So far this season, the hard exterior of Glee newbie Jake Puckerman (Jacob Artist) has thawed to reveal a sweet and surprisingly tender center. But the younger Puckerman will reveal even more when the boys of New Directions strip for a racy school calendar in Thursday's episode (9/8c on Fox), appropriately titled "Naked."
Artist, 20, is the first to admit he was nervous to show some skin on the Fox musical, but says his cast mates helped calm him down. "I think that we help each other out so much on those days where we have to be shirtless," he says. "Someone will be like, 'OK! Drop! [Do] 25 push-ups everybody!' and then everybody will get down and start doing it. Those were some funny days on set for sure."
Artist is just grateful producers waited a few episodes before asking him to strip down. "Had that been my first scene when I started this show I probably would have been hyperventilating and panicking," he says, "but I mean [the cast is] all so great and it's such a great environment that it makes that kind of stuff so much easier and fun."
It also helped that Artist, and the most of the Glee guys had someone to look up to in co-star Chord Overstreet, who's taken off his shirt countless times this year to pay homage to Sam's "White Chocolate" stripper past. "[He] is actually like the fitness guru," Artist says with a laugh. "He's like, 'OK, guys, we have a shirtless scene next week. Let's go to the gym. Let's do this.'"
However, it won't be all fun and stripping on Thursday's episode, which will also feature a "really beautiful" duet between McKinley High's newest "it" couple Jake and Marley (Melissa Benoist). "There's going to be some very great developments on the relationship between Jake and Marley, and I think she really helps him for the better and vice versa," Artist says. "I feel like all these relationships that Jake is finding at McKinley have just been really affecting him in a positive way."
Shockingly, this list also applies to Jake's half-brother Puck (Mark Salling) who is now back in Lima for the near future. Despite his own womanizing past, Puck helped Jake steer clear of the demanding, home-wrecking Kitty (Becca Tobin) last week and seems intent on at least keeping his baby bro on the straight and narrow. "He's being a good older sibling," Artist says. "He's going to continue to give some advice to his little brother. I think that relationship he has —the big brother-little brother relationship — is great for the show because it's never really been explored before."
As a longtime fan of the show, Artist has enjoyed Puck's evolution from girlfriend-stealer and bully to someone more compassionate. "To see him find this new position in his family life I think is going to be really good for him and has been really great for him," he says.
As for what else is coming up, Artist remained mum. However, he hopes his dance moves — as glimpsed in his energetic "Everybody Talks" duet with Tobin — soon get the same spotlight his as six-pack does. "We have some piano acoustic versions of some really big songs that I think fans and everybody will really find interesting. But I am waiting for that time to just kind of really hit the ground running with the dancing," Artist says. "I'm looking forward to that. So hopefully in the near future."
Glee airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.