Our very own Shelly has been a big fan of Telly Leung since seeing him in RENT on Broadway almost three years ago, and had the privilege of seeing him perform in the show on tour several times, as well as at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer. Needless to say, she was thrilled when she found out that he was going to be on our favorite show. She loved him as Steve, the Squeegee Man, and Angel, and love him just as much as Wes on Glee. As a newcomer to the show, Telly was kind enough to answer a few of her questions for an exclusive GleeFan.com interview. Enjoy!
Glee fans may know you as Wes the Warbler, but for the Gleeks who are Broadway fans too, you’re also a star on the stage. As someone who works predominantly with live audiences, what was it like transitioning from the stage to the TV screen?
I love working both on stage and in front of a camera, but they are very different mediums. That was something I had to learn -- the hard way. I went to Carnegie Mellon University, where I studied acting and music theater -- and we were trained for stage work. It took me a while, and some embarrassing bad camera acting moments in on-camera class after I graduated, to really learn how to work on a set in front of a camera. But, the biggest lesson I took away from my time in college at CMU is this: Actors must never stop being students. We must keep going to class, keep studying our craft, and never be too proud to make mistakes. The best thing I could have done was get myself to an on-camera class after graduating CMU, and watch myself be “BAD” on camera. We don’t learn unless we fall on our face, and pick ourselves back up again. So many of my friends from CMU are amazing on stage and on camera, and I aspire to be just as versatile. Zachary Quinto is a perfect example. We were at CMU together, and he was one of the upper class men I really looked up to. Just saw him be absolutely brilliant in ANGELS IN AMERICA off-Broadway, and we all know how amazing he is on TV and on film (like HEROES and STAR TREK).
Could you share some funny stories, pranks, or interesting moments from your time on the Glee set?
The Warblers are the new kids on the block, so we’re not quite at the pranking stage. Something that always makes me laugh when we’re together: when Zach Woodlee (Glee‘s amazing Choreographer) calls us by our nicknames, which we’ve all earned during rehearsal. I love the way he runs rehearsals. He gets it all done (with major time constraints) but keeps the mood light and fun. Titus Makin (David) and I share a nickname, since we flanked Darren during the Teenage Dream number. We are “the T’s” -- since both our names start with T. “Darren and his T’s.” Makes me smile.
Which member of New Directions do you relate to most, and why?
I think I’m a bit biased, but I’m going to say Kurt -- because, honestly, he is the one I’ve worked with the most (since he’s also a Warbler). But, in all seriousness, I think we can ALL relate to Kurt? Who among us have never been bullied in some way -- whether it’s physical, verbal, emotional, etc.
You recently performed with Darren Criss and your fellow Warblers at Trevor LIVE, a charity event benefiting The Trevor Project. Could you talk a little bit about what that project means to you, and what you think of how Glee handles LGBT representation?
I was thrilled that Adam Shankman (who directed the benefit) asked me to perform in it -- TWICE! I was lucky enough to be featured with the Warblers, but I also got to represent the Hollywood Bowl cast of RENT, and sing “Will I” / “Seasons of Love” with my RENT family. The Trevor Project has been around for quite some time, but has gained special attention recently because of the string of gay teen suicides. These teen deaths are
a tragedy, but it has also brought much needed attention to TREVOR PROJECT, and enlightened all of us about the dangers of bullying. GLEE is a show about social outcasts, coming together and forming a community. RENT is about a community of people coming together to find strength in a world, challenged by AIDS. Both shows have an emphasis on “community” -- and I think so many teen suicides can be prevented if we let them know there is a community of folks out there ready to give you companionship -- ready to make sure you know you are NOT alone in this world. There is strength in numbers.
Now that you’ve performed Teenage Dream with Katy Perry herself, do you have any other dream songs that you would like to perform with the Warblers?
No specific songs in particular -- but you know what I think would be fantastic? If the Warblers got to do a number with New Directions! How cool would that be!?
Without giving too much away, can you tell us what’s coming up for the boys at Dalton? Any hints at future songs and/or scenes?
Sorry. No hints! (a) I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise and (b) I think I’d get struck by lightening or something! haha!
Although we’ve seen some of Wes on the show, we don’t really know that much about his background. Have you created your own back-story for your character?
I have my own ideas about the character, but I have a feeling (or, at least an optimistic hope) that due to the success and popularity of the “Kurt / Blaine / Dalton” story line that we are going to see all the Warblers developed as the season continues. I have a feeling that the powers-that-be at GLEE are very in tune with what the fans (the beloved GLEEKS) like and don’t like about the show -- and the positive reaction to Blaine and the Dalton Warblers has been overwhelming! I am sure they’ll keep that in mind as they write future episodes.
Do you have a favorite mode of performing (performing live on stage, acting/singing/dancing in a musical, acting on camera, etc)? What do you enjoy most about being a performer?
I love it all -- for different reasons. But, I started performing as a SINGER first and foremost, so that’s my first love. The thing I love about singing is that no two voices are alike. It’s as individual and unique as a snowflake or a finger print. I also love that it allows us, as human beings, to create music -- anywhere! The human voice is pretty amazing. Just listen to the Tufts Bubs (the REAL voices behind the Warblers sound). Their arrangements are amazing -- and all of those sounds and different timbres are created solely with the human voice. Incredible.
As someone who grew up/lives in New York, but also spends time in Los Angeles, can you talk about what you like to do in your free time while you’re out here (in LA)? Do you have any west coasts favorites, like Disneyland, In-N-Out, etc.?
There’s no place like home -- and I miss NY terribly every time I’m in LA. But there are certain things I LOVE about LA. LA has amazing burger joints (In-N-Out, Umami, The Counter) and also INCREDIBLE Sushi! (I’m a food lover -- can you tell?) I also love the sunshine. You can’t beat the beautiful LA weather (especially since I’m freezing my tail off in NY, as I do this interview!)
Besides Glee, what other projects do you have coming up? Would you like to continue doing work on camera, or are you looking to return to the live stage?
I’m super excited about being involved in a brand new Broadway musical called ALLEGIANCE, starring Lea Salonga (Tony Award winner for MISS SAIGON) and George Takei (from STAR TREK and HEROES). It’s the story of a Japanese-American family during World War 2, and their trials and tribulations in the Japanese internment camps. In ALLEGIANCE, George plays “Old Sam Omura”, and as the show takes us back in time to the camps, I play “Young Sam Omura.” It’s a dark part of American history that is often ignored: that we, as Americans, racially profiled our own Japanese-American citizens and placed them in internment camps, taking
away their basic freedoms. George grew up in one of these camps as a child, and it has been an incredible experience, being part of the creative process with him. We’ve done several readings and investors’
events together -- and there is ever growing interest in the show. It’s slated to open out-of-town in 2011, with a Broadway premiere in 2012. For more information and performance clips, please check out: http://www.facebook.com/allegiancemusical.
I’m so proud to be a part of it. Here’s a clip of me singing the Act 1 finale from the show, “My Time Now” at a recent investors’ event in Hawaii.