Photo from FoxDirector Joss Whedon, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, takes on Glee tonight in an episode called 'Dream On,' in which guest star Neil Patrick Harris plays Will Schuester's old high school glee club rival.
We talked to the director -- also the creator of Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse -- about doing musicals, working with Neil, and, of course, gleeking out.
You worked with Neil Patrick Harris on your short film Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
I am so tired of that guy. Why do they always make me direct Neil? Why the pain? Neil is a consummate pro and a dear friend, which is an ideal combination. There's no problem. My only complaint was that I wanted to shoot even more of the kids than I got to, that and certain craft service issues about not having caviar, but really that's in my rider, actually.
I feel like he's one of those people who expresses the way I wish I could express myself. He's like a muse, and he's friends with Matt [Morrison, who play Will Schuester]. The sort of rivalry/affection between them just informed the whole thing so much. We had such a good time. He came in the day after the Oscars, the day before How I Met Your Mother. He fit this into his schedule in the most bizarre fashion. I even got him and Jane Lynch to come in late on Friday night after finishing How I Met Your Mother, just so that we could knock a scene off because the schedule was so hard for him. Always cooperative, always imaginative, Neil's the man.
Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect tonight?
Well, the idea of the episode being 'Dream On' really was let's take the things that are at the core of what people are. With Will [Matt Morrison], it's his desire to perform and what he may have given up. With Rachel [Lea Michele], it's questions about who her real mother was, and Artie [Kevin McHale] obviously thinks about if he'll ever one day get out of the chair.
These are very, very hard personal things that they don't necessarily talk about with other people. I was lucky because there's a real fanatic coherence to the episode that really brought them all together on an emotional level. For me, it was just a question of making sure they dovetailed and didn't feel sort of random, but they all came together and you understood why these three stories were all in the same show.
You've done musicals in the past. How is Glee different?
Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. Doing Buffy and doing Dr. Horrible were both great prep for something like this. This is obviously not my first rodeo. It's different, Glee, obviously, but knowing a little bit of the realities of the difference in a day's work between shooting a musical number and shooting just a regular scene is very useful.
Glee is different from anything else period. The enormous amount of work that everybody is doing at all times on that show kind of spun my head around. It's not an easy show to make and the kids, the whole cast works so hard and are busy working on every episode. It's hard to keep your head around all of it, the rehearsals, the recording, and the show moves as quickly as it moves. You've got a different aesthetic, an old-fashioned aesthetic in the lighting and the camerawork is very classical. It's not edgy in that sense. The edge comes from taking a very comforting milieu, the comfort, and ease of set, and then putting something rather kind of shocking. Either shocking because it's so snarky, or dirty, or funny, or because it's just so open-hearted in the middle of it.
It's the kind of thing that I'd like to spend a lot more of my time doing. I love musicals deeply and dearly. This was a return to home for me. Not my home, but a very welcoming one.
So, would you do another episode of Glee in the future?
"Nevah, nevah." Oh, yeah, I choked, totally. Sorry. If I had the window and they would take me, yes, in a heartbeat.
Catch Joss Whedon's episode of Glee -- guest-starring Neil Patrick Harris -- tonight at 9 p.m. on Fox.