The Truth About The Huggable Mr Schue - He's Entirely UnsexyThursday, June 09, 2011
Propositions from global superstars don't tend to come anyone's way every day. So, I was more than a little taken aback when, halfway through interviewing Matthew Morrison - best known as Mr Schuester from the huge hit show Glee - he tried his luck with me.
"It's hard because I don't really meet anyone outside of the business," he says, lamenting the lack of opportunity for meeting potential girlfriends. "Maybe I'll get a really amazing lawyer who is my age and I can be like: 'Hey, you can do deals for me and be my wife.' Or maybe I'll meet some reporter…" He signals in my direction and I see the insinuation clearly. I have to break it to him that I'm taken.
"Ah shucks," he says, feigning disappointment. And then it strikes him: "That's going to be the opening line of your article, Matthew Morrison propositioned me."
Correct. He'll say it was a joke, of course.
Women (and men - most people assume, wrongly, that he is gay) across the world will be glad to hear, then, that 32-year-old Morrison is officially still single. And there are plenty of people paying attention. Glee, the musical comedy-drama about a high-school singing club, has broken records for E4 with 1.6 million viewers. In the US it has reached more than 10 million and has been dubbed for broadcast in Italy, Lithuania, Japan, Singapore, India and South Africa - to name a mere smattering.
If you haven't seen Glee and don't know why teenagers, mothers and gay men have fallen in love with the Glee club's all-singing, all-dancing, tank-top wearing, curly-haired and cuddly director Mr Schue (as Morrison's character is affectionately known) then, really, where have you been?
These days, Morrison does have his pick of women.
Rumours have linked him to Kelly Brook, Princess Beatrice and most recently Gwyneth Paltrow - who has continued her foray into music with guest appearances on Glee as substitute teacher Holly Holiday, and was a brief love interest for Mr Schue. ("I don't think anyone knew that Gwyneth sang," says Morrison. "Glee - it's an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves and it has been for her.")
All the claims of affairs have been vehemently denied, however, and when Morrison says, "I've definitely had opportunities to hook up, or whatever, with women ... I could be a playboy and do that, but that's just not me," it's hard not to believe him.
This is a man, after all, who waited until he was 21 to lose his virginity to his Christian girlfriend.
And as he sits opposite me in his plaid shirt, jeans, white socks (he must have forgotten his shoes today) and lots of make-up, he's charming, yes, but entirely unsexy.
He is the sort of guy you'd expect to be hugged by rather than ravished.
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That said, he has kissed Gwyneth Paltrow - albeit on screen. "I was looking forward to it, of course," he says, although he explains that "it actually almost didn't happen".
"I started getting sick and right after she [Gwyneth] was done filming she was going to sing on the Grammys so I didn't want to pass it on to her. Gwyneth found out about it and she was like: 'No way, we're kissing. I've been waiting a week for this, we're doing it.' She was so game. She took a bunch of vitamin C and said: 'Let's go.'"
Did he call his friends to brag? "No!" he says, resolutely. "It was weird in a way because we had become such good friends. It was like kissing your buddy."
In fact, Morrison and Paltrow became close enough that he found it "easy to ask her" to collaborate with him on his eponymous solo album - a mix of pop and show tunes-style tracks that was released last week and is his first major project outside of the Glee cast (which has released several albums with tunes from the show). On Monday he starts off his tour with a gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. But Paltrow isn't the only major star that he has recruited. The album includes a collaboration with Sting and Elton John, with whom Morrison has also forged a fortunate friendship.
"I met him two years ago at his Oscar party in LA ... we became friends." As Glee is, in Morrison's words, "the gayest show on TV" (they sing, they dance, a central character is gay and so is the creator Ryan Murphy), it's no real surprise that Elton is "a big fan".
"I remember being really nervous. My hands were sweating and I think I was stuttering a little when I asked him [to sing on the album], but right away he was like: 'absolutely'. He said, 'Whatever song you want to do. Anything except Crocodile Rock'." Before long they were in the studio.
"It started off on a great footing. He and David had had their baby [born through a surrogate in December] maybe two weeks earlier. He was just so elated and showing me pictures. It was a really nice time."
Their next joint project might just be on Glee. "I know he would [go on Glee]. I've pitched this great storyline. I think he'd be great as Sue Sylvester's boyfriend." Sylvester is the hard-line, Right-wing cheerleading coach who despises everything to do with the Glee club, most of all Will Schuester. A match made in hell, then - and ideal comic fodder for the show.
In the meantime, the result for the album was a "mash-up" of Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters and Rocket Man, which Morrison says "is my favourite Elton John song. It's the one I sing for all my Broadway auditions".
Broadway is where Morrison's career began. He set off to New York, aged 18, from his home in California to study musical theatre at NYU, but dropped out in his sophomore year because, after just three auditions, he got a part in the ensemble of Footloose on Broadway. "My parents definitely wanted me to get a degree, they're both in the medical field so they're all about grades. But I don't think they were too upset at not paying that money any more because they gave up a lot to send me there [to NYU]."
It was costing $30,000 (£18,000) a year, he explains - and for his father, a midwife, and mother, a nurse (who are no longer together), that was no small sum. Oddly, none of Morrison's family has even the faintest musical talent. "I learned from them by doing the exact opposite," he jokes.
In fact, it was at a state-funded performing arts school that Morrison's "own personal Mr Schue", Dr Ralph Opacic, really guided him in the direction of the arts.
Broadway is clearly where Morrison's heart lies.
Until now he has been leaning back, head resting on the sofa in his room at Grosvenor House on Park Lane, drumming the seat with his fingers.
But as he says "I'm more comfortable on the stage than I am walking on the street", he sits upright to declare it with passion. He spent 11 years on Broadway and was nominated for several awards.
"I was living my dream," he says. And even in the early days, in the ensemble, he was earning plenty. "When I was 19 years old I was rolling. I was like: 'This is amazing. I'm living the life.' When I look back on it now, it wasn't that much. It was like $1,300 a week [about £790]. But that's living in Manhattan."
You might assume he means it doesn't seem like much, looking back on it from his perspective now as a top-earning celebrity. But Morrison insists that "I don't think I've changed".
"Because of where I've come from, I know what it is to work hard for money and to not get everything. I do make a good living for myself now but in many ways I feel like I still live like a starving actor … I don't want to order room service, I want to go and buy cereal boxes. I still have that ingrained in me and I love that."
For the women and men across the world who love him, that no doubt just makes him, not alluring, but all the more huggable.