Glee’s two central stars Lea Michele (who plays the precocious Rachel Berry) and Cory Monteith (sweet, dopey jock Finn Hudson) seem refreshingly untouched by Hollywood.

Sitting down for a chat with Sydney Star Observer during their recent promotional tour of the country, they said they flew economy class to Australia, and were quietly fretting over whether or not the show would get picked up for a second season.

Both seemed sweetly unaware of Glee’s potential to propel them to a huge level of teen-crush stardom. But Michele, more petite and classically beautiful than her on-screen character, conceded she wasn’t totally blind to the building buzz.

“We’ve felt the anticipation building because the pilot was originally aired after the season final of American Idol, and Fox has been advertising the crap out of the show — billboards all over LA, ads everywhere. Now it is on the air, I feel like I can take a breath and relax,” Michele said.

Monteith, at 27 burlier and more adult-looking than his teen jock character, offered a simple explanation for the show’s success.

“I think its the first time a musical has worked on TV in a long time,” he said.

“The idea of this show is so brilliant,” continued Michele. “Ryan Murphy, our creator, wanted to write a story about kids in high school, but that’s relatable to everyone. And people love music and singing — I know it sounds cheesy, but with the success of shows like American Idol, its true.”

The two came to Glee from vastly different backgrounds — Michele has been on Broadway since she was a child, most famously in the role of Wendla in Spring Awakening. In stark contrast, Monteith’s previous work consisted of a few B-list movies (Final Destination 3, anyone?) and very little professional singing experience. He said he wasn’t daunted joining a cast that included many seasoned Broadway performers.

“It’s been a lot of fun. For me, I am what I am. I was able to sing coming into the show, but it’s appropriate casting in a way — my character is learning how to sing while I’m learning too.”

And despite Michele’s distinguished theatre career, she said the role in Glee came completely out of left-field.
“I didn’t ever think there was a place for me on television,” she said. “I didn’t know where I would fit — I’m not the pretty girl, I’m not the funny sidekick, I don’t know what I am. But I couldn’t have made up a better show for me to be on.”

Or a gayer one, for that matter. Never before has a high school comedy had such a camp mix of show tunes and gay characters — like Rachel’s two dads, who are mentioned briefly in episode one.

“Well, that’s the point. There are so many different families, so it’s not like we needed a token gay character,” Michele said.

And then there’s the sweet, effete Kurt Hummel, the openly gay glee club member whose unlikely friendship with Finn proves one of the show’s most satisfying subplots.

“Isn’t that the sweetest thing?” squealed Lea. “It’s my favourite part of the show. They’re so cute together, Finn’s so protective of Kurt, it’s adorable.”

info: Glee screens Thursdays at 7.30pm on Channel Ten.

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