Glee's Jessalyn Gilsig on the Disappearance and Impending Return of Terri Schuester
It has been a wild year for Jessalyn Gilsig. The Glee star -- who you also know from Heroes, Friday Night Lights and Ryan Murphy's Nip/Tuck -- was Public Enemy No. 1 for most of last season because of her portrayal as pregnancy faking Terri Schuester on the hit Fox series. The outrage has gradually changed, but it has also unfortunately coincided with less Terri than ever before; despite being a series regular, Gilsig has only appeared once this season. Fear not though, burgeoning Terri fans: That's all about to change.
Gilsig rang up Movieline from her home last week to discuss the rollercoaster ride that is playing Terri Schuester, the infamous GQ photo shoot and which artist she'd most like to see featured during the Super Bowl episode.
Did you just get home from filming?
No, I wasn't filming today -- I finished filming episode seven on Friday and I have a scene with Gwyneth Paltrow, which I'm excited about.
Can you say what happens?
Basically, I get to have a great, typical Terri moment, where my ex-husband is interacting with yet another woman and I get to give them both a piece of my mind.
I have to say, I've been really disappointed at the lack of Terri this season thus far.
Yeah, I've been really disappointed, too! It's frustrating, I want to get in there!
I think the fans want you in there, too. It seem the reactions to Terri have warmed since season one.
I've never in my life been through anything like this. Where it really sort of started at a deficit, and then I seemed to lose points in the polls, if you will. And then there's been a kind of quiet recovery that I'm starting to benefit from. I have to agree, I felt a sort of shift in tide and I'm kind of relieved; I don't know if I could have lived in that state forever. With Terri, my instinct was -- and I'm glad I stuck with it -- that she was kind of a marathon character. You have to stay the course because she kind of reveals herself over time. But your first impression of her is a little unsettling.
You did have that very memorable scene in the Britney Spears episode this season, which was one of the more well-received Terri Schuester moments yet.
That episode is a perfect example. It was just that one scene, and it was the Britney episode -- and it was Heather's episode and I think she was obviously brilliant. It was exciting for all of us who knew how talented she was, to get that recognition. But what was a surprise was that my one scene -- how many people were quoting it to me. One guy came up to me in Trader Joe's and was like, "What I like about Terri is that she's the only one to tell it how it is."
Do you think Ryan Murphy and the writers have intentionally tried to course correct Terri or was this the plan all along?
Ryan had said upfront that it would be a kind of self-sacrifice to play Terri. He was pretty honest about that from the beginning: "You're kind of the sacrificial character." In order for America to want Will to, basically, walk out on his wife, you had to have this totally irredeemable character. But I fought -- and Ryan was in support of this -- that she couldn't be a monster for monster's sake. I also didn't expect people to be as upset about the fake pregnancy as they were. People were furious. Furious.
Why do you think that was?
I think for us to find that position was really tricky. I mean on Nip/Tuck, that would be benign. We used to talk about the possibility about having Terri maybe hook up with a student, and we were saying if it was Nip/Tuck, the audience would be furious that we hadn't done it by now. But you can't do it on Glee -- it's a different audience and a different platform.
Really, a fake pregnancy doesn't seem that bad.
For me, I didn't think the pregnancy -- obviously the pillow, that was extreme. But as are the kids have Lady Gaga costumes in a public high school in the middle of Ohio. Where does Kurt get all his outfits? So for me, it was like, what's the big deal?
Are you in the Rocky Horror episode?
I'm not. No! So, I'm curious. That's what I love about Glee, too. That's sort of my generation, so I don't know if the kids of this generation even know Rocky Horror, so I just love that concept.
So when does Terri come back into the fold?
I come back in episode seven, and the way it has been explained to me is that I go through the rest of the season and start to develop an agenda. Which I'm really excited about. That's all I can say.
How about some hints. Will you be working with John Stamos, who plays Emma's new boyfriend?
I don't know if I'm going to be working with John Stamos, but I know there's going to be a new character I'm working with.
Not to harp on this again, but I was disappointed that you haven't really gotten the chance to have a big musical number yet. Even "Loser" last year was very edited down. Will we get to see Terri sing this season?
All I can tell you is that every time you're disappointed that Terri doesn't get to do something, I'm...a thousand-fold. (Laughs) But I appreciate your disappointment. I don't know, I'm in such a funny position: I'm a genuine fan of the show and of my character, and at the same time it's just a big show that is still figuring out who it is. So, the tradition that I come from is just to do my all. I do it to the best of my ability. But I don't have any say or information about what's coming. I don't think anything is being withheld from me, I think they don't know; I think they're still finding the show. I wish I could tell you, "Yes, I'm singing," but that would just be on my wish list.
It must be hard, especially with the ever-expanding cast, to make sure everyone is getting their fair share of screentime. Even Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison haven't been featured as much this season.
When I step outside of it -- just as an audience member -- I think it's really cool that Ryan and the writers have so much faith in the depth of the talent. Like you say, when the series started it was Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, but in reality any of the kids can carry the show.
Can I ask your opinion of the recent GQ photo controversy?
I don't have a problem with the GQ thing because they're actors -- I mean, they are adults. I don't have a problem that. And I'm sure Cory doesn't have a problem either, looking at the photos.
Do you think the show is too risque? I know that's been a common complaint this season, especially with regards to Brittany and Santana fooling around in bed.
I have a lot of faith in Ryan, I don't think he does anything. That whole thing -- I don't know for a fact, but I have worked with Ryan long enough to know that these are his kids. So while that might be sensational now, it's going to come back. There will be a story to it and it will be explored. Things that seem titillating now aren't just titillating. Plus, I feel like sexuality is a pretty big part of being a teenager, so I just feel like it's more keeping with the times and honest about how kids are right now. I think, even with the shock value, Glee is really responsible.
With all the media coverage, the ratings, the albums -- has it sunk in just how big of a phenomenon Glee has become?
No. I don't think I've really grasped how big the show is. I don't know that it's something you'll really get your hands around. For me, for many years now, people have said a few times a week, "Hey, were you on?" or, "Why do I know you?" I've sort of been vaguely recognized. Now when people speak to me it's like, "I know that you know that I know who you are." There's no preamble. It's like "Don't come in here and act like I don't know who you are." It's almost like a joke that I didn't realize how big it was -- it's amazing.
And the profile will only get bigger with the post-Super Bowl episode airing early next year. Do you have any preference on which artist gets highlighted that night?
Um, Terri. Or...
No, I'm sorry a musical artist.
(Laughs) Oh! Is there music on this show? I know they have these musical interludes. Isn't there one person who recently said they wouldn't give their music?
There were two bands: Kings of Leon and Gorillaz.
That they wouldn't?
Yes. I think that's more of a ploy to get their band name out there, because why would Glee be asking Gorillaz for their music? Like Ryan Murphy really needs "Clint Eastwood" or something.
That's what I'm trying to figure out. That's sorta of like me saying, Glee can't use my music. Even though I don't have any music.
You should do that -- it would create many, many Internet headlines.
Don't even ask, guys. Don't come to me.