The Glee Project: Interview with Zach Woodlee!

The Glee Project launches in Sky 1 HD on Wednesday 13 July, with a double bill from 8pm, and thanks to Sky, we have details of an interview they conducted with Zach Woodlee, who is the choreographer and co-producer of Glee. He’s also a mentor on The Glee Project.

Zach is in charge of getting The Glee Project contenders up to scratch in the dance studio, and he’ll also play a vital part in choosing who will win a seven-episode guest role on Glee.

Sky 1 HD caught up with him to discuss the new reality series, and you can read the interview after the jump…

What are you looking for in the contenders on The Glee Project? Do they need to sing, act and dance?

It’s not about finding a triple threat because that’s not what we have on Glee. We have extremely talented people on the scripted show, but yet they’re not all the best at everything, which I think is why people love their characters. Everybody relates to other people’s weaknesses, and things you aspire to be. On The Glee Project, there’s a wide array of who can do what, it’s definitely not the best singers, dancers or actors. It’s about finding something truly special.

The kids on The Glee Project are all at the top of what they do in their home towns, and now we’re putting them into this environment and it isn’t what they’re used to. It’s about finding out how versatile they can be.
Can we get a constant state of professionalism? Is it even something that suits you? Can you also step outside of what you’re great at?

Ryan Murphy is influenced by the participants’ characters in helping him decide who might fit into Glee. Are they aware of that?

It’s unheard of to have a figure like Ryan Murphy who is going to potentially tailor a character for you, but also give you feedback. Ryan has quite a bit of insight into these performers, he knows what star quality is and and he knows how to make a star. The kids take all these titbits of information that Ryan offers up and you can see them grow through the process. A light goes on in their heads and then in the next challenge they apply Ryan’s notes to see if it’s applicable to their performance. It’s a magical process.

How much time do you get to work with the kids each week?

Not enough, there’s never enough. It’s the story of my life.

Is that a reflection of how the series actually works with each episode?

Absolutely. On the scripted show in season one we could have up to six hours of rehearsal, but now I’ll often be missing a couple of people or we’ll only have four hours. And then I’ll be in Naya’s [Rivera, Santana] trailer teaching her bits. We’ve all developed this language and the cast know how to jump into it.

On The Glee Project, I walk in the room and it’s a brand new language to these kids to work inside of a unit. I think the most time I had with them in a week is a couple of hours… yikes! But it is true to the show, it is very fast to work on Glee. Most of my work is homework, and I have loads of sketches and things, and on the tour everybody had play books so they knew what they were doing. I don’t think these reality kids were ready for that, but they soon found out what it’s like.

Were you hard on them?

Sometimes it might seem that way, but it’s because we’re racing against the clock and if we don’t get things done then there’s nothing to shoot. Some of the kids didn’t really know exactly what they were getting into and were trying to be the funny one to appeal to the cameras, but they didn’t realise that it’s Ryan Murphy cutting them each week not a public vote. So I had to be on at them, but they realised pretty quickly that it’s not a popularity contest.

Our show is different from a lot of competition reality shows. This is about something that isn’t just coming into an American television series, it’s a global brand and something with longevity. It isn’t “you’re the best at what you do – yay”, and then six months later no one remembers you. With The Glee Project, six months later you’re going to be on people’s televisions and potentially on tour with us. There’s a bit more of a win.

There are some contenders in the competition, such as Damian, who aren’t natural dancers. How do you deal with that?

I don’t really have to. Our scripted show isn’t about everyone being able to dance. I love Damian, and when he eventually finds his groove it’s a very interesting thing. There isn’t just one kind of dancer, and if everyone could hit the exact same lines we’d have a chorus, and we wouldn’t have these characters who work as a unit but individually have special abilities – they sound like superheroes. There are a couple who when they get going you realise you can’t teach that – it’s bizarre.

Can you teach anyone to dance?

I think everyone can dance if they can find the rhythm. If they can’t, I don’t think I can help – I feel bad for people who are tone deaf. But I do think everyone can dance in some capacity. I danced professionally for years, but now, because of my age, there are things I can’t do anymore, but I can still dance. My job isn’t necessarily about making a dancer; it’s about making a dance, and giving people the confidence to do it.

Did you ever think, two years ago, that Glee would lead to all of this? International tours, a reality show etc…

When Ryan hired me I think it was a passion project for many of us. And I think that’s maybe part of the reason it caught on, because people can tell that the people who make it love it – it’s packaged with love.

Which number are you most proud over the two seasons?

I’m not sure if I can pick one, but I do have my favourites. Although my favourite part of the numbers is watching what each character is doing during them. We’ve been honest with creating mannerisms for each character and giving them choices within that. You can give them the same step but then each of them would do it in their own way, Jenna [Ushkowitz, Tina] one way, Cory [Monteith, Finn] another, and Lea [Michele, Rachel] another… It’s fun for me to see all of that.

Don’t Miss ‘The Glee Project’, Wednesday 13 July, 20.00 & 21.00 Sky 1 HD


Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.