In an eleventh-hour twist, Ryan Murphy named not one but two winners of The Glee Project. Both Samuel Larsen and Damian McGinty will get seven-episode arcs in Season 3 of Glee. (In another surprise, runners-up Lindsay Pearce and Alex Newell were told they'd get two-episode arcs. Everybody wins!)
The morning after their finale, TVGuide.com talked to Larsen, 19, and McGinty, 18 — neither of whom slept much Sunday night — about how they've been training for their Glee debuts, why Zach squealed so much during the finale, what the toughest part of the competitions was and whether subtitles are a good thing. Read on:
Congratulations! Why haven't you both been sleeping?
Larsen: Oh, my God. I couldn't stop talking to my roommates and my family. It's just ridiculous. I was just buzzing and couldn't sleep. I did get a good, solid one-hour power nap in, though.
McGinty: We're still taking it all in. This happened in the middle of April, but to be honest I think it hit us just last night, sitting there watching it. It was like, "Wow, did that really happen to me?" It's going crazy, I mean, it's going insane back home. Mind-blowing stuff, you know?
Larsen: We watched it at the exact same time as we were doing an Oxygen live interview. It was really odd how our bodies went right back to the same feeling we had when we were filming it. Like we got scared we were going to home.
Damian, what were you thinking when they announced that Samuel had won?
McGinty: When they said Alex and Lindsay hadn't won The Glee Project, I remember one moment where me and Sam looked at each other like "What the ..." I'll never forget it. ... Then Ryan said great things about both of us, and then they said, "Samuel, you've won The Glee Project." I'm human — it was very much a sinking feeling. My heart sunk. But I was happy for Samuel, he deserved it and he was 100 percent consistent through the competition. I definitely said in my head that the right man won. But then Ryan asked how I felt, I told him, and he said I didn't need to worry because I also won The Glee Project. It was a huge twist. You saw my reaction, I literally hit the roof. I remember I nearly hit my head on the piano, too. I nearly committed suicide at probably the best moment in my life.
What happened right after that moment when you were announced as the winners?
Larsen: We celebrated the night away. I've never been that tired and that unable to sleep. I remember Damian and I just kept going up to each other like, "Hey, do you have a job? What's your job?" "Oh, I'm an actor on Glee. Do you happen to have a job?" "I just so happen to be an actor on Glee as well!" We just did that all night long.
McGinty: It's been kind of hard because we couldn't tell anybody about our achievement for obvious reasons. The only people that knew were my mom and dad. Everyone kept asking, and I'd say, I did fine ... but you know they knew I was away for 10 weeks. They'd say, "Obviously, you did pretty well." I kept dodging the questions.
Did Ryan and Ian talk to you guys afterward?
Larsen: Oh, no. I think they were of the mindset of, "Holy crap, we just committed to four new characters. We gotta get writing now."
Samuel, on the show you said your biggest dream had just come true. What do both of you like about Glee so much that made winning so important?
Larsen: The thing that Glee has successfully done that no other TV show has is that they're just honest — but they don't tell you what's right or wrong. They don't tell you what to agree with, or what to believe in. They simply just show you what exists in high school and they do it in such a way that you can appreciate it, no matter what your background is. You can just love it. On top of that, it's a musical, and it's got that Annie happy feel to it at the same time.
McGinty: I think it's such a proud show in many ways because of the message it sends out. It's an incredible one, and it's done it like no other show has before. To a certain degree, I had the underdog tag throughout the competition and Glee proves the underdog sometimes can come out on top. A lot of us can really relate to that. Obviously, the fact that it's a worldwide hit also helps. It plays a big part in you wanting to be on it.
Samuel, are you a musical fan?
Larsen: You know, I used to watch a lot of musicals as a kid. Musical movies, not so much musical theater. But that's what I like about Glee, it opened me up to the musical theater side of things. It just caters to everyone. But I will admit, I am very happy I got cast, just from a fan point of view ... I always wanted to see the indie rock guy that Ryan kinda sees me as.
Damian, in the news release Oxygen sent out about your win, it says you came to The Glee Project through "industry channels." What does that mean and how exactly did you get on the show?
McGinty: I just think that meant that I had a bit of experience — [McGinty has been a member of the Irish vocal group Celtic Thunder for several years] — because I auditioned the same way everybody else did. I sent my audition tape online through MySpace and I got a call. Then I auditioned for Robert and I was told I had made the final 83. So I have an identical journey to everyone else. I suppose being a so-called professional for the past four years gave me a little more experience, but I think the fact that I was in the bottom three so much (laughs)...
Samuel, you tried out for American Idol a few years ago. How was this experience different?
Larsen: For one, I'm not 17 and terrified out of my mind anymore. It's different because I was literally at American Idol thinking I don't even like this show, I don't really want to be here. But, you know, when you put yourself in the competition setting, you instinctively think you gotta do your best. But at the end of the day, I knew American Idol wasn't for me and I was OK with it ... I'm not a very typical singer.
You also auditioned for Glee before. The role of Sam eventually went to Chord Overstreet. How was performing for Ryan different this time?
Larsen: I remember getting the phone call from Robert to go up for Sam almost two years ago. I did my first audition for him and I made the callback the next day. There were seven of us going up for the role. I remember Ryan walks in and all these suits and everyone, and I could not even look at him. I literally went in the room, performed my bit, and did not look at anyone at all. I was terrified. Two days before I was on Facebook and then I was auditioning for this big role, you know? I think all that experience did was make me a lot more hungry to be on Glee and push even harder. This time around I knew I had to become friends with them as opposed to being intimidated.
And did you look Ryan in the eye this time?
Larsen: Oh yeah, I wanted to ... how do I put it ... make musical love, if you will, to him. "I'm looking at you, I'm singing this song, feel it please!"
Have either of you been working on Glee yet? Do you know what they have planned for you?
Larsen: No, we're not working yet. I don't know what they have in store so far. I know Ryan's working hard. I heard this is the hardest season yet. But we haven't jumped in just yet. We're kind of waiting. Glee is a very fast-paced show, I'm sure it'll be all of a sudden we get a call like, "Hey, tomorrow's your first scene!"
McGinty: We haven't heard an awful lot. We haven't heard much whatsoever to be honest. I think they were really waiting for this to happen and for it to be out there ... I think they have clear and obvious plans in their head for myself and Samuel. I'm guessing inside the next month we'll begin work on Glee.
Plans for Season 2 of The Glee Project underway; Quitter Cameron has no regrets
Damian, you've become really good friends with Cameron. During last night's finale, it was announced that he had won the Fan Favorite prize, and he also has more Twitter followers than any of the contestants. Do you think Ryan might write a role for him on Glee even if he quit? One where he doesn't have to kiss anyone?
McGinty: You know, on the show itself they told Cameron, "Listen Cameron, you have a free ride to the finals," they basically put a role on Glee on a plate for him. I've been talking to him quite a bit and it's as simple as he just really doesn't particularly want to be on Glee at this moment in time. Obviously, he's good enough for it, he's got all the talent in the world. But you know, sometimes it's either for you or it's not, and it's just not the right moment for Cameron right now. But who knows? I have a feeling he's going to pop up.
What was your reaction when you saw yourself on the show with subtitles?
McGinty: I was thinking, "Are you serious?" There were no subtitles up until Episode 6, and then all of a sudden they were everywhere. I thought at first someone was playing a little joke, and then I was like, "Are you freaking kidding?" Surely, I'm not that hard to understand! ... It sounds crazy, but as the weeks went on, we got more tired and more run-down and I think I was just getting lazier, so my real accent was coming through more. I wasn't trying as hard to be clear. Hence, the subtitles.
Have either of you met anyone else in the cast yet besides the guest mentors? Who are you most excited to meet?
Larsen: No, I mean I met Chord but that's just because we went up for that role and I've seen him around town. Is it a cop-out to say I'm most excited to meet everyone? I think the one I'm most excited to see is Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison. And then I start thinking about Chris Colfer and Lea Michele, and then I start thinking, "Please don't give me a scene with them my first day, when I still completely suck ... you know?"
McGinty: I'm really excited to meet everyone, but I'm looking forward to meeting Jane Lynch. Lea Michele is really one of the biggest stars on the show, so it'll be interesting to get to know her. It's crazy because myself and Samuel are going to — at least we hope — become close friends with these guys. We'll be hanging out with them 24/7, it's pretty insane.
Who do you hope your character befriends first on Glee?
McGinty: I don't know what is happening, but I have a feeling my character is going to be very lonely in the beginning, being from Ireland. You can really see an Irish kid coming in and having no friends and being very vulnerable and lonely, and then I would imagine someone will take me under their wing, but that is up to the writers ... I could be very wrong. I could come in and be Brad Pitt or something, but I don't think so!
Samuel, we talked about your Christianity a lot last week. I'm curious to know what you think about the Christian characters already on Glee, Mercedes and Quinn.
Larsen: Yeah, the show has touched on Christianity a bit, but they've kind of done it in the way every show has, where it's just kind of matter-of-fact. The fact that Ryan wants to focus on it more is really, really cool. I feel honored and lucky to be that character.
Zach seemed very animated, more than usual, in the finale. He kept squealing! Do you know what was up with that?
Larsen: Throughout the entire thing, Zach's been a light. He's so happy. He'd actually do that all the time! He'd scream, and you'd feel more free. You could tell you were doing your job right when he was having fun.
McGinty: That's actually the way Zach is all the time, they just finally showed it last night. It's weird. We all feel like Robert's the dad, Ryan's the godfather and Zach is like the big brother. He's the one with the younger enthusiasm for it all. We all love Zach dearly.
What was the hardest part of the competition?
Larsen: I'm a very open person. I like to talk a lot about what I'm going through. It's how I cope with things. Not being able to vent to any of the other contenders — like, how can I sit down with Damian and say, "Dude, today's so hard, I just really wanna beat you!" — I just kept thinking if I could have an hour and get some coffee with a good friend and vent, it would feel so much better. It was just so much pressure all the time. There was already pressure when it was a normal Glee audition, and that was an hour or two a day and you went home and relaxed. This was 24/7 living with your competition.
McGinty: Being cut off from the outside world and constantly living in that competitive environment was pretty hard. And then personally for me seeing Ryan week in and week out, it was basically a weekly visit I got from Ryan, it was very "nice" of him. No, it was hard. Constantly getting songs you didn't know. Eventually it begins to break you down. You can only take so much. Even looking back now, I don't know how I got through. But it's one hell of a story.
Samuel, last week you said you wanted to sing songs by The Black Keys, Phoenix and The Strokes. Damian, If you had your choice, what song would you want to sing first on Glee?
McGinty: That's a very good question. There are so many songs. I would love to do some Michael Buble on Glee. I think it's my window of opportunity ... I hope it's a possibility that it happens.
What have you both been doing since you won back in April?
Larsen: I've been writing tons and tons of music and studying some acting, getting my head straight, getting it all in there. Obviously, celebrating quite a bit. I have a band, Bridges I Burn, and we've just been writing a lot and recording a bit here and there. They're stoked.
McGinty: I've still been trying to take it all in. I've been getting ready, taking a few acting lessons, vocal coaching. Getting ready for the madness! I did go to Greece for 10 days on vacation. It's really the end of one roller-coaster and the beginning of an even bigger one.
What do you think of Samuel and Damian? What do you hope they get to do on Glee? Let us know in the comments.