Jessalyn Gilsig has starred on two TV Fanatic favorites: Friday Night Lights and Glee.
While her character of Terri Schuester on the latter isn't exactly beloved by all viewers, the actress was kind enough to sit and discuss season two with a staff writer. We thank her for her time and have posted interview snippets below...
What kind of reactions have you gotten from fans about your character Terri?
It’s been really varied actually, and it’s operated at two extremes. People have been very vocal about how much they don’t like her, I mean really vocal. And there have been people who have said, “I really get her and feel this empathy for her and I feel like she’s lost and I understand why she made the choices she did." I feel like the fans have been divided on those lines of those who feel like they have an understanding of how she operates out of fear, and those people who just can’t stand her.
Everyone has a reason for being the way they are, including Terri.
Right, and I felt that was my job. I knew on one level that you had to want Emma and Will to be together and the only way that you really sympathize with a guy who’s flirting with a woman who’s not his wife is to not believe in his marriage. I knew that Terri was a sacrificial character to get those two together, but I didn’t want her to just be a shrew. I wanted it to come from, like you said, there are all of these moment that make us who we are and certainly make us not always the most attractive choices.
I made this decision early on-and the writers were very supportive-that she would be motivated by love. She’s not looking for power or money and she’s not malicious, she just doesn’t know how to express her fear and her fear of losing him. Some relationships operate by keeping their partner down so they can keep them around.
Why do you think Glee is so popular?
I know why I’m attracted to Glee. I think for a lot of the reasons we just talked about. It’s a comedy and it's fun and it's bright and the music is obviously really inspiring. But it’s also very human and honest about all of the doubts we have about ourselves, and the moments in life where you feel like you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. I feel like that’s what the kids get out of Glee club and what Will gets out of Glee club is “this is where I’m meant to be," and we’re all looking for that feeling in our lives of purpose and being a part of something and I feel like the show taps into that desire.
I get so moved, like when Amber sang “I am Beautiful," I was crying because it feels like she’s singing from her heart, but she’s also expressing what we have going on in our lives. It transcends generations, and I can’t believe how many adults approach me and will say that they don’t have kids but they feel this connection to the show.What is your favorite part about being on Glee?
I like it because it is very similar to working on Nip/Tuck. You never do the same thing twice, ever. Every single day it’s a new challenge and you feel like you’re character and the show is always in progression. We’re all pushing it to see how far we can take it. It’s one of those shows that truly feels like an ensemble. When you look at an episode, it really is the sum of all of its parts. As an actor, that’s why you fall in love with acting, that feeling of working in a collective and it’s very rare that you get that on TV.
You film isolated parts but you feel connected to the whole thing. The kids are wonderful and they are so generous. I don’t get to work with them much, but they’ll come up to me and say they loved my scene, and loved when I did this or that. They are unbelievable. I can’t believe how generous they are to parts of the show that they’re not in.
Which episode has been the most fun this season two?
We’re about to start episode three right now, but it's been a little jumbled since we’re filming a few simultaneously. For me, episode two was such a blast. I was literally like, “this is a job?” Ryan directed it, and he just has this way of pushing the scene all of the way to the edge. We had this scene with Terri and Will, and of course, Emma, so if Emma’s around Terri’s obviously not going to hold any punches. We took it past the point of what would be appropriate behavior. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn.
If you weren’t playing the role of Terri, who would you love to play on the show?
I think that Heather [Morris]’s character Brittany is a revelation. I have so much respect for her comic timing that she’s taken a part that just had a line here or there and she formed an iconic character in television. Anything that girl says is funny. I would love to go to the school of comedic acting of Heather. [Laughs.] She’s brilliant, she’s the next Betty White.
** Remember to also check out TV Fanatic's exclusive interview with fellow Glee star Chris Colfer.