Debbie Allen first appeared as the dance teacher Lydia in Fame (1980), but was only shown judging auditions at the beginning of the movie. She had two lines: commenting that Leroy didn't have a registration form, and calling his dancing "wicked!!" She is still identified as Lydia in the film's closing credits.
Although mostly shot at MGM studios in Culver City, California, the cast and crew made at least one trip to New York City each season to film exterior scenes in advance of the rest of the episode's shot in Los Angeles.
This series combined musical numbers with dramatic scenes. Cast members went on the road and performed live concerts (usually performing songs first done on this show) to satisfy the fan base of young people who regularly watched the show.
In an Emmy TV Legends interview, Debbie Allen has said that the perfect romance for the show would have been between Lee Curreri (Bruno) and Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy.). But because the censors were too restrictive back then, and because certain people were still in the closet, that never came to be.
In the final season, Debbie Allen was appearing on Broadway in "Sweet Charity". Her stage run overlapped with the filming of the final season. To be able to include her in episodes, the producers filmed all of her scenes in New York City. That is why she appeared only in exterior scenes, and had no interior scenes for several episodes.
Janet Jackson, who appeared on this show for one season as Cleo, this being the third television show, on which she appeared, after Diff'rent Strokes (1978) and Good Times (1974), claimed that she and the other young cast members were mistreated by the producers, and consequently quit before the season was over.
Lydia (Debbie Allen) was a student in Fame (1980, not a teacher as is commonly thought. She was an older student who was just supposed to be helping with the auditions. There were a couple of deleted scenes which show her facing off against Coco, who was supposed to be a peer and a rival of hers. When the producers asked Debbie Allen to come back to do this show, it was two years later, and she was obviously no longer a high school student at that point. Because of that, and because the editing of the original movie wound up making her look like a teacher anyway, they changed Lydia from a student to a dance teacher for this show.
Lee Curreri was a nascent songwriter at the time he was cast as Bruno, it's part of why Alan Parker cast him in the first place. Part of why he quit is because producers were altering his music, and not featuring enough of it.
The London Telegraph obituary for Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy Johnson) reported that "in 1984, Ray was axed from the show after his mother was jailed for running a drug ring, and he failed to turn up for work one hundred times."
Fame (1980), unlike Glee (2009), won many awards for original songwriting. Composer Michael Gore (brother to "It's My Party" Leslie Gore, who helped him with the songwriting) won Academy Awards for best score in 1981, as well as best song, the title song Fame. Glee (2009), conversely, was always just a cover show.
Janet Jackson has said in interviews she had a bad experience while working on Fame, the TV Show: 'I wanted to quit Fame,' she says. "I didn't want to do that to begin with. I did it for my father. The kids that were on it... they were so outgoing, I felt like an outcast. They would do things like eat my breakfast. I'd open up my breakfast case and there'd be nothing in there. I was the new kid on the block. I was very shy and very quiet so I would never say anything, I'd just close it back up.'
Continuing the Fame and Glee (2009) connections and coincidences, the male leads of both shows died at a tragically young age: Gene Anthony Ray, (Leroy), died from a stroke at the age of forty-one. (His mom confirmed he had contracted H.I.V.) Corey Monteith, star of Glee (2009), died of a drug overdose at the age of thirty-one. Both were talented, but self destructive.
In the movie, during music class, Shorofsky (Albert Hague) shouts at Bruno (Lee Curreri): "No! No! That's not your dick you're holding! It's a violin bow! Show it some respect!" This is not a line that would appear on the television show nor any show today. (Although it does recall the student and teacher relationship of Whiplash a little bit.)