“Glee” Star Chris Colfer Just Revealed That He Was Repeatedly Warned Not To Come Out As Gay Because It’d “Ruin” His Career, But He Decided It Was “More Important” To Be A Role Model

Chris previously said that he was called slurs at auditions once he became one of the few openly gay actors in Hollywood.

Stephanie Soteriou

BuzzFeed Staff

Back in 2022, Chris Colfer reflected on the role of Kurt Hummel in Glee being created specifically for him — and how “terrified” he was when he later realized that the character was gay.

Chris Colfer smiles wearing a suit with a pin on the lapel, against a plain backdrop

For context, Glee premiered in 2009 and ran until 2015, with Chris just 19 years old when he landed the role. 

Speaking on the And That’s What You REALLY Missed podcast, Chris recalled: “When I found out they had written this character for me, I was thrilled. When I finally got the script is when I realized it was the gay character, and I was terrified.”

He went on to explain that his hometown of Clovis, California, was a “dangerous” place to be openly gay, adding: “Kids would get beat up. On one occasion, someone got stabbed on their way to school. Being out and proud was not an option.”

So when he was cast in  Glee , Chris said that playing a gay character was considered so taboo that one family member even told him not to accept the role because it would “ruin” his life.

Needless to say, Chris ignored the naysayers, and he himself came out as gay on a 2009 episode of Chelsea Lately , with GLAAD writing at the time: “At only 19 years old, Colfer's announcement makes him one of the youngest openly gay actors currently working in Hollywood."

Chris Colfer smiles with short hair, wearing a black jacket and striped shirt in a close-up on a blue background

But this was incredibly difficult for him, with Chris revealing on the podcast: “I would get called a faggot at auditions, when I would tell people those stories they would say: 'What do you expect? You’re an openly gay actor in Hollywood.'"

Chris Colfer at the Golden Globe Awards, smiling and dressed in a suit and tie

And during a recent appearance on The View , now-34-year-old Chris has reflected some more on this period of his life, and said that he was repeatedly warned that coming out as gay would have a detrimental impact on his career.

Chris Colfer on "The View" set, discussing LGBTQ+ Pride. He is wearing a dark suit with a patterned shirt and a pocket square. "The View Celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride" displayed in text

“I grew up in a very conservative town where being openly gay was dangerous,” he said. “I remember when I got on the show, the role was written for me, and I did not know what the role was gonna be. So I opened the script, and when I read the script for the first time was when I saw that it was an openly gay character, and I was terrified.”

“When I started filming the show, I had a lot of people tell me: ‘Do not come out whatever you do because it will ruin your career.’ So I hid for a little bit,” Chris continued. "But I also told them: ‘I can’t hide it with my voice, I’m more effeminate than most people, I can’t hide it.’ And they said: ‘Don’t worry. As long as you never address it, you’ll be rewarded for it in the end.’” 

But it was a moving encounter with a young boy ahead of Glee ’s premiere that made Chris realize that it was “more important” to him that he was a role model for young people than a huge Hollywood star.

Mark Salling, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron, Jenna Ushkowitz, Lea Michele, and Amber Riley are posing together, smiling

“We went on this big poster signing tour right before the show came out, and this little boy secretly slid me an envelope when his parents weren’t looking, and I opened it up, and it was a little note that said, ‘Thank you,'" he shared. "And there was a little paperclip chain that was the colors of the rainbow, and in that moment, I knew I have to come out.”

“At the time, I was thinking: ‘OK, yeah, if I’m an openly gay actor, I may never win a major award, I may never get to play a superhero,’” Chris said. “But I think being a beacon of positivity and providing that comfort for people is way more important than attention.”

Chris ended up enjoying massive success with Glee , and won a Golden Globe in 2011 for his performance, as well as three consecutive People’s Choice Awards.

Chris Colfer on the red carpet holding a Golden Globe award, wearing a black suit with a black tie

In fact, the star was even nominated for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy twice during his tenure on the show, and is now a hugely successful author. 

If you or someone you know has experienced anti-LGBTQ violence or harassment, you can contact the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs hotline at 1-212-714-1141.

Illustration of diverse faces and a bright arrow with text "Pride Month 2024."

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‘Caledonian Road’ is the novel everyone in England is talking about

Andrew O’Hagan’s social satire is drawing comparisons to “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”

The weather this spring in London has been intermittently bright and warm, but the public mood remains steadily overcast. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement last month that a general election will be held on July 4 did little to lift Britons out of their funk. Those on the right wonder: What has it all been for — these 14 years of Tory government? Those on the left welcome Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as an agent of change, yet he excites no one. Where is the post-Brexit U.K. headed? There seem to be few answers — only much mournful hand-wringing.

Still, as ever in London, bold literary endeavors attract notice. Andrew O’Hagan’s new novel, a doorstopper titled “ Caledonian Road ,” has been among the best-selling of the season, displayed on the front table of every Waterstones, touted as a perceptive “state of the nation” tome and much praised at dinner parties.

Summer reading

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Some British reviewers have compared it to “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe’s brilliant capture of New York in the 1980s. The similarities go only so far. O’Hagan, like Wolfe, started professional life as a journalist, and his novel does employ a sprawling scope, shifting settings and a huge cast of characters hailing from both high society and low. But absent from “Caledonian Road” is anything approaching Wolfe’s carnival barker glee in presenting a vast and wicked urban tapestry.

While O’Hagan’s novel has funny bits, it is fundamentally glum, befitting the time and place of its writing. The author’s pious preoccupations: How far will a middle-aged liberal, who has always considered himself on the right side of history, be prepared to go in the name of self-preservation? How quickly will his principles crumble when under real-world pressure?

Like the author, protagonist Campbell Flynn is a native of working-class Glasgow, Scotland. He’s a celebrity art historian — a job description that only a Brit can pull off. Think Simon Schama, but younger. Flynn has risen to stratospheric social heights thanks to his intellect, his gumption and his alliances, in particular his marriage to Elizabeth, whose mother is a countess and whose brother-in-law is a duke.

When the story commences in May 2021, Flynn’s conscience is pricked when an idealistic student, Milo Mangasha, criticizes him. “I’m betting you’ve never risked anything in your life, never really set out to upset anything ,” Milo tells Flynn. Rather than point to the door, the professor invites the young man to join him for drinks at Claridge’s for further discussions. There’s nothing sexual about this penitential relationship, Campbell assures Elizabeth: “I’m fascinated by what he can show me.”

Wife — and reader — struggle to understand. Far more plausible is Flynn’s recklessness with money. He’s not a flush City type, although he loves the trappings of the banker’s life, including Savile Row suits. His income is overstretched in trying to maintain both a large townhouse in Islington (on the posh side of the eponymous Caledonian Road) and a comfortable cottage in bucolic Suffolk. He’s counting on his rich mother-in-law to leave her daughter, and him, a hefty bequest. Meanwhile, he borrows funds from a university buddy, Sir William Byre, an unscrupulous retail tycoon. And to raise still more cash, he decides to write a silly self-help book called “Why Men Weep in Their Cars,” which he publishes under the name of a semifamous actor friend.

Flynn’s life begins to unravel after Byre is arrested (thanks in part to Milo’s hacking of Flynn’s phone), his mother-in-law dies and leaves the couple only token gifts, and the actor positions the self-help book as a defense of misogyny. But it is Flynn’s antagonism toward the “sitting tenant” residing in the basement of his Islington manse that proves his undoing. Local government guarantees the right of the crazy and resentful Mrs. Voyles to live in his home. When she demands ever-larger sums of money as the price of her agreeing to leave, Flynn responds in a way that belies all of his allegedly compassionate social views.

O’Hagan constructs a number of other storylines, illuminating matters such as the influence of dirty Russian money in London and the exploitation of migrant labor in Britain, but he’s best on the upper crust. And because this book — unlike his previous novel, the intimate “Mayflies,” about a teenage friendship — is intended as social criticism, it somewhat falls down as fiction. Snappy dialogue can’t rescue a number of characters from sounding like types. Too many scenes resemble highfalutin set pieces rather than ringing painfully true. And yet, the chapter in which Flynn and his wife are forced to fly to Reykjavik to celebrate his birthday, because their obnoxious adult son insists that Iceland is the place to eat curry these days, is a satirical tour-de-force. Campbell reflects: “This is what it comes to, parenting. You swab their knees and wipe their arses and pay for everything and one day they get to treat you like you’re simply another pest in their busy lives.”

The lavish cultural set-dressing throughout “Caledonian Road” — countless references to schools, restaurants, neighborhoods, vacation spots, opera festivals, etc. — gives the text admirable specificity but is rather lost on the nonnative. And Campbell, as a peevish liberal losing his way morally, all the while protesting he really doesn’t mean to, is an intensely British character.

You may have to be here, in London, to fully appreciate O’Hagan’s point. There’s something not quite right with Campbell Flynn, just as millions of Britons suspect there’s something not quite right about today’s U.K.

Clare McHugh is the author most recently of “The Romanov Brides.”

Caledonian Road

By Andrew O’Hagan

W.W. Norton. 624 pp. $32.50

More from Book World

Love everything about books? Make sure to subscribe to our Book Club newsletter , where Ron Charles guides you through the literary news of the week.

Check out our coverage of this year’s Pulitzer winners: Jayne Anne Phillips won the fiction prize for her novel “ Night Watch .” The nonfiction prize went to Nathan Thrall, for “ A Day in the Life of Abed Salama .” Cristina Rivera Garza received the memoir prize for “ Liliana’s Invincible Summer .” And Jonathan Eig received the biography prize for his “ King: A Life .”

Best books of 2023: See our picks for the 10 best books of 2023 or dive into the staff picks that Book World writers and editors treasured in 2023. Check out the complete lists of 50 notable works for fiction and the top 50 nonfiction books of last year.

Find your favorite genre: Three new memoirs tell stories of struggle and resilience, while five recent historical novels offer a window into other times. Audiobooks more your thing? We’ve got you covered there, too . If you’re looking for what’s new, we have a list of our most anticipated books of 2024 . And here are 10 noteworthy new titles that you might want to consider picking up this April.

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