to join New Directions. "He's got to retreat back to that and play it safe for a little bit longer, as long as he can."
Karofsky will be put on the back burner for the next few episodes, but Adler is excited to see what's next based on buzz about Glee obtaining the rights to Lady Gaga's upcoming single "Born This Way," an anthem about self-acceptance. Creator Ryan Murphy has hinted that the song will be performed in an upcoming episode leading up to a happy ending for Karofsky sometime in March or April -- but Adler has yet to see the script.
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"It's almost like an angry-sounding song but the lyrics are amazing," Adler says. "It has such powerful lyrics, almost John Lennon-style about peace and unity. It'd be amazing to do that. I would also like for Karofsky to eventually come out. I think that would be an awesome story."
Then again... "Ryan did say that he could do something dark -- either booze or pills or suicide contemplation -- but he wants a happy ending. Whoever is relating to Karofsky's story out there, I think it would be a horrible ending for him to do something dark. It would just be shattering. So I do agree that for the message of the show and for the kind of show Glee is, it will go that [happier] route."
Murphy hasn't confirmed that Adler will be the one singing "Born This Way," which will be released on Friday, Feb. 11, but he plans to be ready should the story call for it.
"I'll definitely listen to it and know it just in case," he says. "I'll be prepared."
Fans hoping for a "Kurtofsky" pairing or any sort of romantic activities for Karofsky will have to be patient. He won't be jumping into the dating scene immediately.
"He's not quite ready to be all romantic quite yet," says Adler. "Karofsky has to drop the bravado and just be who he is before he can start looking for any kind of love. I guess on Valentine's Day he will be hiding in his room crying. I don't know what he's up to. Obviously, he won't be out doing any dinners and movies."
What do you hope happens with Karofsy?