‘Glee’ Singer Rilan Shares Behind-the-Scenes Look at His Journey to Becoming a Warbler
"Chemical" singer Rilan – who’s also part of the Warblers on Glee this season — is watching Glee every week and writing recaps of each episode exclusively for PopCrush! As the series comes to a close, he's giving Gleeks a special look at his transformation into a Warbler.
Hey, Gleeks! As Glee comes to a close on March 20, let us take a step back and uncover the musical magic that occurred behind the scenes of your favorite show. Allow me to take you along my journey as a Warbler on Glee’s final season.
It all began with an audition in September. We read a little, danced a tad and sang a tune. Then we waited, but not for long. We quickly received news of our booking less than a week after seeing casting, and suddenly, we were in rehearsal two days later. It was an unbelievably fast turnaround, and as excited as we all were, it was straight to work for us.
We began rehearsals and costume fittings (of the iconic Dalton Academy uniform) at the legendary Paramount Studios the last week of September. For our first two numbers of the season, Ed Sheeran’s "Sing" and Janelle Monae’s "Tightrope," we rehearsed two days, back to back, from 8:00AM to 5:00PM. It was intense work, but the show’s choreographic trio of Zach Woodlee, Brooke Lipton and Brittany Parks made the hours zoom by with laugh after laugh. Head honcho Zach started the day out by giving us nicknames based on his first impressions of us. I, of course, garnered the name "Hair" for my unruly curls of doom. There were jokes for days with these three, and we immediately felt warmly welcomed into the Glee family.
One week later and with only one day of rehearsal per number under our belts, the Warblers were called to set at the fictional Dalton Academy, otherwise known as the Red Cross Mansion in Pasadena, Calif. We arrived at basecamp about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles bright (or should I say dark?) and early at 6:30AM. We immediately went into hair and makeup.
So remember my nickname, "Hair"? Well, I’m sure the hair department referred to me as the Warbler problem child because hiding my voluminous ringlets was a challenge and a half. It took a little more than an hour to forcefully, but neatly, gel my hair back into that prime prepster ‘do. I legitimately looked like a different person, and none of my fellow Warblers recognized me until I spoke. We quickly dressed and were driven onto set.
Before that day, the closest I had gotten to a film or television set were moderate-budget music video shoots: A few dancers, two cameras and a crew of 25, max. Glee was a whole new world. There were hundreds of crew members, nine different cameras, tons of extras, and iconic Glee cast member chairs lined up behind the scenes. It was every Hollywood fantasy ever imagined rolled into one, but it was all reality. We immediately began rehearsing, cleaning the choreography as we went and changing certain sections on the spot to accommodate the space and utilize the props (which were rather regal-looking leather couches on wheels).
At the end of rehearsal, we met our Warbler mentor and coach, fictional Blaine Anderson played by the very real and very talented Darren Criss. He was an incredibly kind, genuine, down-to-earth kind of guy. He individually introduced himself to all of us and made us feel properly welcomed to set. We ran the numbers a few more times, and then we waited behind the camera until we were set to shoot.
Once shooting starts, it really is non-stop. We ran "Sing" once, then twice, then too many times to count. Multiply each time by nine to ensure that every camera angle captures the entire scene and you end up with a 14-hour day full of sweat, soreness and so much fun. We left set around 9:00PM that night with an 8:30AM call time for the next day. I was physically exhausted but somehow, call it excitement if you will, I was up and ready the next morning for another day of hard work at a dream job.
The next few months consisted of the same routine: Rehearsals, shooting, repeat. As the season progressed, our scenes moved from Dalton Academy to McKinley High, located in Sound Stages 14 and 16 at Paramount Studios. There we found the sets from the beginning of the show: The choir room, Sue and Will’s offices, the locker room, the hallways, the classrooms, and, of course, the auditorium where we performed most of the show’s final numbers.
In those last months of filming, we sang and danced to '80s hits "My Sharona," and "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" as the last of the Warblers; Darren Criss’ "Rise" as a newly formed show choir supergroup; and "Take Me To Church," "Chandelier," and "Come Sail Away" as the "new" New Directions at sectionals. Performing on the show was a spectacular experience, but being on set with such caring and passionate people was the best part of Glee. The crew and the cast, both new and original, were a delight to work with. The friendships we created from working together day after day will last us a lifetime.
I would like to thank all you guys again for watching Glee week after week for the past six years. Your loyal viewership and love of the show made it possible for me and my fellow Warblers to be a part of Glee’s incredibly legacy: One of the power of art, acceptance, individuality and love. While the program’s final episode will air on March 20, the lessons we learned from this television series will forever live in our hearts and our most precious memories.
Check out my final Warbler Rambling on Saturday right here on PopCrush for a recap of the series finale. Talk to you guys then. Until the weekend, this is your inside Warbler, signing off.
Watch Rilan Perform His Song "Chemical" Acoustic