Max Adler: Closet Gleek
BY Brandon Voss
June 20 2011 7:25 PM ET
In the heated moment when he kissed Kurt Hummel in the McKinley High locker room, Dave Karofsky, Glee’s most hated slushie-tossing tormentor, became one of the most tragic and sympathetic figures on television. As his self-loathing character kept harassing Kurt throughout the second season, forcing the openly gay glee clubber to temporarily transfer to another school, Max Adler earned more admirers by wholeheartedly embracing the responsibility of representing struggling gay youth. Smiling for a change on his summer hiatus, the 25-year-old actor looks back at Karofsky’s slow road toward self-acceptance and predicts a somewhat brighter future for the football jock when the Fox juggernaut returns for a third season this fall.
The Advocate: Now that we’re between seasons, are you suffering from Glee withdrawal like I am?
Max Adler: I’m totally going through Glee withdrawal. The hectic schedule was full-speed, and then it all stopped at once. But I’m not the kind of person who enjoys downtime, so I’m always looking for what I can do next. Two days after we wrapped season 2, I went off to shoot a movie, and there have already been other auditions and meetings, so I’m keeping busy.
You recently caught the Glee Live! concert tour in San Diego. Are you bummed that you’re not touring with the gang?
Of course. I did show choir in high school, so I definitely envy everybody who gets to be up there while I watch from the sidelines. Being at the concert, I kind of felt like my character in a way, so it was interesting. But we’ll see what happens in the future.
The Glee audience first discovered that Karofsky was gay in “Never Been Kissed,” the November episode in which he unexpectedly kisses Kurt. Similarly, you learned Karofsky’s secret when you read the script for that episode. How did that new insight change the way you played the character?
Well, before the “Never Been Kissed” episode, I still looked for things within him that would make him more interesting for me to play — why he does bully, why does he torment so many people? Him being gay was actually something I tossed around as an idea, but it obviously wasn’t confirmed until “Never Been Kissed,” which just reiterated how I played him. I knew there was something going on underneath, but once I knew for sure what that thing was, it made it a lot more exciting for me. It’s almost like playing two people at once: Karofsky has one way he speaks and shows himself to his peers at school, and then there’s this whole other life beneath the surface, so with everything he says there’s something else that he’s thinking. To get to act that is such a joy.
Now that it’s been confirmed that your character is attracted to other men, have you become more aware of all the hot guys on the show?
There are some attractive men in that Glee cast. I cannot deny that.
After all, Santana figured out Karofsky’s secret when she caught him checking out Sam in the hallway.
Yeah, Sam’s a good-looking guy. That was great, because in the script it just said, “Santana spots Karofsky” — and then in all caps — “AS HE TOTALLY CHECKS SAM’S ASS OUT!” I thought, Oh, my God, that’s going to be so much fun. I had already thought about that kind of thing. When I’m doing those locker-room scenes, I think, Karofsky’s probably feeling pretty uncomfortable with all these other guys, because it would be like me in a locker room with a bunch of girls changing. That was something I had been playing, but it was never shown until he checked out Sam. If you’re questioning your sexuality at school with a bunch of good-looking teenage guys, yeah, your eyes are going to be roaming for sure.
Because we see Karofsky sporadically, have you come up with your own details to fill in his backstory?
Yes, I think about it all the time. At this point, all he’s doing is trying to blend in and fly under the radar. He wants to watch everything he does — the way he walks, the way he talks, what he looks at — so I feel like when you don’t see him, he’s not out causing trouble or getting into fights; he has school, football practice, and then goes home, so he’s living his life like a drone, a robot, just trying to get through another day without anyone seeing him for who he really is. Whether he’s surfing the Web, playing video games, eating, whatever, he’s in hiding. He’s almost like a wanted criminal, trying to lie low.