Heather Morris: It's Brittany, Gleeks!
Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks? Did you also know that Heather Morris, the 23-year-old blonde who plays dimwitted high school cheerleader and glee clubber Brittany on Fox’s Glee, used to be a backup dancer for Beyoncé? As she prepares to embark on the Glee Live! In Concert! tour, Morris ponders those questions and more as she shares behind-the-scenes scoop on Brittany’s most memorably random moments — like that Brittany-Santana sex subplot!
Advocate.com: You get some of the best lines on the show. If I didn’t know he was gay, I’d totally suspect you were sleeping with cocreator Ryan Murphy.
Heather Morris: [Laughs] That’s amazing, and I’d probably say the same thing. The things they write to come out of my mouth are so simple but so brilliant. I have a lot of fun with it, and it’s so easy to do because I can just stare off and go with it.
What’s Ryan like to work with?
I was actually talking with him about this yesterday. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14, so a lot of these guys, especially Ryan, take such good care of me. Like, Ryan will take me out shopping to pick out dresses for some award shows. He’s probably the kindest person in the entire world, but in a split second he can be the funniest, most outrageous guy in the world. He’s monumental.
Speaking of great lines, Brittany recently asked Santana, “Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?” — which might be the most brilliant thing she’s said so far.
When I meet new people that’s the first thing they say to me now. They’ll be like, “Wait, I know I don’t really know you, but did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?” I’ll play along, like, “Oh, my God, are you serious? I’ve never heard that before.”
That line should be on a T-shirt.
I know. You know, they do have “I Bet the Duck’s in the Hat” T-shirts — from the episode where Brittany thought a ballad was a male duck? My mom called me and was like, “I just bought some ‘I Bet the Duck’s in the Hat’ T-shirts and I’m wearing one right now!” It was so cute.
Are they all scripted, or have any of Brittany’s one-liners been your idea?
A couple of them. Like in the Madonna episode, when Jesse St. James came to join our club, when I asked, “Mr. Schu, is that your son?” I asked that in rehearsal as a joke, an improv moment, because they really look so much alike. Ryan started cracking up, and he was like, “That’s amazing. Keep that.” So yeah, that was my idea.
[Laughs] Seriously, how great was that episode? When I first watched it, I wanted to nominate it as the most epic episode ever on television in the whole world.
You were also a part of Jane Lynch’s infamous “Vogue” video. Your voguing was pretty fierce.
That makes me so happy to hear. I was scared because I was dancing next to Durrell, who’s a queen, so I kept trying to watch him and learn from him. I really tried to do my homework because I was really nervous to do any type of voguing. I’m like this little white girl fairy princess, so didn’t think I was going to represent by any means.
You also played a very special part in the “Vogue” video that some people may not realize.
Yes, I was the one wearing the cone bra! That was maybe the coolest part about the whole thing for me, because I felt that the cone bra was, like, Madonna in a nutshell. It was just really cool that Madonna was watching me wearing a cone bra just like she had worn before.
Besides your superior dancing skills, you tend to stand out in some musical numbers like “Express Yourself” because of your height. Are you really tall or are the other girls just really short?
I’m a little over 5' 8", and they’re all, like, 5' 3". I noticed that in the Madonna episode too. I was like, “Oh, my God, I look like a beast!”
Pictures of you from the Glee set wearing a Lady Gaga lobster headpiece have leaked online. What can you tell me about that episode?
You’re going to die when you see it. Basically, we’re all like little Lady Gagas, and the numbers we do are such a good tribute to her, just like we did with Madonna.
So how did you get the Glee gig?
About six months after I first moved to L.A., I got a job doing Beyoncé’s tour. After I finished the tour, I started working with choreographer Zach Woodley, who started hiring me to do things like Fired Up! and Eli Stone. After that, I got invited to do the small Single Ladies tour she was doing for stuff like the AMAs and SNL. Prior to the Single Ladies tour I was supposed to move to New York to do West Side Story, but then I dropped dancing and started acting classes because I didn’t want to dance anymore and I really wanted to fulfill my lifelong dream of acting. Zach called me and was like, “Are you in New York?” I was like, “No, I’m still here in L.A. and I’m acting.” He was like, “OK, I need you to come in and teach the ‘Single Ladies’ dance to Chris Colfer and Jenna Ushkowitz for this TV show I’m doing, Glee. Since you’re acting now, I know Ryan Murphy would love to consider you for a part. Look as cute as you can so he’ll love you even more.” So I went in to teach the kids with a full-on outfit. I was scheduled to read with Ryan Murphy twice, but he canceled both times. After that, Zach called me and said they might not hire me anyway because they wanted the third cheerleader to be black, so my hopes were shot. But then my agent called a week later and said, “You’re now cast as Brittany in Glee.” So it was nuts.
Did the cast know about your Beyoncé experience from the beginning? Because if Chris Colfer is anything like me and just about every other gay man I know, he must’ve lost his mind.
Yes, Zach told them, so they were aware. Chris was really excited to work with me, and so was Kevin [McHale]. They were like, “I can’t believe you’re here!” Amber [Riley] already knew who I was because she loves Beyoncé. I walked in and she was like, “I know who you are! I own the Beyoncé Experience Tour DVD!” So she was excited to meet me, which was weird, because she’s epic and I was excited to meet her.
Did you get any feedback from Beyoncé about your Glee homage?
I didn’t. I wish I could hear from her. I did tell her about the show right before I started, but I didn’t tell her about the “Single Ladies” thing. I’m sure she knows about it, though. She always does her homework on stuff like that and watches over people. Knowing her, she probably knows exactly what I’m doing all the time.
Glee recently won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, just in case there was still any doubt that Glee has a huge gay fan base. Are you aware of the gay love for the show and for Brittany in particular?
I am. Growing up as a dancer, most of my guy friends were gay — or are now learning that they’re gay — so it’s been very clear in my eyes that they not only love the show but also me in it. My friend Frankie, who teaches kickboxing at L.A. Fitness, where I go, was telling me how all his friends were the biggest fans of Brittany, so he begged me to go to this gay club a while back. So I made an appearance, and so many boys were like screaming for me like little girls, saying, “Oh, my God, I love you so much!” It made me so happy. I was like, “Yes, those are my gays!” I love it that they support me so much.
At the GLAAD ceremony, Ryan Murphy commended Chris Colfer for coming out at such a young age. Were you and the cast supportive of Chris’s decision?
Of course. It’s a big deal, and I’ve always told him that I’m there for him. We kind of leave him alone about it, but if it’s ever spoken about, we’re all so supportive. With Jane and Ryan there, it’s a very mature set, so nobody really thinks twice about it.
In one very buzzed-about scene earlier this season, Santana said, “Sex is not dating,” to which Brittany replied, “If it were, Santana and I would be dating.” Naya Rivera recently told Maxim that she asked director, Brad Falchuk, “Are we doing this because she doesn't know what sex means, or did we in fact hook up?” Brad apparently told her, “Oh, no, you hooked up!” So what did you think when you first read those lines in the script?
I asked Ryan Murphy about it too. We were like, what does this mean for Brittany and Santana? [Laughs] Because Naya and I are best friends off-camera too, and we’re always together, so that’s always sort of been a joke with the writers. But I think it’s great. I know some younger girls go through confusion, and I had friends who weren’t sure about their sexuality at that age. So even if it’s never spoken about directly, it’s great if someone can relate to that. I’m glad Ryan Murphy touched on it a bit for people who might be struggling with that.
I didn’t think it would ever been addressed again, but Santana and Brittany held hands during a recent episode and tried to lure Finn into a threesome. Santana even said, “You buy us dinner, and we make out in front of you. It’s, like, the best deal ever.” Are the writers just teasing us here, or will there ever be some sort of payoff?
I’m with you because I’m always anticipating getting a script that’s going to be about our love story line, but I don’t think I ever will. Brittany and Santana are just best friends, and you know how sometimes best friends tickle each others’ arms and hold pinkies?
Yes, and I know where arm-tickling and pinky-holding can lead. You don’t think we’ll ever see a Santana-Brittany makeout session?
I don’t think so. I asked Ryan about that and he said there was no way. He said that since we’re a prime-time television show, he didn’t want to do that.
Some fans may be disappointed to learn that Brittany and Santana aren’t ever going to be a bisexual couple.
I know. We’ll see what happens.
How do you see Brittany and Santana’s relationship?
It’s like Brittany’s a lost puppy dog and Santana’s her owner, so she follows Santana around and does whatever she tells her to do because she doesn’t know how to do things for herself. Naya and I have talked about their relationship, and we do think Brittany’s just dumb and crazy about Santana, like, “I’m her best friend and I love her so much!”
You recently performed with the Glee cast at the White House and on The Oprah Winfrey Show, two of the most major venues in all the land. I know you’re both currently considered recurring as opposed to regular cast members, but I was still surprised to see you and Naya Rivera sitting in the audience instead of on stage with Oprah and the main cast.
Yeah, but we know our time will come. Yes, I work just as hard as everyone else, and I will continue to work just as hard and keep my mind set on what I want to do, so my time will come no matter what happens. You’ll see that I have even more stuff coming up in other episodes, and I get to develop more. Even if it means I have to wait for the second season, I will become regular cast, and maybe I won’t have to sit in the audience anymore!
So you will get an official promotion next season?
Ryan mentioned it to me as a possibility, so fingers crossed that it will hopefully come through.
Are you looking forward to the upcoming Glee concert tour?
Yeah, doing Oprah was a little taste of what it’s going to be like. Obviously I’ve toured before, but this time it was really cool to hear people scream for you instead of screaming for the artist. Not that I didn’t enjoy dancing for an artist, and I know people are screaming for other people on stage, but now people know my name and my character. Now it’s, “Oh, that’s Brittany from Glee!” instead of, “Oh, she’s a backup dancer.” I always knew there was another feeling that I wanted on stage, and that’s what it was — an appreciation of my own talent.
Neil Patrick Harris guest stars on an upcoming Glee episode, but you already got to perform with him in How I Met Your Mother’s “Girls Versus Suits” musical number earlier this season. I actually spotted you right at the front at the end.
You did? I could barely spot myself, but I guess I was up front at the end. That was a long dance day, and he was working really hard, so I didn’t think he’d remember me. When I met him again on Glee, he was like, “Oh, yeah, I remember you! You did How I Met Your Mother.” He’s really the coolest guy. He’s so humble, so he came on set and was just friends with everyone immediately.
I noticed in a recent White Tie Affair music video that you have a lower-back tattoo. What does it symbolize?
That’s a tribute to my dad that I got it when I was 18. It’s wings and a little angel who watches over me.
OK, so is the Glee cast totally hooking up with each other off the set? What’s the dirt, HeMo?
Oh, my God, you know my nickname! [Laughs] Girl, there’s no dirt. We’re so boring. Because we all work so hard, everybody pretty much goes home and does their own thing at the end of the day. Maybe that stuff doesn’t happen with us because we spend too much time together. We’re not sick of each other, but we just want to go home to our own lives.
Do you have a boyfriend?
I don’t have time for a boyfriend. I wish. I’m sad and lonely. [Laughs] That’s why I have gay friends to keep me company. Seriously, that’s where I get my love.