Glee returned last night with one of the most emotionally charged episodes in the show's four-season history. As gunshots rang out in the halls of McKinley High, the choir members found themselves in one of the scariest situations imaginable.
What was filming that scene like? We recently had the opportunity to chat with one of Hollywood's nicest stars, Dot Marie Jones who plays Coach Shannon Beiste, as she shared some behind the scenes insight into "Shooting Star" and playing everyone's favorite football coach since Eric Taylor.
Read on for excerpts from our exclusive conversation!
TV Fanatic: So, what's the best thing about being a part of a show like Glee?
Dot Marie Jones: The messages and the incredible writing. And all of our directors. One of my favorite directors is Brad Buecker who is also one of the editors. I love working with Brad Falchuk. And Ryan! You can't pick one! For me it's interesting to work with Brad Buecker because he is also the editor. He directed "Shooting Star" and he also edited it, which, I mean, my god, how many hours does that man have in his day!? He's unreal! And I've known him for a long time because he edited Pretty Handsome and I just have such an admiration for him and his work because he's phenomenal.
TVF: What was it like while filming "Shooting Star?"
DMJ: It was really emotional. I don't know if they showed me crying but I had no expectations and didn't anticipate it. I just let whatever happened happen organically. I love my scenes with Matt, and I think the kids did a fantastic job and I can't wait to see how it comes together because it did take quite a while to shoot that and especially having to shoot it over and over again. And I don't feel like from the first take to the last take, however many that was, I don't feel like anybody lost anything.
TVF: For a show like Glee you get a little bit nervous with a story like this because the show is so light and the story is so heavy. There's always this fine line that gets walked where art imitates life and is the art doing life justice. It's one of those things where when shooting a show about high school, I always sort of wonder if those shows feel a responsibility to cover events like this when the reality is that they don't happen often.
DMJ: But they DO happen. And the fact that they do happen, I mean, it's a horrific thought. God forbid anything like that actually happen, but it does happen, and you can't wish it away. I love the way Ryan and the writers all went about it because I think it was done very respectfully. I mean, nobody got shot, but you don't know that. Our minds' eye is that there's somebody with a gun there. Some crazy ass kid or an adult has come into the school with a gun to hurt people. We read the script, we see what happens, but you have to dismiss all of that. You can't hold on to that while you're in that scene.
TVF: How do you prepare for an episode like this with so many emotional moments?
DMJ: Some of the time, I'll read it once, but I won't read it again. I'll just put it aside and let whatever happens happen organically. I was exhausted that day when it was over. It was just one of those days that was like 'my god and this is pretend.' And the thought of this being real just makes it tenfold more intense.
TVF: Speaking of the editing, it was excellent last night. The staging and the dark lighting, there was no music or sound as distractions.
DMJ: They didn't need it to sell the scene and I love that! That says so much about the writing and about these kids! They're fricking awesome! When Sam tries to go get Brittany, that got me. He was so amped. It was unbelievable. That part of the scene, Chord did amazing. His work is just, he's growing so much.
TVF: He's been kind of a clown, just goofy and fun and happy this season, so last night seeing that fierce side of him and Heather Morris as Brittany perched on the toilet crying was great.
DMJ: Brittany/Heather is one of my favorite characters, and when I say grow, these guys are great actors. When Heather first started she had these hilarious one liners - even one word - and just her expression she would sell it. And to see something so 180 is fantastic. And it's fantastic for them.
TVF: The Becky Jackson angle of the shooting was interesting. They didn't go the bullying route with the shooting. There was this very real struggle for Becky. And it's always nice to watch Jane Lynch as Sue step up to that really human place because she can be such a caricature sometimes. She's so over the top.
DMJ: Exactly. I loved the twist where it's Becky and a total accident and Jane taking the blame for it. And you're right, it totally adds the human aspect to Jane's character.
TVF:: All of the characters on Glee have the propensity to swing both ways, where in that moment they can be really dramatic and overly emotional, but then Ryan Murphy does a good job of really pulling those characters down when he needs to.
DMJ: When I signed on two seasons ago the contract they gave me didn't have a character name, I didn't know what I was playing, who I was playing, and because of having worked with Ryan before, his writing is so amazing and having done Nip/Tuck and Ryan's pilot Pretty Handsome when they wanted me to do this I was like, 'absolutely' because anything Ryan writes, I know I'm going to love and it's going to push me. I've played every tough girl role there is, so to get someone like Beiste who is a beast but has a huge heart, it's the best role I've ever played.
TVF: Shannon Beiste is just a fantastic character that viewers fell in love with almost instantly.
DMJ: I'm so proud of this role and it's amazing who it effects and how far the words reach. And you don't realize how powerful words are. You know last season with the domestic violence thing, I still have women and men contacting me thanking me for those episodes and I feel so proud of what Ryan wrote and what they did as far as the domestic violence story and one of the things I love is they didn't wrap it up with a bow in one episode. They let it play out some and the majority of women I've talked to, you know, they do go back. And the fact that some women thanked me and said that show gave them the courage to get out of an abusive relationship, it's overwhelming.
TVF: Do you ever wish that that had been fleshed out even more? Some viewers have lamented what seems to be a 3-episode trend to some of the story lines where they're explored but it almost feels like they're pushed aside.
DMJ: I feel like it could have played out longer, but you don't want to overdo it. You flesh out your options and you let the characters make the, hopefully, best choice. By the end of the run of the story line, I was leaving him. And here I had lied and said I had moved out with my sister, and I went back home. And that's real life.
TVF: Do you think there's an opportunity for the emotional trauma of the domestic violence to play out in Shannon's online dating?
DMJ: Absolutely! I would love that. I would love the challenge. I would love to see where they could take it. I would love it if they took that further. And who knows, maybe next season they will.
TVF: Did you feel like Beiste's last chance confession to Will was a natural progression for the character or did you feel like that maybe came out of left field a little bit?
DMJ: One of the big questions was why wasn't I at the wedding.To me, I was like "why the hell, I'm their best friend and I'm not at the wedding!" But then I read this script and I'm like "oh my god, no wonder!" I couldn't go to the wedding because I would've been the one standing up saying "I object!" And so this kind of explains it because, you know, Will is the only guy to ever kiss me before Cooter and to show me respect and affection. He was the most positive man in my life and here I ended up married and divorced because my husband was abusive and Will never did that to me. So in a sense, yeah it kind of sounds out of left field, but if you really think about it, and I'm sure people can conjure up their own stories as to why, but he's been the most positive man in my life and has been so supportive and who wouldn't want that?
TVF: There are so many great moments for all of these characters and you have played Shannon Beiste so well.
DMJ: I've always been one that less is more. I can cry at the drop of a hat and it's a blessing and a curse. It just happens. And the biggest thing too, for me, as far as acting, is allowing that. That's one of the things I love about Beiste is it has let me be open and allowing things to happen organically and not forcing anything. If you trust the writing and you trust the direction, it'll be there. You don't have to force it or add anything to what they've written. Because it's such great writing. It's unbelievable.
TVF: Shannon gets some great lines and your delivery is fantastic!
DMJ: My first scene with Jane Lynch in season 2 when I say "you're all coffee and no omelette" and she says "that makes no sense!" to me it made 100% sense! It's hilarious, some of the scenes and the lines that they write for my character. That scene with Will last night made me happy because I'm usually the one packing it with my roasted grocery chicken! And I can't even tell you how many chickens I've eaten in the past three years but it's been a lot.
TVF: What's been the best part of playing Coach Beiste?
DMJ: It's her heart. It's huge, which I think is very close to me. People said they thought they were gonna hate me until I got rejected and I didn't get to sit at the table at lunch and you see me in the mirror and I'm trying to put on my lipstick and I'm just bawling. And that's, I will never forget that scene. I will never forget that episode.
TVF: What can we look for in the remaining episodes this season? The final scripts have been rewritten around Finn's absence, so how has that affected things?
DMJ: I am in next week's episode and then after that, I'm not in any more this season. But I love Cory Monteith so much. I just adore him. He's a very upstanding guy and he's always been very open and honest about who he is and where he came from and I have nothing but respect for him.
TVF: We at TV Fanatic certainly wish him the best.
DMJ: As do I, and I certainly give him nothing but credit for taking care of him.
TVF: Any closing remarks for the fans at TV Fanatic?
DMJ: I hope and pray that I come back next year! I just feel like Glee reaches so many people demographically and there are so many messages in these episodes. With the response of the kids on Twitter and those who write to us, it's given so many kids an avenue or a vehicle to get through the tough times. And you wish them nothing but the best. I can't imagine being a kid right now. It's hard as hell. It's just amazing to me to be a part of something that is so affecting and how it affects so many people. I'm very proud to be a part of this show