When Robert walked in and told us that the theme of the week was Vulnerability, I had sort of a strange reaction. On the one hand, I was really excited because vulnerability- and whether or not you are able to channel it successfully- shows how strong of an actor or performer you are capable of being. On the other hand, being open and vulnerable was always a challenge for me growing up because of the rejection and hurt I had encountered. So to do it on national television for everyone to see definitely gave me a nervous pit in my stomach, but it was definitely a challenge I was up for.
When Cory Monteith walked into our choir room, I was a little surprised because to me, if there's any character on the cast of GLEE that really embodies vulnerability, it's Chris Colfer. However, when you really think about the development and growth that Finn underwent throughout GLEE (going from a bully to being bullied, his family issues, and experiencing the ups and downs of his relationship with Rachel) it does make sense that he would come on as a guest mentor for Vulnerability week. It especially made sense because bullying was a big focus of this week. Plus, it was amazing to have the leading man of GLEE be our guest mentor so early on in the season (you are definitely not disappointing us with these guest mentors, Glee Project!) and he gave us so much valuable insight. I was so thankful to have him with us.
All throughout my life, I was bullied in different ways, both physically and verbally. When I was in elementary school, I specifically remember being physically bullied by some of the 'cool kids' who would push me (breaking my glasses one time) and verbally abuse me. They would make fun of how I looked and call me gay. When I got a bit older, it spread to other areas of my life (specifically, my passion for performing and singing.) Whether it was at school or at church, people would literally tell me to shut up. They said I didn’t have what it takes.
There's one instance I'd like to dive into more deeply with all of you. When I was young, every Christmas Eve, I used to go caroling with my church in our neighborhood. One Christmas Eve, after we had finished a night of caroling and spreading holiday cheer, we returned to our church building in shock. We found that our church had been vandalized with racist terms in graffiti everywhere. News stations were parked outside of our church reporting the news of this hate crime and I was so utterly heartbroken because it made me feel small. It made me feel less than the rest of the neighboring communities. And that's the thing with bullying: whether it is physical, verbal, or indirect, it makes you feel like you don't belong. It makes you feel inadequate, and it makes you feel like the world would be better off without you. You can tell a genius that they're stupid over and over again and they will start to believe it soon enough despite its lack of truth. Personally, I know that for such a long time, the effects of all of these lies had a significant impact on my well-being and I started to believe them. But that's what they are: lies. We have to know this and know that we are more than enough and that there is a light in all of us that this world needs.
Shooting the music video for 'Everybody Hurts' was such an emotional experience and it was definitely challenging having to embody both a bully and a victim of bullying. I also think it was the first time that I really tried to channel a full-on character and build a story around the character I was portraying.
When I played the bully, I literally stayed in character the entire time showing Michael absolutely no sympathy and not offering him a helping hand when he was pushed down onto the floor. It was definitely hard being so callous and merciless. It was especially hard because Michael is one of my good friends and if something like this were actually happening, I would not just be standing there doing nothing. Being a bully is definitely not an experience I'm used to, so it was a bit of a push for me. But I remember being so laser-focused on the task at hand, which was to pretty much make this guy's life a living hell.
Playing the victim of bullying was a lot more emotional than being the bully. I derived a lot of character from my own story and my past experiences. Interestingly enough, however, I tried to also put myself in my mother's situation as a victim of domestic abuse and it definitely made the experience that much more intense, especially because my scene involved physical violence. Putting myself in the shoes of a victim of bullying, however, allowed me to have a greater perspective of, and opposition to, bullying and really led me to reaffirm why I want so badly to be on GLEE. So as difficult as it was to shoot this video, it was so worthwhile and I am so proud to be a part of this music video.
The judges claimed that Charlie went too far when he grabbed Mario's cane during his scene and honestly, I agree and I don't agree. As an actor, I think that one makes certain acting choices and I think that Charlie taking away Mario's cane was definitely an acting choice that he had made. However, I feel as though another integral job as an actor is to take direction from the director, which is, in this case, not only Erik White, but the mentors as well. So in that sense, he should have taken their direction and not gone beyond that, especially when it involves the safety of another contender and has repercussions on the video shoot itself.
When it came time for the reveal of the bottom three, I've got to say, I wasn't all too surprised. Charlie had gotten notes for not taking direction and for taking Mario's cane, Mario had supposedly received a lot of notes in the studio for his pitch, and Lily had received notes throughout the week as well for her performance in the homework assignment and the video shoot. So all in all, I wasn't too surprised by the bottom three for this week.
I think that as performers, we all have egos to a certain extent. Sorry, you might not like it, but it's a fact of life and this industry. However, one thing that I don't have much tolerance and respect for is when people have to bring people down to somehow elevate themselves. When Mario made that comment about how some of us didn't hit our notes when recording and had pitch issues, it was just that: a comment. It doesn't change the fact that he had major issues with pitch in the recording studio that week himself. And on a week like this, no less, when we literally put our blood, sweat and tears into producing the song and the music video, I felt like it was in very poor taste. But hey, to each their own. I'm not the type of competitor where I want to bring others down. I want to beat someone at their best, not when they're knocked down onto the floor. I think that having a mentality contrary to that as a performer speaks volumes more than some 'inspirational' sound bytes ever can.
Hearing that everyone was called back for another week, I think everyone except for the people in the bottom three can agree with me when I say that it was definitely a mixed feeling. I mean, not to sound heartless because I know that everyone poured so much into this week, but it's a competition and I think that while it was an emotional roller coaster of a week, someone should have gone home. But hey, it's Ryan Murphy. He calls the shots and I respect him enough to deal with the fact that everyone was called back for another week.
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