Glee Michael episode

Sebastian (Grant Gustin) faces off against Santana (Naya Rivera) in the "Michael" episode of "Glee." (Fox)

Grant Gustin's road to"Glee"started in Chicago.

The 22-year-old, who plays Sebastian on the Fox series, was living in Lincoln Park last year with castmates from the national touring company of "West Side Story" when he submitted an audition video to appear as a tap dancer in the Season 3 premiere of "Glee."

"I submitted a video of myself doing 'Good Morning' from 'Singing in the Rain' and they liked me but I wasn't right for the role I guess," he said.

Good thing, too, because the show's creator, Ryan Murphy, thought of Gustin again when it came time to cast Sebastian, the scheming member of the Warblers singing group. After a later audition in front of the "Glee" team Gustin won the role, but not without a few angsty weeks waiting to hear the news. When he finally did, Gustin was once again onstage in Tucson, Ariz., playing Baby Jon when his manager called.

"I called him back right in the middle of the show and found out I got it," he said. "I did one more performance the next night. I was on a plane Saturday morning and filming on Monday. It was crazy."

Since then, Sebastian has angered fans because he tried to split up fan favorite couple Blaine (Darren Criss) and Kurt (Chris Colfer). Sebastian causes even more trouble in "Michael," the show's tribute episode to Michael Jackson airing at 7 p.m. Jan. 31 on Fox. Sebastian slushies Blaine and faces the wrath of Santana (Naya Rivera) and the other members of New Directions.

"[Santana] comes and gives Sebastian a piece of her mind" by singing Jackson's "Smooth Criminal," Gustin said. "It was amazing. It was probably my favorite day of filming thus far."

Gustin also sings “Bad” with the entire cast in a number that pits the Warblers against New Directions as they battle to decide who will get to sing Michael Jackson songs at Regionals.

Growing up in Norfolk, Va., Gustin lived a “Glee”-like early life. He started performing in community theater when he was about 10 and attended a performing arts high school where he focused on musical theater. I had to ask if he’d ever been slushied himself.

“No slushies,” he said, laughing. “But yeah, I definitely was not the most popular kid in school when I was taking tap-dance as an 11-year-old.”

Gustin and I chatted more about Sebastian, the “Michael” episode, his time in Chicago and, yes, I asked him the sexuality question. (Watch a video interview with Gustin and see clips from "Michael" by clicking the link in the related column to the left.)

Give me the scoop on the songs you sing on the “Michael” episode.
One of the songs is “Smooth Criminal” with Santana—Naya—and it was amazing. It was probably my favorite day of filming thus far. We got a lot of free reign with that number. It’s not really true choreography with that song, but as far as the choreography or staging was concerned it was pretty loose and we got to have fun with it, which was great.

And “I Want You Back” is the Warblers number that we’re doing. That one is unbelievable. That was definitely one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Jackson 5 songs growing up. ... It was my mom’s favorite song. She freaked out when she heard I was doing it. So that was pretty amazing. (Note from Curt: The "I Want You Back" number was cut from the final version so won't be part of the episode.]

It’s also an exciting episode for the Warblers just because we get to dance and no one’s really seen the Warblers really dance that much. And granted, we’re not blowing people away with the dance numbers we’re doing in this episode, but it’s definitely some very cool, exciting choreography happening in both “I Want You Back” and in “Bad,” which is kind of a Warblers versus New Directions number. And there’s some pretty fun, exciting dance moves going on, so I think people are going to love that.

This isn’t a competition episode, is it?
No, it’s not, but both schools want Michael Jackson to go to Regionals, so we’re kind of discouraging each other to see who gets to use his music for Regionals.

If Sebastian and Santana are singing that song together, does that mean that there’s going to be some scheming going on?
Yes. I don’t want to give too much, but there has been a picture released of Sebastian slushing Blaine … I won’t say how or why, but Blaine gets hurt from that slushing. It’s been tampered with slightly.

You would think that Sebastian would have slushied Kurt.
You would think that, but there’s a little twist.

Nice tease. Are you having fun on the show?
Yeah, I’m having the time of my life. I’m getting to do what I love to do on a high profile TV show and I would have never expected to be doing that even three months ago. So yeah, it’s pretty amazing. It’s great.

From what I can see from my research, you sort of had a “Glee” kind of thing growing up.
Yeah, in high school and in college. In college, I actually majored in Musical Theater. I was pursuing a BFA in Musical Theater. And in high school, I went to a school called the Governor’s School for the Arts where my focus was in Musical Theater. And then before that I was part of a community theater group in Norfolk, Va., where I grew up, doing community theater. So yeah, I definitely had a “Glee”-type life since I was about 10 or 11 …

I was about eight when I started tap dancing, against my own will. My mom wanted me to do it. She thought I would love it and I didn’t believe her. I turned out to be obsessed with it.

How did you get the “West Side Story” gig?
I was at Elon University in North Carolina for two years pursuing my BFA. And after my sophomore year, I was cast in the Broadway Tour of “West Side Story.” I just kind of—it always was my favorite show growing up.

And pretty much on a whim I went to New York one weekend, because they were having an open call where anybody can be seen [and] hundreds of people [were] there. And I somehow got a call back from that and somehow got the job. It blew my mind. I honestly was not thinking I could get this job.

I went because I loved the show and I wanted to do something in New York and I thought it would be fun. But me actually getting it was kind of not in the cards. It changed my life. None of this would be happening if I hadn’t gone to [that] audition.

You were in “West Side Story” when it came to Chicago, which means I saw you because I went to the show.
Yeah, that was me.

It always blows my mind when that happens, “Oh yeah, I saw that. You were in that?”
Yeah, for sure. I get people who have sent me pictures of that Playbill a lot. They say, “I saw you” and I always think that’s so cool. I especially love the people who saw the show and then sought me out on Twitter or whatever after that, and have been following me ever since. And now still reach out to me as fans. I think that’s so cool.

As far as you know, will Sebastian be around for the rest of this season and next?
Next season, that is not being confirmed yet. But I will be around for as long as they’ll have me! I don’t necessarily know what’s happening for next season yet. But as far as this season’s concerned I think I’ll be in and out for the rest of this season.

Tell me a little bit about your “CSI Miami” episode (which aired Jan. 29 and you cannow watch at cbs.com).
That was pretty crazy. I filmed that right after my first episode of “Glee” and it was incredibly different and incredibly fun. I played twins and I played both of them. And I had a scene or two with myself, one in particular where it’s just me talking to myself. And there was a stand-in there, but the stand-in wasn’t allowed to actually do dialogue with me. So he’s actually just standing there and I’d give him a line and he would kind of react to it, and then I’d give time as if he had said a line and I’d come back in. And I did that for both twins. It was so weird, like doing a scene with no one saying anything to you in response. But it was a lot of fun.

Your timing really had to be down.
Right. Well luckily, I knew both characters’ lines because I had to do them and I knew how the other person was going to say the line because the other person was me. So yeah, it was weird, it was really weird.

That must make for a strange day because doing all the coverage you probably had to go back and forth.
Yeah. … For some reason the way it worked out, at least the last day of filming when I was doing the heavy scene with myself, I was running back and forth changing I think two or three times between twins. In one of the scenes one of them is kind of jaundiced and I had to get that makeup on. And the hair was completely different and the costume was completely different. So we were running back and forth and doing each frame as quickly as possible. It was fun and exciting switching back and forth.

How was that experience different than working on “Glee”?
“CSI Miami” is on its 10th season, so they have it down and they’re working with a much smaller ensemble than “Glee” works with. I mean “Glee” is dealing with so many people, so many songs, so many scenes, so there’s a lot going on there. And “CSI” was just like boom, boom, in and out; not as many people. They’ve been doing it for years, and it was a whole different thing, a whole completely different energy. And I don’t necessarily prefer one. I mean the energy on “Glee” is inspiring, it’s so much fun and it’s a whole different thing. … But both casts were incredibly welcoming and easy to work with.

What’s the biggest challenge working on “Glee”?
First of all, the downtime is something I’m not used to. When you’re on set it’s much longer days than I’m used to and there’s a lot of like downtime in between when you’re actually doing shots. So you’ve got to have your energy up but at the same time you don’t want to tire yourself out because you’ve got a 14-hour day ahead of you. Trying to keep yourself in it and energized without being exhausted at the end of the day is a challenge. It’s not a schedule I’m used to. I’ve never done this whole TV world before. So it’s a whole other world, it’s a whole other thing, it’s crazy.

Most of the “Glee” kids also didn’t have a lot of experience when they started, so were they giving you advice?
Not necessarily giving advice, but they’ve made it very easy to feel comfortable. They’ve made me feel very welcome. And I can sit back and watch them and learn from them.

My very first day, Darren Criss was giving me a lot—because I had never even been on a set with cameras or anything, so I didn’t know what anybody’s job was. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. So Darren was amazing walking me through kind of everyone’s job on the set, what was going on, what things meant that were probably very elementary that I didn’t know.

And he made a point to say, “I’m not trying to belittle you or make you feel dumb here; I just want to let you know.” I said, “No, no, no. Please, bro, you’re giving me this advice.” And that was kind of the one day that was like, “OK, here’s the TV 101, basically.”

From then on everyone kind of let me do my thing, and I watched them and learned from them. And it’s great.

So since you’re in the gay storyline and playing a gay character, I have to ask about your sexuality.
That’s amazing. You’re the very first person that’s ever asked.

Well I’ve seen so many blog posts and other things where people are guessing or sharing rumors, so I felt I should just ask you.
Nobody has ever asked me. I am not gay in real life. I don’t know if I’m supposed to elaborate more on that.

Not at all. I just wanted to have it right from you. It’s kind of sad to have to ask, but people will just make it up if I don’t.
Well, people just kind of assume that I am for multiple reasons. I come from a musical theater background, and there’s kind of an assumption about that. And I’m playing a gay character, so people just kind of assume. … People have assumed my entire life. I don’t even think about it any more.

But you’re having fun playing gay on TV?
Oh, it is more than OK to be gay on TV.

Is Sebastian ever going to tap-dance? Are we going to get to see your prowess?
I would love to. That’s another thing no one’s ever asked. I would love to tap-dance on the show. I don’t even know if Ryan Murphy or any of the creators—well, I guess yeah, they saw my tap-dance audition, so they know I tap. But yeah, that would be amazing. I don’t know under what circumstance it would happen, but I would love to tap-dance on the show.

Will Sebastian get nice?
I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually we saw a completely different side to Sebastian, but I don’t know. I find out what’s happening when I get the scripts. They don’t tell me anything at all. They don’t really tell anybody anything. But I mean there has to be another side. He’s a human being and there’s always another side. So I’m not going to be surprised if we see a nice side to Sebastian eventually.

You do play a good baddie, though.
Oh, thank you.

When you were in Chicago, did you hang out at any place or were you guys just working too much?
We were working a lot. For some reason when we were in Chicago, we had a lot of rehearsals. I think maybe we were getting some new people. But I think we explored a little. We saw the White Sox play the Yankees. Some people went to some games at Wrigley. We didn’t explore too incredibly much though. I saw the Bean. I went and lay underneath the Bean and took pictures on my phone.
We saw “Beauty and the Beast” when we were in town. We all had friends that were in town at the same time and they were right down the street, and we all had friends in the cast, so we did that.

Is it fun to be in one place now and not traveling?
Yes and no. I just went and visited the tour for the first time while they were in San Jose and I had never seen the show, obviously, because I was in it every night. And first of all, it was amazing to see the show; the show is incredible. And it was actually very nice to be with them again like in a hotel, on the road. I kind of miss it. At the same time, being in a house right now and being in beautiful California, is also pretty amazing. It has its perks. I miss tour, but I’m glad to be doing what I’m doing.

Well, this is obviously what you’ve always wanted to do too.
Yeah. I did not expect this to happen, especially so soon if it ever was going to happen. So it’s a lot. Actually, it hasn’t even fully hit me yet. It kind of hits in waves.