Glee's mysterious and ambitious fourth season was put into clearer picture Saturday night when members of the cast and creative team met anxious fans at Comic-Con.
With scores of fans lining up early Thursday night to get into the show’s considerably smaller location inside the Hilton Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom, executive producers Brad Falchuk, Ian Brennanand Dante DiLoretto were joined by stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera, Darren Criss, Kevin McHale and Jenna Ushkowitz to take questions about the where the show’s various story lines are headed.
"Part of what we’re trying to explore now is what happens after you graduate high school and you become an adult: your life changes and your expectations change and it’s really hard to maintain relationships but not impossible," Falchuk told reporters ahead of the panel in a Glee press room. “We really want to challenge the characters a little bit more because high school is all about firsts and we want them to have new firsts now: your first love out of high school, your first big breakup, your big breakup and reconciliation, there’s a lot to it.”
During the tearful Season 3 finale, McKinley High seniors including Rachel (Michele), Santana (Rivera) and Finn (Monteith) and more were poised to leave Lima, Ohio, for greener pastures including New York and boot camp in Georgia. With all 15 series regulars poised to return in some capacity — Michele, Monteith and Chris Colfer (Kurt) areconfirmed to continue on in the same contractual status — how the show would service its many characters in various locations was put into sharper perspective.
As for Kurt’s role next season, the character whose dreams of attending NYADA with Rachel were dashed when he failed to earn acceptance to the university, leaving his East Coast dreams up in the air. In When Season 4 begins, he’ll still be at McKinley. Amber Riley’s Mercedes and Harry Shum Jr.'s Mike's story lines took them to L.A. and the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago; Dianna Agron's Quinn, meanwhile, is bound for Yale, with Puck (Mark Salling) likely headed for L.A.
Here are 15 spoilers from the cast and creators:
1. The Glee Project Season 1 co-winner Damian McGinty will not be returning — at least for right now, Falchuk told reporters. “Damian is not back this year,” he said. “The second half of the season, who knows. Right now, he won’t be in the first half of the season.” However, they would like to bring The Glee Project's Samuel Larsen and Alex Newellback along with Chord Overstreet for Season 4. As for how many episodes all 15 of last season’s regulars will be doing, Falchuk said almost no one will be in every one. Also returning: Vanessa Lengies' Sugar Motta. No word yet on Grant Gustin's Sebastian.
2. “When we come back in, Sue has had her baby although we still don’t know who the celebrity father of her child is,” Brennan said, noting that producers plan to make the big reveal during the first half of the season and promised it’d be quite funny. “She’s now Sue with a baby and a different set of priorities but still can’t help but make fun of everyone as often as possible.”
3. The Season 4 story will start in September, right as the school year is starting — at McKinley and at NYADA. “Life is going on in the choir room,” Falchuk said. “It’s a much smaller group in there, which is exciting for us because each story can be a little more intimate and a little more focused in a way because you don’t have 12 people to service.”
4. Kurt is still in Ohio and will help Will (Matthew Morrison) repopulate New Directions, which will struggle to increase its ranks for the first episode. “They’re underdogs again, that room is half empty and they’re desperately trying to get 12 kids for Sectionals,” Brennan said. “When we start, he’s in Lima still, and hasn’t figured out what he wants to do.” As for the hard life the character continues to have — shattered NYADA dreams, bullying and more — Falchuk noted Kurt’s resiliency will continued to be explored. “Kurt to me is one of the most interesting characters because he has to face the most diversity … he’s Kurt in Lima, Ohio, and because of that he has this ability to be resilient than probably any other character on the show and it was interesting for us to put him in a tough spot.” As for when and if he’ll wind up in New York, producers hinted that since Kurt and Rachel are best friends, it’ll be hard to keep them apart for long.
5. Recurring guest star Kate Hudson will be based in New York and portray Rachel’s tough-as-nails teacher at NYADA. “It’s a difference between the Will version of teaching and one that’s based on negative reinforcement,” Falchuk said. “The challenge for Rachel coming out of being the biggest star in her high school choir and having the quarterback boyfriend and now starting fresh and the challenges of New York and being there alone is going to be interesting for her.” Rachel, whose used to positive reinforcement from Will will be pushed pretty hard by Hudson’s character. Added Michele: “Now she’s in a school with 1,800 other Rachel Berrys.”
6. Finn will be the big mystery. “He went off on this adventure and nobody knows what’s happened,” Falchuk said, joking that the series would be shaving Monteith’s head for the Army next week. One thing is sure: Monteith is expecting to be Army-bound, noting that he’s been doing military presses. Michele, meanwhile, will still be struggling to with what to do with the way the pair parted ways. “We’re starting with she’s not knowing where things stand,” the actress says, noting she’ll be weighing what Finn “setting her free” truly means and pondering if she should date other people.
7. Who’s the new leader of New Directions now that the seniors have moved on? “I feel like it’s anybody’s game,” McHale said. “It’s a battle; I will roll over anybody’s feet to get that crown!”
8. Santana isn’t too far from home — but she isn’t in New York. “Santana is at University of Louisville and she’s a cheerleader and she’s working hard on her cheers,” Falchuk said. In terms of how she left her relationship with girlfriend Brittany (Heather Morris), Rivera said the couple was in a good spot at the end of Season 3. “They definitely love each other, I hope that they make it,” she said, noting the overwhelming feedback she gets from members of the LGBT community. It’ll be interesting to see why Santana didn’t opt to use the money for New York her mother gave her as a vote of confidence in her daughter’s future.
9. Also going for the long-distance relationship: Tina and Mike. “I think at the end of the season, we we’re trying to do that long distance thing that so many kids go through as a senior or junior,” Ushkowitz said. As for a potential reunion if anything happens to split the couple, Ushkowitz and McHale are game for Artie and Tina 2.0.
10. Blaine and Kurt update: Since Kurt will be sticking close to home, at least in the first episode back, the couple is safe — for now. “We all want to see them be together as long as possible but it’s good to have things shake up a little bit,” Criss said. “The inevitable of a long-distance relationship produces a lot of interesting conflict. … God forbid if they break up, that’s going to be quite bit of conflict. The new format of the show is going to shake a lot of stuff up.”
11. The show’s second Britney Spears episode will be the second one back and (naturally!) feature a lot of Morris — and Rachel. “We were able to take the Britney Spears-themed episode in the choir room and have it in New York and see how that affects the Rachel story line,” Falchuk said. In a similar fashion, expect the thematic events that take place at McKinley to extend to other characters whose story lines are taking place out of state. “An assignment for the glee club one week could affect a choice Rachel might make with an assignment at school,” he said, noting that modern technology could help tie story lines together. “We’ve been using that as a way to bind it.”
12. Will and Emma (Jayma Mays) update: They’re still engaged but don’t expect a wedding soon — at least not in the beginning of the season.
13. There will be a lot of new faces joining the series in Season 4 — including Puck’s younger brother and a roommate for Rachel that nobody has met before (sorry, Santana!) as well as new East Coast friends for the ex-New Directions star. “We’re definitely looking to repopulate the choir room and casting some new people to bring in there, the idea is to keep that part of the show vibrant,” Falchuk said. As for who they’re looking at: “a lot of big voices,” Brennan teased.
14. Meet the parents, again? With a new class of seniors exploring their futures after McKinley, McHale wants to see Artie’s parents, with Brennan pitching a story about the wheelchair-bound character’s mother. “I want her to be a hoarder,” he said to laughs. And for casting? McHale wants Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy) and Harry Connick Jr. Criss, meanwhile, wants Matt Bomer to return as Blaine’s other — and handsome! — brother, with Peter Gallagher (The O.C.) to play his dad. “We have the same eyebrows!” he told reporters. Ushkowitz, meanwhile, has some dream casting of her own and wants Grey’s Anatomy's Sandra Oh to play Tina’s crazy cousin.
15. Nene Leakes is going to be a busy woman. The series regular on Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy's NBC comedy The New Normal will still be in the mix as swim coach Roz Washington and tormenting Sue. Brennan noted that the two have their eye on Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba). “It finally occurred to someone that, ‘My God, this guy is totally inept and is a thorn in everyone’s side, let’s take him down,’” Brennan noted.
With production yet to begin on Season 4, the panel opened with a reel created by an Italian fan with footage from the first three seasons, behind the scenes and concert footage from the cast’s world tour and subsequent movie that elicited loud roars from the vocal ballroom.
Glee's fourth season premieres Thursday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. on Fox. Hit the comments with what you're looking forward to seeing.