Chris Colfer reflected on what it was like being cast as Kurt Hummel, an openly gay character, on Glee — when he himself was not open about his sexuality at the time.
For context, the role of Kurt was created specifically for Chris, replacing a character named Rajeesh. Chris himself then came out as gay on a 2009 episode of Chelsea Lately, prompting GLAAD to write at the time, "At only 19 years old, Colfer's announcement makes him one of the youngest openly gay actors currently working in Hollywood."
On a recent appearance on the And That’s What You REALLY Missed podcast, former costar Jenna Ushkowitz asked Chris what it was like playing a gay character while he had yet to be openly gay himself. "My hometown has come very far in the last couple decades, but when I was growing up there it was dangerous to be out," Chris said of Clovis, California.
“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 continued, recalling that one family member even told him, “You can't play a gay character, that would ruin your life."
As Chris' previous auditions had gone poorly, he accepted the role regardless. "I just wanted to get out and be a part of the industry so badly, I knew there was no option," he said. “I also knew that it would probably force me to answer and ask questions about myself that I wasn’t quite ready to do, and I’m actually quite grateful for it in a way because it kind of pushed me into a path of honesty for myself."
Noting that the creation of Kurt as a gay character felt like a "judgment," Chris continued, “They just assumed. And they were right! I was much more effeminate back then...I was called a faggot every single day in high school. Every single day. I couldn’t hide it, I just wasn’t ready to have that conversation with myself or anyone I knew yet.”
Then, speaking on the Glee episode where Kurt comes out to his father, Chris said that, "there really wasn't much support for young gay people back then" and called the moment a "lonely experience."
Chris likened his experience to that of Kit Connor from Heartstopper, who had said that he felt forced to come out as bi. "That absolutely broke my heart because essentially the same thing happened to me but 15 years ago. We were the same age," Chris said.
“I really wanted to tweet something in support of him, but I didn’t want to be the old guy trying to get attention, trying to take someone's trauma and be like, 'Oh, I remember when this happened to me.'"
While Chris said that he does "highly encourage everyone to come out when they are ready," he noted that “for anyone to push someone into that, that is one of the cruelest things you could possibly do."
"People were furious that it happened to [Kit] — I think that’s proof of how far the community had come. When it happened to me it was very much ‘I deserved it.' It was crickets. It was obvious, so therefore I had no reason to be upset about it.”
"At the time, I wasn't ashamed of it at all. I very much knew. I just wanted to be on a boat before I called myself a sailor," he added. “Even during Glee, 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.'"
You can listen to the full interview with Chris here.