Glee’s Darren Criss: ‘I Define Myself as a Straight Male’

Vanity Fair's Brett Berk asks Glee actor Darren Criss in a roundabout way if he's gay.

Criss VF:

Chris [Colfer] told me one of the times we talked that some of the power in his performances is from having personally experienced many of the things his character goes through as a gay teen. Not that this is in any way necessary for an actor playing any kind of role, but I’m wondering about your own personal connection to the character of Blaine and the subject matter you’re addressing.

CRISS:

It’s a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart, simply because I grew up in such an open community—doing theater in San Francisco. I mean, it doesn’t get much, stereotypically, “gayer.” I was inadvertently raised in the “gay community.” I had straight parents, but I spent massive amounts of time at a very early age with gay, theater-hopeful thirty-somethings. And those were the people I spent time with early on, so my whole perception of “sexuality” just wasn’t there. It just…was. It even got to the point where, later in life… I had all the components in place. I was, well, not super effeminate, but I was into girly things—I liked musical theater, all the stereotypical things. I had to come out and say, well, I’m sorry, but I think I’m straight. And people were like, say it ain’t so! And I would say, “It’s been a secret too long, but I’m actually a straight male.”

And so for the longest time when people asked me about Blaine, I wanted to say It doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t. But I don’t want to devalue it, because it’s a very earnest question, and I can see why people would want to know. And I realized that if I said, It doesn’t matter, that immediately means that I’m gay. So I do define myself as a straight male, but it really doesn’t come into play with me in this role. As an actor, your objective is always to play the scene. And this case, he happens to be a gay teen.

Glee Criss also talked with Popwrap about gay teen bullying (which was addressed on last night's episode – spoiler warning) and his character:

"Blaine is a year ahead of Kurt, both literally and figuratively – so when they meet, Blaine immediately connects with him and feels the need to impart his knowledge. He has gone through the same trials and tribulations Kurt has been feeling at McKinley. He wants to help Kurt. It’s a beautiful message that gives hope to Kurt, and hopefully everyone watching. Gay or straight, I think it’s superfluous – teens in general struggle with discrimination and this is a great coloring on the show. [As far as the current rash of gay teen suicides] Like any tragedy, it’s all about bringing attention to it and addressing the issue. It’s not new. This has been happening for years and I think the gay teen component is at the forefront, but it’s so much bigger than that. So yes, it’s heightened the stakes, but in a weird way, it’s inspiring us to be a lot stronger about what we’re saying. I’m no longer just acting opposite Chris Colfer, I’m also talking to the bullied teens and the parents who’ve lost kids to this. There’s people listening now, it’s kind of empowering."

Previously…
Glee's Teenage Dream on Whether He'll Kiss Kurt [tr]
Watch: Glee's All-Guy Teenage Dream [tr]

Comments

  1. Fenrox says

    I kinda want him to date the bully. I would like to see the storyline where Kurt helps him out, but I don’t know if the show could really do that.

    That aside, That kid is smoking hot, if the show would stop auto tuning the singing I might actually listen to one of the songs instead of fast forwarding.

  2. Jonster says

    Oh man this episode brought back memories. When I was in high school, there was a “Kurt,” the boy who was too out to be in, and there was me, the quiet guy who hung with a “semi-cool” group. I was bullied in elementary school but faced down my nemesis in the schoolyard and won. I knew I was gay, and had support at home, but there was this one guy at school, a muscular jock (Tom), who always pushed me into the lockers. “You look like a f-g, I bet you’re a f—–cking f-g.” It was like time would stand still. And then it would be over. A year after high school, Tom walked into the same bar I was in. Yep. Gay. He apologized and asked me to dance. Slow. It was a shocker. Years later, I heard he died from an AIDS-related infection. I don’t know if the “F” word will ever die out in schools. It’s the first slur kids learn. But this episode really nailed it. Most straight guys aren’t really that concerned about gay issues and don’t taunt people over their sexuality. When you encounter a bully who does these things, chances are he’s closeted, and just not as brave as you are.

  3. says

    “And I realized that if I said, It doesn’t matter, that immediately means that I’m gay.”

    BINGO!

    Very smart, very cute, very talented.

    Best “Glee” episode EVAH!

    I have the feeling that Kurt and the bully are going to fall in love.

  4. naughtylola says

    OK can I chime in here with the Kurt-Bully theoretical love affair? This guy has attacked Kurt violently for how long? Forever? And last night he attacked him *sexually*. Low-grade violation, I freely submit, but make no mistake about it that was sexual violence. Ask any of your female friends how they would react if a guy who had been regularly beating them suddenly grabbed them and stuck is tongue in their mouth. That is not some kind of perverse romantic gesture, that is sexual battery.

    Please do not turn this into something cute.

  5. Ty says

    I very much enjoyed last night’s episode. It covered a complex topic through good story-telling and heart. And I think the new friendships that were made between the characters will be interesting to watch. I also hope that we see more of Blaine’s character because he seems like a good guy.

  6. JimSur212 says

    Sorry, but I disagree that it was sexual violence. I think Kurt made him confront his sexuality and in a moment of pure passion expressed how he truly felt, revealing the true demons inside him. When Kurt made clear that he did not want to be kissed by him, he stopped. It was pure physical violence every time he pushed Kurt into the locker, but the moment of that kiss was pure honesty. You could prosecute the bully for all of the physical violence, but I don’t think a prosecutor in the world would charge him for that kiss. When Kurt indicated “no”. It meant no. We need to be careful when feminists try to interpret gay male conduct, because some of them view the penis as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

  7. says

    If this show had been on when I was a teenager, I might have had the courage to come out while I was in high school. Anything that makes that process easier should be applauded. For those of you upset about the bully, I think they captured a very ugly reality of gayness in America. It is closet cases that succumb to the homophobic atmosphere in our society who end up being our greatest tormenters. If we could only catch them early on, it would change things immensely.

  8. naughtylola says

    @JimSur212, a few points:

    1) It is illegal to force someone to kiss you, full stop. Whether a prosecutor pursues the charge doesn’t necessarily reflect the law. Prosecutors pursue charges that they think they can get a conviction on. Sexual battery is and has always been “squishy” in terms of predictability of legal outcome, particularly when there is no visible trauma and the entire cases is predicated on he-said / he-said

    2) The bully went after Kurt a second time and only stopped when he was physically forced back. That is not indicative of respect for someone’s boundaries, that is pushing *past* the boundary and only retreating when the other person physically fights back. That’s not passion, that’s “I take what I want when I want it.” Kurt certainly was not enjoying the moment; he was frozen when it happened, and he was deeply upset when talking to Blaine about it in the stairwell.

    3) Domestic and sexual violence is woefully under-reported when the victims are men, doubly so in the gay community. They used to have PSA billboards in the subway in the city where I live trying to drive attention to it.

    4) ‘Feminists hate men’ is a tired old trope that hasn’t been relevant since Andrea Dworkin roamed the earth.

  9. rjp3 says

    It was a GREAT episode – heard the buzz and tuned in (it has been a bit to gay pandering to catch my interest in the past – and I do not like Gay Pandering from FOX as they are a sister company to Fox News).

    He identifies as Straight — so that folks do think he is gay. Does not say he is not BI!

  10. patrick nyc says

    JIMSUR212 you are so off on this one. Just moments before he tried to kiss him he not only physically assaulted him by throwing him into the locker, he also punched the locker and threatened him seconds before the kiss. And your ‘theory that feminists hating men or view the penis as a weapon only proves that your parents must have dropped you on your head a few many times too often.

  11. GregV says

    I don’t agree that “it doesn’t matter” would mean you’re gay. A lot of people seem to want to make all kinds of assumptions when it comes to other people’s sexuality, but that’s part of the problem that the more aware people should be challenging.

    The media shouldn’t feel entitled to hound an actor into announcing his real-life sexuality every time he plays gay any more than those playing doctors on medical dramas are pressed to admit whether they’ve ever been to medical school.

    However, Darren Criss is very well-spoken. Last night’s episode was great! I’m glad Darren Criss’ character has been introduced so that there is not just one gay character.

    Kurt’s over-the-top feminine stereotype is the only gay character we ever saw on the show last season. When told “girls come to this side of the room,” he goes straight there and seems insulted when reminded by Mr. Shu that he is male.

    It’s almost as if Kurt is going to discover someday that he is not gay but trangendered, and I don’t know that all of the audience is sophisticated enough to understand the difference.

    GLEE is overdue for a variety of gay characters that seems to be foreshadowed for this season.

    I love the show and hope we’ll see more of Darren Criss’ character.

  12. naughtylola says

    @JimSur212, a follow-on question to my third point:

    How much of that type of behavior (not bullying per se but sexual aggression) does go on in real life, in your estimation, and how much of it would you say is bona fide courtship rather than men not acknowledging their own status as a victim of violence simply because they’ve been raised with the understanding that its impossible for men to be victims of sexual violence? I’m not suggesting that all aggressive sexual behavior be pathologized, or that people should start hewing to some overwrought victim mentality, but there should be an acknowledgment somewhere that this does happen and its really not part of “normal” human interaction, regardless of the sexes of the people involved.

  13. Sancho says

    I could see a Kurt/Bully storyline playing out precisely because, as Kurt said last night, no one has ever wanted to kiss him before – he’s never in his life experienced someone being attracted to him. For someone in that situation, being the object of attraction can outweigh a LOT of flaws and bad actions on the part of the person attracted to them.

  14. Tim says

    As far as the sexual attack idea, that was my exact first thought when I watched the episode. I suppose there is a fine line, at the high school age, where taunting is flirting. I remember well being told that the girls that used to kick me when we were in elementary school were just showing their affection but didn’t know to. I suppose this could be argued as a transformation exercise for the footballer. Either way, it could be taken either way.

    Thanks for your story, Jonster. That was touching and kind of you to share. As someone who has encountered sexual violence by other guys, twice, I can attest that people look at it with far less seriousness. I’ve actually been asked by people I considered friends whether I was sure I didn’t want it or was part to blame. Over years, people still refer to it with flippance. I don’t.

    Back to the episode, though, this could go far further than any “it gets better” campaign. Nothing against the campaign, but this really made a point on many levels. Well done, Glee.

  15. naughtylola says

    *facepalm*

    “For someone in that situation, being the object of attraction can outweigh a LOT of flaws and bad actions on the part of the person attracted to them.”

    Just FYI, this is precisely why people return over and over again to abusive partners, who in turn frequently murder them in the end. You have neatly summed up my whole objection to the ‘bully becomes a love interest’ hypothesis. Thank you.

  16. Anon says

    I know this is a completely shallow post relative to the other ones (of course, Glee has always been part melodrama, part camp), but the very hot guy playing David at Dalton Academy didn’t pull off playing a straight guy at all. Why couldn’t Kurt go for him? Relative to other shows, Glee is great at casting Asians (and a special shout out to Glee for casting Harry Shrum Jr. and his abs), but having an inter-ethnic gay couple could have been a lot of fun. Just noting the small missed opportunity…

  17. steve talbert says

    I thought the footballer actor was great to try to go in again when he was first rebuffed. I don’t know if that was stage directions, or his acting coming out. But it is exactly what I would expect someone like that to do. Have their desire confused with revolusion and anger – and then once it is out, he thinks Kurt will automatically kiss back because what else is there but the sex?? But it is so much more than that. I hope that Blaine and Kurt go through that phase where they think they are supposed to be sexually attracted to each other only because they are both gay,,, but then realize that they aren’t really into the same things sexually, and make better friends. Or the opposite, where friends grow into lovers. That’s the “hard” part of being gay – the person can be a friend, lover, or both. It isn’t as undefined with straight people because there is so much already there in terms of roles, society, expectations, etc.

  18. steve talbert says

    I mean that it is more undefined with gay strangers meeting – which is probably why it used to be you became friends only AFTER having sex and then it changed with AIDS and ‘dating’ that you had sex only AFTER becoming friends. I prefer to have a little sex first, to see if there is any chemistry…. but then I am probably a slut like brittany.

  19. Houndentenor says

    Thank you, Glee, for choosing to show this issue as complicated rather than the shallow “very special episode” way issues like this have been dealt with in the past. Glee now has three gay characters. That’s a lot of possibilities. As much as I loathe the bully, I can’t help but feel sorry for him because Kurt nailed him. He’s terrified of who he is. There could be a journey for this character, whether he and Kurt end up together or not Kurt could be a great help to him. But Blane is the hottie. If only they’d given the names more thought. Blurt? Kaine? *sigh*

  20. Brian says

    Is Blaine the most important character on TV right now? He just might be. And Darren Criss seems like a really impressive guy. Kudos all around.

    As much as I would love for Kurt to get a boyfriend, I actually would prefer for him and Blaine not to date. Why not show people a realistic friendship between two gay people? How awesome would it be if Blaine could just be the “it gets better” mentor to Kurt, with no sexual tension at all? We already have had the unfortunate stereotype of the gay guy always pining after the unobtainable straight guy, so instead of playing into another cliche of the gay guy sleeping with the only other out gay guy he knows, how about showing a real friendship?

  21. naughtylola says

    @Houndentenor, LOL!

    “But Blane is the hottie. If only they’d given the names more thought. Blurt? Kaine? *sigh*”

    Ha, when I read the first blurb about this story arc my immediate thought was the scene from “Pretty in Pink” when Ducky freaks out about Andie’s rich-boy crush:

    “Blaine? BLAINE?!? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!”

  22. Matt says

    Last night’s show, which i just got to watch, was amazing. I was totally thrown off about the bully kiss. Never expected that. But it proves what I’ve always believed, the greater the hate the deeper the closet. I hope the writers pursue something, not sure what, between Kurt and the bully.
    As to the bully’s kiss, i don’t condone the violence but i don’t see it as sexual assault. The bully is jealous of Kurt; he is attracted to him and hates Kurt for making him attracted to him. He hates Kurt for being what the bully can’t, and that is out and proud of who he is. The hardest part for all of us in coming out is first accepting who we are and accepting who you are against what society has said you shouldn’t be. The show was done well and the actor playing Blaine is adorable. If someone that hot sang like that and looked at me with those eyes while i was in high school; I would have passed out from sheer happiness. Unfortunately real life isn’t like the show and there is no magical accepting all boys high school.

  23. Zlick says

    That was my first episode of Glee (well, I’m not counting the Rocky Horror one that drew me in), and I was very impressed with how they handled this subject matter.

    I just may go back and check out the whole series, as friends have been bugging me to do.

  24. naughtylola says

    OK, I freely submit that it was pretty low on the scale of life-altering trauma (I think that’s how I phrased it in a different thread.) My larger point is this: the mindset that caused this guy to attack Kurt in the hallways is the same mindset that caused him to stick his tongue in Kurt’s mouth: that Kurt isn’t Kurt Hummell, kid who lives with his widowed dad and loves theatrics and singing and has a car that he refers to as his “baby” and is a crackerjack place-kicker, and oh yeah who happens to be into dudes. He’s Out Gay Kid — just a screen upon which this guy can project whatever he wants to, and act upon in any way he chooses *without permission*. He can swing a fist or he can kiss him or whatever he feels like, because Kurt is not an actual person to him. I certainly hope that awareness is not the property solely of dick-hating Dworkinites.

    Someone in another thread thoughtfully pointed out that Kurt had already indicated not just his lack of interest but his revulsion (“Hamhock!”). It was only THEN that the bully grabbed him and kissed him. I would argue that’s not passion, that’s anger of the “you are not allowed to reject me” variety. It was not Kurt’s being gay that triggered the kiss, it was his being gay and *rejecting* the bully. Regrettably, there are an awful lot of teenage girls who will immediately identify with that scene, and not in a cute squishy romantic way.

  25. JimSur212 says

    @ NAUGHTYLOLA

    And another reason that I do not believe that the kiss was taken as sexual assault by Kurt is that Kurt’s reaction was for he and Blaine to reach out to the bully and tell him that he does not have to face coming to terms with his sexuality alone. Unfortunately, the bully is not yet close to ready to go down that road. Was the kiss inappropriate sexuality, yes. But every act of inappropriate sexuality is not sexual assault. I’ve been in a bar late at night on several occasions where I guy I was speaking to tried to put his tongue down my throat or started masturbating next to me at the urinal, but while inappropriate behavior, I never thought of these acts as sexual assault – it’s just a drunk gay guy thing.

  26. Caitlin Devine says

    I knew Darren Criss before the episode of glee from YouTube. If you look him up you’ll find him playing a guitar and singing Disney tunes. You can also look up starkidpotter and see him acting in two musicals and a web series. He is supermegafoxyawesomehot and if you like him check it out.

  27. naughtylola says

    @JimSur212, I think its a poorly-socialized guy thing, there’s no reason to limit it to gay guys. Douchebaggery is directed towards women every minute of every day.

    So like I said, this is pretty low on the scale of scarring events. Its still a GIGANTIC bummer for the very reason that Kurt stated: until then, he’d never been kissed (except by Brittany, which he didn’t count). This is his initiation into adult intimacy, and it was against his will by someone he hates and fears. You can chalk it up to a clumsy attempt at courtship, but it should not just be written off for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that a *huge* chunk of the audience is teenage girls. You can argue the merit of the point I’m about to make, but I really would worry about any message they may take away from that, and the attitude that people can just do that to them and there’s really nothing that they can or even *should* do about it. Its not your job, or my job, or anyone’s job to be a passive recipient of other people’s fucked up psychology.

    (And for the record, the two things you have described do in fact meet the legal criteria for sexual assault.)

    People react all kinds of ways to sexual aggression, up to and including marrying the person who raped them. Kurt’s reaction after the fact wasn’t welcoming, it was accusatory: “you did this to me, and I know why”. I would be really disappointed if the writers turned that into a romance, because now they’d be pairing Kurt up with someone who reacts to stress with extreme violence (unless they want to tackle the issue of LGBT domestic violence, high school dating violence, both of which are dirty little secrets in the respective communities).

  28. John Merzetti says

    “And so for the longest time when people asked me about Blaine …” Huh? The character debuted a couple of days ago! Is our collective attention span so short now that two days equals “the longest time”?

    Even considering when the episode was shot – which was not many moons ago – it does not qualify as “the longest time”.

    Of course, when you consider that the episode in question took place over the span of three days (check the dialogue) and the kids went from getting an assignment to full-on, stage-ready productions, I guess then two days would qualify as “the longest time”.

  29. TJ says

    @NAUGHTYNOLA: Thanks for making me think. Trust, I get the domestic violence/sexual violence thing. You make repeated, excellent points. But I wonder if the paradigm is the same. The reaction formation depicted with Hamhock might be different from esteem/entitlement/control issues. I’d be wary of the reformation of a bully in any case, but I am willing to consider that it is possible. And wouldn’t it, in fantasy, be great to imagine that Kurt’s bully could become his biggest fan, and protector after he learned to accept himself and thus became genuinely contrite. But, yeah, the fantasy the the abuser will some day change is a sad factor in the cycle of violence. Facts to the contrary are why this isn’t the best message to reinforce.

  30. naughtylola says

    @TJ, thanks. I feel like I’m being too hamfisted about this (hur hur!) Your own point is quite succinct, though: the fairytale of someone violent changing their ways with the love of a good (wo)man is pervasive and dangerous, of which the grisly reality plays out on the news every single day. I would be very sad to see it reinforced in such a high-profile way.

    On a purely shallow level: I think Kurt can do better. The guy is a troglodyte.

    But hey if they do set Kurt up with an abusive partner, he can cut a bitch with his mad ninja skillz:

  31. KJG says

    I have to say I’m a bit relieved that there is finally a gay character on television that isn’t wearing Gucci, having a pose off, adopting asian babies, etc… Granted the meathead has issues but who wouldn’t in this situation? His only perceptions of gays are Kurt and whatever is portrayed in the media (ie Will & Grace). It’s one thing to show Kurt’s struggle and process of coming out but if I were in the closet, I still wouldn’t be able to relate to it. The jock, however, is someone I could easily see as myself and has the power to be very illuminating.

    This will be interesting to see played out. While I’m not a fan of Glee just due to horrible writing and farcical plots, I will keep a look out for this (and Darren Criss).

  32. glenn says

    I really like Glee and i think Criss is a very smart person. I like that he plays a gay character. Im stragiht and i simply adore gay men. I find them to be very amazing and bold

  33. anonymous says

    This is a bit fake because “Blaine” wouldn’t make the mistake of saying his character is ahead of “Kurt” He’s not, everyone is graduating except him, he’s only a Junior… sorry

  34. Tremaine says

    I understand where Darren Criss is coming from. I kind of grew up like that, but somewhat a little different. My parents was apart and my mom raised me and taught everything.after she passed her side of my family raised which are mostly female. So I know how to treat a lady, even know how one might think. I’m into music and shows like glee because its hard for me to express my feelings out loud, but when I hear the right music everything become clear to me again. Throughout my school years everyone was my friend no matter what was their sexual orientation. I was the guy that fitted in with everybody

  35. Tremaine says

    People didn’t understand why I was hanging around with guys interested in other guys. My answer was always it didn’t matter all that matter is that we are cool enough to be friends and if others have a problem with it o well. Its hard for people in this generation to accept people for who they are. That is what really get under my skin. Especially when they ask me am I gay because I’m hanging out with one. I say no I just don’t see any crime with being a friend with one.

  36. Erin Marie Kelley says

    hey Darren Criss
    how are doing lam doing okay and
    always love you and you are bigest fan of you l wish you come
    down on tour in Plymouth dont get
    l know all about you and your friends love you your fan
    Erin marie kelley

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