EW was the only magazine on set for Glee‘s huge Super Bowl episode (talk about a touchdown!) and now we can give you Gleeks an exclusive peek at New Directions’ biggest performance to date: an epic mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll.” Read below for all the zombie-filled details…
It’s game time on the set of Fox’s hit Glee. The cast and crew (along with hundreds of extras and a live marching band) have gathered on a chilly January evening at a Long Beach, Calif., high school football field to shoot the final performance piece for their gigantic Feb. 6 episode, slated to air directly after the Super Bowl. But seeing as this is Glee, the action on the field is not a quarterback blitz but, more appropriately, an elaborate song-and-dance number choreographed to a thrilling mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll.” (The performance takes place during halftime of the episode’s pivotal football championship game.) In an homage to Jackson’s video, the New Directions kids are covered in gruesome zombie makeup (think gaping wounds, protruding bones and jaws, and other things Joe Theismann would identify with) while they jerk and crawl across the fog-covered football field. But beyond that, viewers can expect a whole new version of the Jackson classic. “You can never re-create something as incredible as ‘Thriller,’ and I don’t think we’re trying to,” says star Lea Michele (who plays Rachel). “We’re making it our own.” Adds Cory Monteith (Finn), barely recognizable in his monster garb in between takes: “This is up there with the Rocky Horror, Madonna, and Britney episodes, because there’s so much production going into it.”
In terms of budget and ratings, the episode (which is sponsored by General Motors) is actually guaranteed to be Glee’s biggest hour yet. Co-creator Ryan Murphy notes that this is the show’s most expensive outing to date, with a price tag in the $3–5 million range. Making the massive production even trickier was a nasty flu virus that struck several cast members in December, forcing filming of the “Thriller” number to be postponed for four weeks. “I was battling,” says Kevin McHale, who plays Artie and sings lead on the song. “I was like, I have to sing it. I don’t ask for anything. I don’t have to sing for the rest of the season — I just have to sing ‘Thriller.’ And I recorded it sick with, like, a 102[-degree] fever.” Even the rescheduled January shoot had a close call: Mike O’Malley, who plays Kurt’s father, leaned into a space heater and burned a hole in his down vest, sending feathers floating through the cold California air (“Mike O’Malley caught on fire,” Murphy deadpans shortly after).
For more exclusive details from the set of Glee‘s Super Bowl episode, as well as scoop on the second half of season two, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands today.