Original Audition Songs: Matthew Morrison sang and played 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' on the ukulele. Lea Michele sang 'On My Own' from 'Les Miserables.' Chris Colfer sang 'Mr. Cellophane' from 'Chicago.' Jenna Ushkowitz sang 'Waiting for Life to Begin' from 'Once on this Island.' Kevin McHale sang The Beatles. Amber Riley originally sang a pop song for her audition, but the producers asked her to sing 'And I Am Telling You' from 'Dreamgirls.' Jayma Mays sang 'Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me' from 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Although many people believe Cory Monteith sang 'Can't Fight This Feeling' for his audition, but he really sang 'Honesty' by Billy Joel, which he revealed on the Canadian radio show Q. By the end of the first season, Morrison, Michele, Colfer, and Riley had performed their songs on the actual show. Mays sang hers in the second season.
Cory Monteith didn't sing in his first audition video. He instead produced a beat using makeshift drums. The producers liked his personality and originality so much they called his agent and requested he fly to Los Angeles for a live audition.
Much of the main cast of Glee (2009) performed for President Barack Obama, his family, and the approximately 30,000 children and parents in attendance at the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll on April 5, 2010. Among the songs the Glee group sang were "Don't Stop Believin'," "Over the Rainbow," and "Sweet Caroline," which songwriter Neil Diamond has said was originally written as a tribute to Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy; Malia Obama and Sasha Obama, the daughters of President Obama, were in the front row to hear the concert.
Heather Morris (who had been a back-up dancer for Beyoncé Knowles' tour) was hired to play the character of Brittany after she was first called in by show choreographer Zachary Woodlee to teach the "Single Ladies" dance to the cast.
On July 13, 2013, Cory Monteith was found dead in his room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia and had died from alcohol and heroin overdose. Ryan Murphy gave Cory a tribute in the 3rd episode of Series 5, which deals with the passing of Cory's character Finn and the episode would directly deal with the incidents that were involved with Cory's passing and the drug use in particular.
Cast members Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, and Jenna Ushkowitz are all Broadway alums. Morrison was the original Link in 'Hairspray' and Fabrizio in 'Light in the Piazza'. Michele was the original Wendla in 'Spring Awakening'. Ushkowitz also appeared in 'Spring Awakening' with Michele. Many guest stars have also been well known as Broadway stars: Kristin Chenoweth (April Rhodes) won a Tony for "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and played the original Glinda in "Wicked;" Idina Menzel (Shelby Corcoran) won a Tony as the original Elphaba in "Wicked" (in which she was Chenoweth's co-star) and was also in the original Broadway cast of "Rent;" Phoebe Strole was the original Anna and Jonathan Groff (Jesse St. James) was the original Melchior in "Spring Awakening" (co-starring with Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz); Neil Patrick Harris (Bryan Ryan) was a replacement Emcee in the most recent Broadway revival of "Cabaret" and was the revival Broadway Lee Harvey Oswald/Balladeer in "Assassins;" Victor Garber (Will's father) played Anthony in the original Broadway cast of "Sweeney Todd" and many other Broadway roles, as well as Jesus in the movie version of Godspell: A Musical Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (1973); Debra Monk (Will's mother) has performed in numerous Broadway musicals and plays, and also co-wrote the musical "Pump Boys and Dinettes." John Stamos (Dr. Carl Howell) had lead (replacement) roles in the 1990s and 2000s Broadway revivals of "How to Succeed...," "Cabaret," and "Nine." Carol Burnett (Sue's mother) was nominated for a Tony for playing Princess Winnifred in the original Broadway cast of "Once Upon a Mattress." Brian Stokes Mitchell and Jeff Goldblum play Rachel's fathers; Goldblum started his career in Broadway musicals (including "Two Gentlemen of Verona") while Mitchell is one of the preeminent Broadway leading men of his generation ("Ragtime," "Kiss Me, Kate," "Man of La Mancha," etc.)
In her audition for the role, Lea Michele sang "On My Own" from Les Miserables. However, the pianist cut the second verse without telling her. She stopped singing and told him "We have to go back and do the verse!" The writers laughed, and later said she definitely had the Rachel role down.
The only time Sue calls Emma by her correct name in the first two seasons is the Pilot. All other times, she has "mistakenly" called her names like Irma, Alma, Ellen, Arlene, You, or the Redhead. Sue doesn't her Emma again until The Purple Piano Project.
The restaurant the characters frequent is called "Breadsticks". The show creator, Ryan Murphy, previously made a high-school themed show called "Popular" which featured the students congregating at a restaurant called "Croutons".
Most of the cast were unknown faces, which is exactly what the the producers wanted. And such was the level of spontaneity, auditions were often populated by youths who literally walked in off the street, eager for a crack at stardom.
In 2010, Ryan Murphy announced that "Glee" would be providing the funding for a job readiness counselor position at New York City's Hetrick-Martin Institute, an agency that provides support services and counseling to LGBTQ youth and that also runs the Harvey Milk High School, a New York City public school for LGBTQ teens who have been bullied in their previous schools. The job had been eliminated because of budget cuts at the institute. Murphy also announced that the show will provide $25,000 in matching scholarship funds for Harvey Milk High School.
The original idea of Glee was inspired by Ian Brennan's own experience as a member of Prospect High School's show choir. It was supposed to be a film instead of a television series. Brennan wrote the first draft in August 2005, and completed it in the same year. The script, however, did not receive any interest from producers at that time. Michael Novick, a friend of Brennan's and a television producer, later gave Ryan Murphy a copy of Brennan's script, as they are members of the same gym centre. Murphy himself joined show choir when he was young, and thus related to the script. Murphy and Brad Falchuk suggested that Glee should be produced as a television show. Therefore, the three joined together and rewrote the script. The rewritten script was sent to FOX, and picked up immediately. The three decided to write all of the episodes by themselves. Murphy and Falchuk became executive producers and directors of the show, while Brennan is a co-executive producer. Novick also became a producer of Glee.
Brian Stokes Mitchell, who plays one of Rachel Berry's fathers, was nominated for a 1998 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for "Ragtime," in which Lea Michele (Rachel) also appeared (starting when she was only eleven years old).
The high school is named after William McKinley Jr., who was the 25th president of the United States (serving between his inauguration on March 4, 1897, and his death by assassination on September 14, 1901. McKinley was one of eight US presidents to have come from Ohio, the state in which "Glee" is set.
The character of Kurt was written for Chris Colfer after he originally auditioned for the role of Artie. The writers told him that he looked like one of the Von Trapp kids, and Chris told them he actually just starred in The Sound of Music, playing Kurt Von Trapp. This obviously stuck in the writers' mind, as they called his character Kurt Hummel (the surname after the cherubic figurines).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
New Directions was originally supposed to win regionals at the end of the first season, as Series Creator Ryan Murphy didn't think the show was going to be picked up for a second season. When he became aware a second season was going to be made he changed the outcome of the season one finale, to make their drive to win in the second season more passionate.