It’s a hard lesson to learn sometimes as a cynical TV critic who covers dozens of hours of programming a week — but sometimes, you have to remember that there is more to a person than a collection of pieced-together frames processed together for the means of telling the story.
When you watch season 2 of “The Glee Project,” you at the times get the impression that Charlie Lubeck was reckless, having been criticized for losing focus in the studio while also acting on some of his own choices during music video shoots. We ended up even buying into this presentation at times, to the point where he was marked low on some of our rankings.
Then, we spoke with Charlie on Wednesday and found a very different person in many ways than who we saw on TV. While there was the same sense of humor and passion for music, we also met a person who committed to his craft, with a strong head on his shoulders when it came to the entertainment industry, and open about every single move that he made while on the show. It’s not like these traits contradicted what we saw from the 22-year old on the show, but they were just never really shown of at all in between puppy-dog glances at Aylin Bayramoglu and doing some of his finest work during the last-chance performances in front of Ryan Murphy. He also never once used his ADHD as an excuse or a crutch in any challenge that he was met with.
We asked Charlie some pretty touch questions in our interview, and we have to give him credit for answering them in a way that was revealing while also diplomatic to both his fellow contestants and Oxygen, the very network that gave him this opportunity.
Matt Carter, Cartermatt.com Editor-in-Chief – Some of your strongest moments on the show came when you were given an opportunity to take a song and give it your own feel. Before trying out for ‘The Glee Project,’ had you considered ‘American Idol‘ or any of the other singing competitions on TV?
Charlie Lubeck – Before ‘The Glee Project,’ I was actually intent about staying away from reality TV series at all costs. I’d taken a look at some of the contracts that I had received for shows like ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Voice,’ and it’s kind of staggering to the extent that, even just auditioning for a show like that, the ownership that they take of your material. I think just by auditioning for ‘American Idol,’ they own your original material for a few years afterwards. I wanted to avoid that because I thought that I had something different to give.
When I started watching ‘The Glee Project,’ I realized it was different for me because this was a show that was in many ways the reaction to people who commanded more positivity from reality TV and from any type of competition. It was unique, it was unlike any other competition on TV, and I was like ‘that is a competition that I can get behind.’ At the time I didn’t have any plans on auditioning, but then [later] I went and stood in the cold in New York City for seven hours. I missed ‘The Lion King’ matinee, and that was a tough choice for me, and I’m so happy I did.
Were you really that familiar with ‘Glee’ before taking part in this experience?
I was actually a convert to the ‘Glee’ fanbase. Here’s the thing — I had seen the pilot, and I thought it was pretty good. The only ones who I was hearing rave things about ‘Glee’ [from] were the theatre kids — you know, the kids who blast ‘The Book of Mormon’ in their cars in between the dinner breaks at tech rehearsal. And the thing is, I was that kid — I was the theatre kid and the choir kid. I was blasting ‘Rent’ like an a–hole. [When seeing the show], I thought ‘well, this is wonderful, but this is a phase of my life that I have kind of passed.’ I have taken this super-geeky high school choir kid, integrated it into who I am … and I didn’t watch ‘Glee’ for a long time.
Then one day, my sister was like ‘you really look like this one kid on the show, this Cory Something. You should check it out.’ So I started watching episode one, and then I watched [the next few]. Before I knew it, I had torn through the first two seasons in one night on my iPad. It was great. Seasons 1 and 2 of the show were really great. They were something wonderful.
So you were prepared for the ‘Glee’ aspect of the show. Were you as prepared for the part of the show that was focused more around reality TV and the drama?
You own your own incorporated business, right? Before that, you were working a job to support that where you were working underneath someone. Everyone does.
Oh, for sure.
Now, let’s say that every single day, every single one of your actions are monitored on closed-circuit television and analyzed by your boss. On top of that, at the end of the day, any question that you ask your boss has the potential to get you fired. Now, add to that that every time you leave work, a camera crew in your car follows you and videotapes your every move at home. And this also has the potential to get your fired at work.
When you think of all this, you have an idea of what it’s like to be on a reality TV show. It was quite stressful. Do I think I would have probably succeeded if I had went straight to a scripted series? You know, I think I probably would have, because I’ve been an actor since I was five years old … I know what professionalism is and I know what professionalism isn’t. I think when there’s that very clear distinction between what happens on the show and what happens between takes, and I can deal with that because that’s a working environment that I’m totally accustomed to. The reality aspect really took its toll on us for a while. The 14 of us are still fantastic and a dysfunctional family. I mean, I hung out with Blake and Abraham and Nellie along with Lindsay Pearce and Hannah from season 1 just the other day. We’re all really close.
It’s the most fun I never want to have again.
Just for the sake of full disclosure I’ve been through reality TV before, and I know how sometimes there can be one or two trivial things that happen in the grand scheme of things, and when you watch them on TV they are blown up into something greater. We saw that happen to you on a few occasions, such as in the ‘Everybody Hurts’ music video. Do you wish at times that the show focused more on what you did that was great?
You know, here’s the thing. ‘The Glee Project’ is one of the most positive reality shows that I’ve ever encountered in my life, but at the end of the day you have to consider that it is ‘reality,’ and at some point they have to make drama. I don’t fault the mentors for that, I don’t fault the producers for that. I fault the medium in which the message is being played that drama needs to be there. I think ‘The Glee Project’ is better about it than any other show.
… The other thing that makes ‘The Glee Project’ what it is is our fanbase. From what I have seen, the fanbase for the show is one of the most well-informed, well-educated, and open to reasonable debate [out of any] that I’ve ever seen. The closest thing I’ve seen to ‘The Glee Project’ base are the Trekkies — and by the way, I’ve been a huge Trekkie since I was five. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd, and the fans have been wonderful to me and wonderful to the show.
Let’s turn towards some positive topics now. Your last performance of ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was in my mind your best on the show. When did you make some of the choices to change up the lyrics and work your way down into the auditorium?
I had decided to change the lyrics in rehearsal, but singing to the mentors was last-minute. I made the choice to do it, but I hadn’t told anybody.
Here’s the thing. It was the fourth time in a row that I was in the bottom three, and I was just like ‘you know what? F–k it. Swing for the fences, and if I’m going to go down I’m going to go down in a blaze of glory and fire’. I think I’ve accomplished that, and I think I was fearless that week.
Now, I have to ask the following question or about a million people would kill me. What is the status of things between you and Aylin?
We’re not together in an official capacity. Basically we’re just as undefined and up in the air in confusion as we were on the show. What I do know is that Aylin has a wit and an awareness about her, and she compliments so many places in myself which I find lacking. I think she sort of takes my head out of the clouds, and at the same time I pull her out of this harda– thing that she tries to do now and again. I think we compliment each other really well.
Whether or not we end up in a relationship, I think she is going to be in my life for a long time.
Really Charlie, the last thing I have for you is this — now that your ‘Glee Project’ experience is over, are there any sort of other TV shows or productions that you want to be a part of?
If I could just get a guest supporting role or even just two lines on ‘The Newsroom,’ I think I would consider myself the luckiest actor in the world. I’ve been a huge Aaron Sorkin fan going back to ‘Sports Night,’ which ran for two seasons in the late nineties. I consider myself a sort of combination of Dan Rydell and Jeremy Goodwin from that show. I adore [Sorkin’s] work and everything that he does, and if I could get just close to that it would be a huge success for me.
The other two things that I’m looking at are getting back to New York. I want to see if the first national tour for ‘Once’ is casting yet, or if the first national tour for ‘The Book of Mormon’ is casting yet.
Thanks again to Charlie for not just sitting down on what was inevitably a jam-packed day for him, but for being so open and honest about an experience that often leads to people being closed off and at times afraid in their exit interviews. In conducting this interview, I certainly wish him nothing but the best and hope that he can someday land a spot alongside Jeff Daniels on HBO.