Norfolk Actor Lands a Role on Glee! Hello There, Sebastian...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grant Gustin returned the call immediately.

The Norfolk native was backstage at a theater in Tucson, Ariz., where he was performing in the national Broadway tour of “West Side Story.” After the first act, he checked his cellphone, and his manager had left a cryptic message, asking him to call him back but “no rush.”

Gustin couldn’t wait, and he learned that he’d landed a buzz-worthy role on “Glee,” the popular Fox TV musical comedy.

The show will be Gustin’s first TV gig, and the 21-year-old talked about the “Glee” job by telephone Wednesday from Los Angeles.

For years, Gustin was a familiar face on the local theater scene. He studied musical theater at The Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk and was a regular performer with Hurrah Players.

“He was with us from the time he was about 9 years old till he was about 18,” said Hugh Copeland, artistic director of Hurrah Players. “The fact that he’s good-looking and charming supports the talent. He has always worked hard.”

On “Glee,” Gustin will play Sebastian, a gay member of the Dalton Academy Warblers, an all-male glee club that often competes with the show’s central characters, who perform in the group New Directions at the fictional McKinley High in Lima, Ohio.

Sebastian, a popular athlete, sets out to come between couple Kurt and Blaine. The episode will air Nov. 8.

“I’m making moves in my first episode to split them up,” Gustin said.

The appearance of Sebastian, Gustin said, will force Kurt and Blaine to decide whether they are meant for each other. The show’s producers aren’t giving any clues as to what will happen.

“Maybe I will split them up, and maybe I won’t,” Gustin said. “No one knows yet. I don’t even know.”

Gustin has signed on as a guest star. Whether the role will be recurring or permanent hasn’t been decided, the actor said, but he expects it won’t be a one-time appearance.
“It wouldn’t make sense for him not to be around for a little bit to create some drama and stir up the pot a little,” Gustin said. “It could be something huge. That’s the exciting part.”
The role has come after Gustin’s first year as a professional actor. After attending Elon University in North Carolina for two years, he landed a part in “West Side Story.” He dropped out of school to tour with the production and played about 400 shows.

Performing six nights a week was strenuous for the athletic 6-foot-2 actor. He iced his knees, ankles and feet after every show and went to physical therapy twice a week.

“You have no family with you, none of your friends,” Gustin said. “You’re staying in different hotels. Eating is the hardest thing on the road, because you can’t really buy groceries. Sometimes you’re sitting on a plane for five hours to get to the next show, and that can be harder on your body than doing a show. It was so hard but so much fun.”

While “West Side Story” was booked for several weeks in Costa Mesa, Calif., earlier this year, Gustin often traveled 45 minutes to Los Angeles to audition for TV roles. He soon met Robert Stein, who became his manager. Within the first month of signing with Stein, whose clients have included Heath Ledger, Gustin sent in an audition video to “Glee.”

He initially tried out for a minor role of a tap dancer. He didn’t get it, but the producers thought he was a good fit for the part of Sebastian. For that role, Gustin was called in to do an interview on camera. The producer asked him to sing.

“That threw me,” he said. “I didn’t know what to sing.”

A producer suggested “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. He sang that, a song from “West Side Story” and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Gustin filmed his first “Glee” episode two weeks ago.

“I was a little insecure, because I’d never been on camera and a set before,” he said. “But it’s a good transition. I get to dance and I get to sing, and that’s what I’m used to doing.”

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