Glee’s Naya Rivera not only fronted the show’s landmark 300th musical performance but made the production — an Adele mash-up — a poignant one as it represented a major moment in her character’s coming out process.
During November’s “Mash Off” episode, Rivera’s Santana Lopez is pushed out of the closet after a confrontation with Finn (Cory Monteith) that ended with the jock calling her a coward.
Her public outing was a defining moment for the character and for Lopez, whose performance as the quick-witted cheerleader has been garnering Emmy attention for most of Glee’s third season.
Now, the TV Academy has tapped Rivera to follow in the footsteps of Jane Lynch, Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott, Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet and several others to host a special 10-minute Emmy video that reaches an estimated 25 million people in more than 125 countries.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Rivera on Thursday after the young actress wrapped the Wednesday night shoot for the video (which bows on the TV Academy’s YouTube channel July 23) to discuss Emmy buzz, emotional scenes and being a lesbian role model.
The Hollywood Reporter: What was filming the Emmy video like?
Naya Rivera: We started at 5 and were done by 6:30 p.m., I feel like I was doing nothing! (Laughs.) It was shot on a green screen and I was wearing an elegant gown; they wanted it to be glamorous like the Emmys and went over the shows that would be up for an award and explained about what the Emmys are doing on the website for this year’s show and talked about Jimmy Kimmel, who’s hosting. It’s a huge honor, especially since people I admire have done this before me: Jane did it last year and she’s quite the fan favorite.
How are you navigating the Emmy buzz surrounding your performance?
It’s very exciting. I’ve been on the show for three seasons and each season for me gets better and better. I submitted “Mash Off,” the episode that has “Rumor Has It,” for Emmy consideration and thought that was a blessing to have an episode that was so well rounded. We are a comedy but I also got to show off some dramatic aspects of the character that I brought to it this season. For people to even think that I’d be considered or a good candidate for a supporting actress nomination is mind blowing to me.
Chris Colfer earned an Emmy nomination for his role after Kurt’s coming out season. Did the thought of Emmy consideration ever pop into your head while you were filming the episode?
Definitely. Since we had people like Chris and his character Kurt go through similar things — this was when it was all coming to a head and there were so many different layers to Santana’s coming out story — I definitely felt the pressure. When I got the script, the cast and crew were joking that this was my Emmy episode. A friend on the crew was texting me, “Happy Emmy Day” on the day we filmed (laughs).
How did you approach filming the episode?
Eric Stoltz directed and I was happy to have him manning that ship in that episode. I approached it head-on. I don’t like to waste opportunities, and especially being a supporting cast member on this show to really make the most of it and show [executive producers] Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan and all the writers that you can handle the things that they’re giving you. Hopefully I did a good job with that.
After Santana came out on the show, did you alter the way you approached stepping into her shoes?
Definitely. Her relationships and the way she interacted with a lot of the other characters — especially the male ones. It was really hard because it had to have a subtlety to it; she still had to dish out insults to all the guys but I didn’t want there to be a layer of hurt under it anymore. It had to be, “That’s who she is,” and she had to keep her softness with Brittany had to continue throughout the rest of the season.
How did you prepare for Santana’s coming out scenes? The monologue she had with her grandmother was very powerful. Did you talk to Chris or Jane about it?
I’m blessed to have a number of close personal friends in my life who are gay and lesbian and I’ve heard their stories about high school and how it’s still a struggle for them. I had that to take with me and I also infused my own feelings about love and relationships and how tough that is and those feelings of embarrassment when things don’t work out your way. It was a combination of both.
What types of fan mail did you get after that?
Oh my gosh, I get so many stories of people that the story line truly touched them and and hit home for them. It’s created a fan base for me that I never thought I’d have. I was reading that my episode of The Glee Project that the demographic of women went up like 27 percent. It’s really cool to know that there are people out there that this does matter to and that your work does matter.
Via Santana’s story line, you’ve become a role model for lesbians — recently repeating as AfterEllen.com’s No. 1 on their annual Hot 100 list. What does being a lesbian icon and role model mean to you?
It still really hasn’t hit me, to be honest with you. Those are big words: icon and role model. I never thought that would happen for me going into the show; it wasn’t supposed to happen that way, it was scripted that way — that’s not who she was in Season 1, Episode 1 when she was mean to Rachel in the bathroom. It’s really cool to see how it’s evolved and it’s given me the greatest fan base in the entire world.
For the second year in a row, Naya Rivera is #1 on After Ellen’s hot 100 list. Congratulations, girl! You deserve it! The List
We’ve had a few complaints today about the tag that we’ve been using on some of our photos. We understand that tags are annoying and we agree, big tags are especially annoying. However, this is the time when we drop some knowledge on you guys: Running a fansite is pretty darned expensive. We’ve probably spent over $250.00 getting photos for you guys this year alone, and we’re only at the halfway point of the year. We don’t complain because we love Naya, we like supporting her career, and we like providing you all with photos. I regularly put in 15-20 hours a week on this site, between keeping scripts updated, finding new photos, looking for news to post, etc. and Marica is just as dedicated. Most of the time, we don’t even get a thank you and we don’t get any sort of credit on Tumblr when you make edits using photos you’ve found on the site (but that’s the name of the game). We encourage you to use our photos for edits because we like seeing the pretty things you make on a daily basis, and we’re sure that the things that Naya sees through twitter she is also grateful for. But what we don’t like is when we get photos and other fansites take the photos that we have paid for and cut off our tags or badly erase them in photoshop and put them on their site. When we tag with the little black tag, that is routinely what happens. We won’t drop any names here but there have been two or three sites in particular who are repeat offenders. Trust me, we don’t like using the big tag either, but it’s become a routine problem with our site that people steal our photos. If we got our photos for free, we wouldn’t care, but most of the photos on the site, particularly the exclusives, have been paid for. Handsomely. The large tag is the only way we have of ensuring that our photos don’t get blindly taken and used in other places without any form of credit. The ads on this site do not bring us in any money. They go to our host, and that’s how we manage to have free hosting (otherwise it would be even more expensive to run this site). This is a good time to say thank you to Gertie as well. We appreciate everything FSO has done for us!
We have changed our large tag so that it’s smaller and hopefully less intrusive. We hope that this is a happy medium for you guys, and we hope that you understand a little more why you see tags on most fansites.