Jonathan Groff of Ronks guest stars during the spring season of "Glee," which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Fox.
He plays Jesse St. James, the lead singer of the glee club Vocal Adrenaline, a rival group of the show's New Directions choir.
Before hitting it big, Groff attended Conestoga Valley High School and worked at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. That's where York Little Theatre managing director Julie Aiken first met him.
She said that in 2004, Groff helped teach YLT's summer sessions, which are designed to introduce youth to the theater arts.
Groff co-starred with "Glee's" Lea Michele in Broadway's "Spring Awakening." Groff, 25, was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the production. He's also featured on "Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna" EP, which includes cover songs performed on the show. The EP was released April 20.
In between dance rehearsals and taping episodes, Groff was a little hard to get in touch with, so he answered the questions via e-mail.
How did you get your acting start? Do you remember the first time you acted? I think that the first time I really "performed" was in the barn on my dad's horse farm when I was about 4 years old! I got all of my friends together and we would perform plays for our parents in the barn, and even charge admission to get in. I think that it cost a nickel back then . . .! I started taking acting seriously when I did the eighth-grade play at the Conestoga Valley Middle School, when my drama teacher Sue Fisher told me that I should pursue it as a career. Then, I did all of my school shows that I could and regional theater at The Ephrata Playhouse and Fulton Opera House . . . that's when I really got into it.
Why did you try out for "Glee"? I actually didn't audition for this job. I had done a pilot for the creator of the show, Ryan Murphy, about two years ago. The show didn't get picked up, and then Ryan started working on "Glee." He told me that if "Glee" became a success and got picked up for more episodes, he would create a character for me, and he did.
When did you find out that you landed a role? What were you feeling? I found out this fall that I would start working on the show in December. I was thrilled to join the cast because I knew Ryan (Murphy) and Lea (Michele) and just believed so much in what the show had to say. So I was really excited to become a member of the team.
You and Lea Michele acted together in "Spring Awakening." How is your interaction in "Glee" different? This show is more of a musical comedy, and "Spring Awakening" was much more of a drama. Both are challenging, but in different ways. I feel really lucky to be able to tackle dramatic and comedic work with Lea because we get along so well and I truly respect her and admire her as an artist.
How is TV different from Broadway? It's like the difference between long-distance and short-distance running. Theater is like long distance because you have to know how to conserve and pace yourself over an eight-show week, and TV is like sprinting because you only get one day to do the scene and then you will never do it again, so it is very fast and intense.
Your character seems like a bad guy. Is it fun to play a villain? Yes! I was not nearly as "dark" as Jesse St. James is when I was in high school, so it is really fun to play something so outside of myself.
What are your other hobbies/interests outside theater? I love to exercise, and (I) am actually taking swimming lessons right now to prepare for a triathlon that I am going to do in June. I also love going to the movies and spending time with friends.
You helped teach summer classes at YLT back in the day. What advice do you have to share with young people who want to act and sing? Don't let the world define you. In the world of acting, and I think in any profession really, people are really eager to put you in a box and categorize you as one particular thing. Make sure that you always follow your heart and your gut, and let yourself be who you want to be, and who you know you are. And don't let anyone steal your joy.
What else do you have coming up on the horizon? I am finishing up "Glee" in the next week, and then I will head back East in May. And I just keep looking for the next job.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
The show premiered in September 2009 and took a four-month hiatus in December. The show's nine-episode spring run kicked off April 13, 2010. On Jan. 17, 2010, the show won a Golden Globe for best comedy or musical TV series.
For details, visit www.fox.com/glee.