There are many reasons the Internet exploded when it was announced in June that Buffy the Vampire Slayer executive producer and fanboy favorite Marti Noxon had joined the writing staff of Glee: She has plenty of cult cred, thanks to her days working alongside Joss Whedon, but her resume is also littered with top dramas including Mad Men, Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy and Brothers & Sisters.
"Geeks and musical nerds are all the same people," she says. "There were only so many places to hide in high school: One was the A/V club and the other was the drama club. In Glee, the two meet so beautifully."
We caught up with Noxon during Comic-Con, where she was promoting the upcoming remake of Fright Night, to talk about what she'll be doing on Glee — and how the Fox musical might allow her to deal with some unfinished Willow-Tara business:
How did you come to join the writing staff of Glee?
Marti Noxon: I had worked for Fox a lot back in the day, and actually [20th Century Fox Chairman] Dana Walden, who I like to call co-president of awesomeness, it was her idea. She suggested it to Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan and they were really great about it.
Did she tell you they needed more people?
Noxon: I think what she felt was that Ryan and Brad have a new show going on FX, American Horror Story, and it's pretty well-known that they, together with Ian, write everything. That's a lot. It's not like other shows. I worked on Mad Men and [creator-executive producer] Matthew Weiner puts his mark on every single script and rewrites them all, but they're only doing 13 episodes. On Glee, they're doing 24 or something! It's crazy. They realized they could use some help.
I'm on as a consultant, which means I'm part-time, but they also hired a great writing staff, people I'm really excited about and am currently getting to know.
How much of the show have you seen? Were you a fan?
Noxon: Absolutely. I was more of a first-season person, only because I didn't get a chance to watch Season 2; I got super-busy. But I know that Season 1 I really dug. Some of the story lines were so out there, but I totally love that! I was just like, "This is just off the hook! It's bananas." We're having a lot of fun thinking about next season.
The thing I did get to see recently was Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. It's so good. It's really charming and inspiring and they make some really smart choices, I can't wait for people to see it. And I can take my daughter to see it. She's 6-and-a-half, so I can't always let her watch the show! "Mommy, why is everybody kissing everybody?" Although she does have lesbian grandmas so she's ready for Glee.
How will it work with you being a consulting producer?
Noxon: Usually what it breaks down to is you spend more of your time helping shape story rather than writing scripts. One of the good things about consulting is that you leave the writers' room for a couple of days, things progress, you come back and you might have a fresher take. The thing that can happen in a TV room is you can get "teamthink," you can all go down a crazy path together. Sometimes I say working on a story in a writers' room is like saying the same word over and over and over again until it doesn't make sense anymore. Like, you say it until you don't know what you're saying.
Are there any characters you're excited to help write stories for?
Noxon: It's weird; everyone's a Brittany (Heather Morris) fan. The number Heather has in the Glee movie is just stupefying. She manages to be both incredibly wholesome and one of the sexiest people you've ever seen, which is an amazing thing to pull off. I would love to write some Brittany stuff. I wouldn't mind getting into the whole Santana-Brittany thing, especially because of Willow and Tara on Buffy.
Noxon: It stems from one of the things we had talked about doing with them on Buffy that we never did. It's so politically incorrect to make a character gay and then make them "un-gay" again. Like once you become gay, you've crossed over, or, you're not allowed to be a person who doesn't want to be defined by a label like that. You're not allowed to be a person who says, "I just love that person right now, and maybe I'll love something else at some point, so I don't really want to say if I'm gay or bi or straight or anything else. I just love this person." I feel like that's where Brittany is. Without overthinking it, she's very evolved.
Have you talked to any of the executive producers about exploring that further?
Noxon: Yeah, it's a big area of discussion right now. "What is Brittany? What's Santana (Naya Rivera)?" But I also think they did a lot of stuff last season about Kurt (Chris Colfer), and there's a lot that's been said on the topic of coming out, so I think theirs may be a slow-burn story.
What's the creative priority heading into Season 3?
Noxon: I feel like if there's a mandate it's just about keeping it fun and keeping the characters true to themselves. Nothing revolutionary. Doing what Glee does best and doing it through the whole season.
Some critics complained that the second season was erratic, and that sometimes one episode felt different from the next.
Noxon: I don't mind that. I feel like that's my feeling to a degree about True Blood sometimes. But it's one of the reasons I love that show, because you go, "I did not see that coming. And I never would have!" Sometimes it can feel a little disorienting as a viewer, but I just love the element of surprise and that's what I loved about Glee's last season. "Yeah! Here's an entire episode where they're huffing at the dentist's!" It's also just always incredibly clever.
The mission going forward is like that for any show: You're carrying on what worked from the season before, and looking to the first season to see what people liked about that... But you can't get too reactive.
Buffy started as a high school show, but the characters graduated on to college and it went on for seven seasons. What's your take on the idea of characters graduating on Glee?
Noxon: I think it's kind of inspired, actually. I do. It is risky, believe me, I understand that it's risky. On Buffy we had a hard time at certain point, I mean, we stopped voluntarily at Season 7. It was not something the network was clamoring for, but we got tapped out. And I think Glee is a franchise that could go on for a really long time. There's a lot of talented, wonderful actors out there. I think it's a risky move but I think it's awesome.
And they have brought in new kids successfully, including Chord Overstreet [who won't return] and Darren Criss...
Noxon: I loooove Darren. I'm a huge fan. He's magic. He's made of unicorn dust; he really is. I just get so happy whenever he is on the show. In the Glee movie, as much as I was enjoying it, I was like, "Where is he already? Bring the happy back!" Obviously, I'd love to write some stuff for him. So yes, they're all incredible, but as a show choice, graduating characters is a really interesting, really bold choice that could really work. I think Ryan is on to something.
The third season of Glee premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 8/7c on Fox.