Matthew Morrison doesn't mind being the gayest straight man you know. The 32-year-old actor recently called being a member of a gay boy band in the 2003 film Marci X the “gayest thing” he's done in his career.
And that's saying a lot—he's currently starring on Glee, playing hot choir-club head Mr. Schuester. His part on the musical-comedy hybrid follows years of Broadway work on shows like Hairspray and The Light in the Piazza, which earned him a Tony nomination. Now, after becoming a big deal and an even bigger teacher crush, Morrison ventures out on his own with a solo debut album and a summer tour with the New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys. The tour stops at Orlando's Amway Arena on Friday, July 22.
We spoke recently with the man behind Mr. Schuester, chatting about some racy photos involving a gay twin and his “chicken,” the Glee girl he'd date, and the importance of the show’s father-son relationship.
WATERMARK: Because of your musical-theater work and Glee role, do people often think you're gay?
MATTHEW MORRISON: I've been singing and dancing since I've been in fifth grade so I've gotten that quite a bit in my life.
Being one of few straight guys in theater, how did you use that to your advantage when it came to the ladies?
The odds for me were definitely in my favor, being surrounded by beautiful female dancers and being the person that they could actually, you know, be with. (Laughs) So it was a great time in my life. I really took advantage of it for a while in my younger days on Broadway, but aside from all that bullshit, I love being on the gayest show on TV. It doesn't bother me; I wear it as a badge of honor to be accepted and loved in that community.
There are several steamy pics of you on the internet, including ones of you in polka-dot underwear with a plushy little poof on the private.
Yeah, that's my chicken. (Laughs) It was for a thing called Broadway Bares, a big fundraiser. And if I knew at the time how much flack I would get for those photos I probably would've never done it, but it raised a lot of money that night for AIDS.
There's another picture out there of you—or someone that looks like you—getting cozy and smoochy with Anderson Cooper's alleged boyfriend.
That's not me. It looks very much like me.
It does, indeed. Your doppelganger?
Yeah, I know. Thank you for making out with Anderson Cooper's boyfriend, whomever you are. (Laughs) But his ears are different, and he doesn't have the mole on the side of his face like I do.
Do rumors bother you?
They used to, but it happens so much now that you have to shut it off. I know my own truth, and that's what you have to live with.
Which Glee girl would you have dated in high school?
I would've been the Quinn guy. I actually pretty much did date Quinn in high school. I dated the homecoming queen and she was very religious, and I went to church with her all the time.
Was your girlfriend in the celibacy club, too?
Uh, well, we weren't having sex, so yes. (Laughs)
Speaking of sex, let's talk about the first single from your new album, “Summer Rain.”
Yes! Sex on a roof.
Tell me how the song came about.
It's a true story—me and my ex-girlfriend, who was actually a Broadway dancer (laughs), on the roof of my apartment. It was a beautiful summer day, and then it just started raining—and the moment just kind of took us and we just, you know.
This was in New York City, where there could be 1,000 people watching you on top of the roof, but we didn't care. A lot of people think that song is just about having sex on a roof, but for me it was being young and in New York and in love. If the 16-year-old version of myself would've known I would've had a moment like that in my life, I would've been very happy. (Laughs)
I bet. There's a line that references Lover's Lane. What's the last thing you bought from the sex shop of the same name?
(Laughs) Ohh, no! Oh my god. That's crazy. I didn't even know that. I wrote it as, in the '50s you go to lovers' lane, kind of like going to a lookout mountain in your car and making out and stuff.
Oops. Guess it has two meanings now. (Laughs)
(Laughs) I guess so! I'm glad I know that little tidbit of knowledge.
You know, public sex might be trickier for you now.
Yeah—I still do it. Who cares! (Laughs) No, I can't do anything in public anymore. Honestly, I'm really happy that I—I feel bad for some of the kids on my show. I mean, they're not kids, they're all in their 20s, but I really got to live out my 20s in New York and do whatever I wanted and not be in the public eye, and now I'm such a homebody that I don't really have any problem with that anymore. I feel lucky that I really got to experience my life like that.
Glee has tackled important issues like gay bullying, drinking, teen sex, and so on. Which theme are you most proud of?
I absolutely love the relationship between Kurt and his father. It's so beautiful and it's something that really needs to be seen. I mean, I don't know how that works being a gay teen—do you have the birds and the bees talk like other people? I thought that was so well handled. Straight guys who watch the show now and do have kids who might be gay, I think they'll be more equipped to handle that.
Did you know any Kurts in school?
Oh yeah, for sure. There were a lot of Kurts. I mean, I went to a performing arts high school. I had a college roommate, and I was the first person he came out to. I went to NYU and we lived in this dorm; there were five of us living together and one of them came out to me and just kind of felt comfortable. And I've always been very open and accepting of that because I know how hard that is, and I'm a good listener. To this day, there are a lot of Kurts in my life.
Some critics have been harsh on the second season of Glee. How do you feel about that?
I love this season. There are always going to be naysayers out there, but it's hard to follow what we did the first season. I actually thought we were going to be in trouble, but this season has been really strong.
So, is Lea Michele as much a diva as people say?
No, no. She's very committed to her job and she's a very talented girl, and I think sometimes that gets misconstrued.
Have you ever been hot for teacher?
For sure. I can't think of her name, but she was a Spanish teacher. I don't know if it had something to do with the language, but that's kind of hot.
For the Elton John mash-up, how did you decide on “Rocket Man” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”?
I wanted to pay homage to him and do some of his songs. It actually took a while to pick which ones, but I knew I wanted to mash two together. I was thinking “Tiny Dancer.” The only one Elton didn't want to do was “Crocodile Rock.”
These two just kind of mesh. They don't when you think about it, but it turned out to be this epic seven-minute song. He was just so game for anything and such a pleasure to work with. He's such a student of music, and every Tuesday he buys every new artist who comes out. He knows what he's doing, and it was just cool to be in (the studio) with him.
Will you bring your Glee raps to the album?
No, no, no. I try to get far away from Glee on this album. Coming from Glee, I thought it was important that I write a lot of my own material. I didn't want to do just covers, because that would've been very Glee-esque, and to be taken seriously as an artist I had to write my own songs.
Tell me about the tour.
I'm going on a world tour with my album, and I'm really looking forward to it. There's no better way to see the world then to go out and perform and sing.
Back in the day, you used to be in a boy band called LMNT. Now that you're solo, how does it compare?
Well, that was just a bad year of my life—and it was in the late '90s, when you couldn't throw a stick and not hit someone in a boy band. It was so manufactured and so cheesy and, as a performer, when you're on stage and you're embarrassed to be up there, you know you're doing the wrong thing. But honestly, that year I was in the boy band, I learned a lot about the recording process, and it really helped me in where I am today—in Glee and in doing this solo project. It was a good experience in that sense.
Now, Jane Lynch—
Who's she? (Laughs)
What's she like off-camera?
She's actually my best friend on the show. I'm the closest to her out of everyone. We just have an amazing relationship. I love her to death. I love her wife. And she's the kindest woman you'll ever meet.
You wouldn't know based on her Glee character, Sue Sylvester.
Have her hair jibes caused you personal pain?
(Laughs) No, not at all. Everyone gets hammered on the show; no one gets away unscathed. I actually made fun of her hair at some point. Lea's nose gets made fun of; Cory (Monteith) gets made fun of because he can't dance. Everyone gets ragged on—it's just part of being on Glee.
WHO: Matthew Morrison
WHEN: Friday, July 22
WHERE: Amway Center, Orlando