Darren Criss Admits He's 'Insane' These Days, Sees 'Sincerity' in 'Crazy' 'Glee' Fan Base

Monday, May 02, 2011

Darren Criss barely has time to think. Since the wildly popular 'Glee' star joined the cast in early November, he hasn't even had a chance to unpack; littered with 'Star Wars' gear and teenybopper mags bearing his all-American grin, his new house looks like something between a band's practice space and a college dorm room.

Hustling out the door at a little past noon, en route to a taping of 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show,' Criss looks like any other kid in his young Los Angeles neighborhood. Dressed in a faded grey University of Michigan t-shirt (his alma mater), black cardigan and jeans, he also sports tutti frutti-colored fingernails (a memento from his recent weekend at Coachella, which he attended in support of his brother's band, Freelance Whales).

"I'm like, never here, man," the 24-year-old apologizes, when asked how he likes his nice new house. "I get home, crash, and I'm out the door."

This is his second 'Ellen' appearance in as many months. Immediately following the taping he has to run back home to grab his guitar and gear, then head back out for a friends-and-family solo set at legendary Sunset Strip venue The Roxy's intimate upstairs room, On the Rox.

"Should I invite Ellen tonight?" Criss asks with a dark grin. "Who else is on the show? Gwyneth [Paltrow]? Should I invite Gwyneth?" The response is resoundingly positive from the members of the tinted-out SUV as we speed towards Burbank, Calif.

Though he needs to buy some equipment for tonight's show and still doesn't have his set figured out, he seems calm -- poised even -- as he describes his "bonkers" schedule of late.

"Keep in mind the amount of days that I've been going," he says, recounting his sleepless week. "I'm not bragging, here. This is me admitting that I'm somewhat insane, and I probably should be committed at some point in my life. It was one long day, starting Wednesday of last week. We had like fourteen-hour shoots Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We got off Friday at 1:30AM and I decided to drive down to Coachella to see my brother. I did Coachella for two days -- just had a blast, went crazy, had a lot of fun. My manager was like 'don't stay Sunday; you gotta be ready for the rest of the week.' Of course I didn't follow his advice. So we kept going and then I got on a plane, and I was ready to go to sleep, but I was sitting next to the Black Eyed Peas, which was like the coolest thing ever. I was like, 'I can't sleep now, I gotta talk to these guys!' I talked to apl.de.ap and Taboo, so that was really cool, and that was yesterday? No ... almost yesterday."

As we pull into the Warner lot, the intensity level suddenly sinks in for Criss. "This is what my life has been like for the past couple months. And the fact that we released this 'Warbler' album this week is absolutely crazy," he remarks, speaking about the 'Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers' CD, which hit shelves just two days prior.

Criss hustles down a long corridor to the green room, where his 'Glee' cohorts -- the navy blazer-attired Dalton Academy Warblers, sans Criss' Golden Globe-winning love interest Chris Colfer) -- are already causing a scene, milling around in black 'Ellen' v-necks and matching 'Ellen' underwear.

"We got a legitimate-ass crew here; this is cool," Criss remarks, surveying the scene. The Warblers seem to be everywhere and are laughing, mock beat-boxing and generally behaving exactly as you'd expect. "You see them in their underwear and t-shirts? It's crazy!"

He then returns to his own green room, which is intermittently filled with his publicist, label reps, managers, agent, choreographer, voice coach and our film crew. Criss attends to each of them with equal concern, offering water and snacks, before diving into a chopped salad himself, digging in with a boyish appetite.

Like Black Eyed Pea apl.de.ap, Darren Criss' mother is from the Philippines, and he smiles at the thought of how excited his Filipino fan base would be to see the two randomly discussing their shared heritage on an airplane. "The Filipino community would freak out if they knew we had a chitchat on the plane," he says. "Between me and Charice [Pempengco, also a 'Glee' star] and [the boxer Manny] Pacquiao, I mean, they already think we all know each other."

Interrupting his musings, someone calls Criss onto the set to rehearse today's routine. All v-necks and smiles, the Warblers are already crowding the hall and filing onto the set.

The 'Ellen' set is much bigger than expected, and the small crowd is much smaller. The buoyant singer and his beaming boys disappear behind a wall of blue light boxes only to reappear after a quick introduction. They belt out Criss' breakout cover of Katy Perry's 'Teenage Dream,' which outsold the original in its first week of digital sales.

Their performance is magnetic, and as their choreographer runs through some quick pointers, Ellen DeGeneres suddenly appears, looking chipper in khakis and a grey sweater. "You beautiful man, how are you?" she asks Criss with a warm hug. "Where's my underwear?"

She turns and spots a group of high school girls in the small audience. "This is horrible to have to watch, isn't it?" she kids. After a quick powwow with Darren and several others, she invites the girls down to meet the Warblers.

"We'd say you can join our club, but it's boys-only," Darren deadpans, suddenly in character. The girls giggle and take a picture.

Back in the green room, it's now time to get camera-ready, which Darren puts off until the last minute, fielding business calls and going over the guest list for tonight's show a bit more.

Darren has been given a special Warblers blazer to give to Ellen. "Sign the coat under Gwyneth," a label rep instructs. "I'll sign over Gwyneth, how about that?" Darren jokes. The jacket is now enjoying a successful run on Ebay.

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