'Glee': Amber Riley talks Mercedes' [SPOILER], and whether or not she's graduating


Image Credit: Mike Yarish/Fox

This week’s episode of Glee, titled “Asian F,” was a showcase for some of the series’ most underused characters: Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), Emma (Jayma Mays), and especially Mercedes (Amber Riley). New Directions’ powerhouse vocalist finally had a juicy story line as she battled Rachel (Lea Michele) for the lead in the school production of West Side Story and sang three songs, including Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight” and (Riley’s fave) “It’s All Over,” from Dreamgirls. “I literally went into the studio and recorded that in, like, seven minutes, because I watch Dreamgirls so freakin’ much,” Riley says. “It was so easy.”

But the episode’s biggest moment came when Mercedes shocked viewers by (SPOILER ALERT!!!) quitting New Directions and joining the new glee club, run by Shelby Corcoran (Idina Menzel). “I was scared,” Riley says of the plot twist. “I was like, ‘What does that mean? What is she doing?’” Still, she says, “every actor loves a challenge, and I get to embark on something new, something different that Mercedes hasn’t gotten to do.” Besides, Riley adds, she’ll have company soon. “In the next episode [Nov. 1], somebody might be coming over with Mercedes from [New Directions],” the 25-year-old teases. Less clear is what’s in store for McKinley High’s seniors, including Mercedes and Rachel, after this season. “All I know is I’ve been told that I’m a senior and I am graduating,” Riley says. “If it is my last season, it is what it is. I’ve been given a really great platform to do other things that I love. I’m happy at the place where I am.”

Riley is also currently recording her first album. Says the actress, “I started when we came back on tour. I slept for about three days straight [laughs]. I flew to New York. I wanted to find what my sound was and I was in the studio every single day for a week straight.” While there’s no release date set yet, Riley fans can expect the album to be “very Motown and very jazzy and bluesy.”

Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack

Comments (147 total) Add your comment
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  • Daniel

    Anyone with a brain cell could figure out Mercedes was going to quit and join Shelby’s club halfway through the episode. If Glee writers really expect us to believe “Mercedes” was better for the part of Maria than Rachel and expect us to believe she’s a better singer, they must think the general public dosen’t have ears. Excellent episode of Glee though. For once in a long time, I wasn’t bored.

    • Ems

      amen.. also in what world has anyone ever favored rachel and been afraid to hurt her feelings?

      • dallo

        It’s not so much a case of favoring Rachel and being afraid to hurt her feelings; throughout the show Rachel has won solos and performances partly because she is talented and partly because, as Mercedes pointed out, she is willing to step on and trample people. Also, the judges in this case, while they probably thought Mercedes was better, probably gave the part to both just because they didn’t want to deal with Rachel’s whining (because everyone is sick and tired of it) if they declared Mercedes the winner. Rachel reminds me a little of Tracy Flick in the movie “Election” with Matthew Broderick. In each case, people are willing to make concessions to the person just to not have themselves worn out

      • Ron

        From what I watched of the show she didn’t quit, she was kicked out for being lazy, whiney, diva with a nasty attitude. Even if she were to be near as good a singer and Rachel I would never cast a person to lazy to show up for rehearsals or learn to dance. It’s Maria and she can barely even attempt a spin or even put in the tiniest effort

      • scyren

        God I hate Rachel. Can’t wait until she graduates.

      • Forest

        God I LOVE Rachel. Can’t wait until she graduates and gets away from this collapsing wreck of a show. Glee used to be great. Used to.

      • A

        I hate Rachel. She always comes off as arrogant, overbearing, conceited. There really isn’t anything really likable about her and in some ways she’s a mean girl for being willing to do anything to come in first. So sick of her having a solo no matter what and who the episode is about. I just to enjoy listening to her (because in all reality, the girl can sing), but I no longer enjoy her. At. All.

      • M

        Technically Ron, Will said if you walk out that door you won’t be coming back to Glee… That’s when she quit Glee. Will just called her out.

    • jennrae

      I am really tired of the over-used “someone quits/get kicked out of glee club” storyline. Santana was thrown out JUST LAST WEEK and here she was back already. It’s no longer dramatic, if it ever was, to lose members. It means nothing, so Mercedes quitting? Of course they are just going to undo it.

      • me

        Agree, but I’d rather they keep her out. In fact let’s have her graduate in December.
        I did think it was a stellar episode — man, the praying scene and Mike dancing w/ mom. Tears.

      • Cassie

        She was kicked out two weeks ago.

    • Rachel

      I love Rachel and all but Mercedes was better. she put more heart and soul into her songs andi believed her performance. but then I thought, she doesn’t rehearse and how is that going to work for a play like west side story?

      • Disagree

        I don’t think Mercedes was better. In fact, in the actual diva-off, I think that mercedes just did her patented “park and barrk” and didn’t emote at all. Rahcel acted through the song, you know like you’re SUPPOSED to do in musical theater. Mercedes’ conceit is that she is “too good” to work for it. Rachel doesn’t have that issue. She believes she’s good but she works at it (she “practices everyday”) and doesn’t take it for granted.

      • Rich

        Everyone does realize that this is just a TV show and not real right? I enjoy the series as much as anyone but I don’t take it that serious. They are actors playing parts all that happens in the show is scripted and they are being given direrctions on how to perform.

      • B

        I agree. Mercedes is a better singer (with less versatility), but in no way is she a better actor. She sang beautifully, but she was not acting the part of Maria. The were auditioning for the role of Maria, not American Idol.

    • acaseofgeo

      I watch this show while I paint me toenails bright fuschia.

    • datruth82

      I’m sorry…did I misunderstand your comment? Are you actually trying to claim Rachel (Lea) has a better voice than Mercedes (Amber)? That’s a joke right? Amber could take on Jennifer Hudson, Chaka Khan and pre-crack-is-whack Whitney Houston with that voice. Lea M. would be fortunate enough to be invited to sit in the audience.

      • JoshS

        Just because she has a more powerful voice, doesn’t mean it’s a better voice.

      • Oh please

        YMMV, but in this situation, for this part, Rachel is better for Maria. And frankly, RAHCEL performed better than Mercedes in the diva-off AND in her audtion (with Somewhere). BTW, there is a idfference between the characters and teh actors. The fact that you can’t see that and need to bring snark and nastiness into the discussion just shows how pathetic and immature your thoughts are. And you aren’t fit to lick Lea M. OR Amber R.’s boots.

      • Jodi

        Totally agree with JoshS… Mercedes voice is just powerful… I think Rachel has better control and tone.

    • Captain

      Agreed. Mercedes is a great singer but she’s not a Broadway singer. Can anyone imagine her belting out “I Feel Pretty”?

    • Shawnuel

      I agree that Rachel is better for Maria. I wholeheartedly disagree that she is a better singer than Mercedes. Perhaps a better technician as a vocalist but Amber Riley packs more real pathos in one pubic hair than a thousand whole Lea Micheles ever will. I, personally, would much rather listen to raw, emotive singers than polished, “showy” singers.

    • Brittany

      Mercedes definitely beat Rachel in the sing-off, but that doesn’t mean that she was better for the role. Rachel would make a far better Maria.

      • bailey

        Your right rachel would make a better maria but that dosnt mean she should get every solo in glee because they do more than show tunes. i’d love to here more tina and santana and most deffinatly more mercedes! Amber has a way more powerful and soulfull voice then lea (no offence) and i think glee should use it to their advantage while they still have it.

  • Malcolm

    Yeah, it was a good episode, but I’m not crazy about the Mercedes character or her voice. She sings as a powerhouse, for sure, but it lacks the clarity that the other powerhouse, Lea Michelle, possesses. LOVED Brittany’s “Run the World” on tonight’s episode. It is AWFUL that the show won’t have a new episode on until after Halloween. :-(

  • Wyn

    Mike Chang singing was a bigger shocker

    • RJM

      Was the best part of the whole season, that performance.

      • tommymommy

        Agree 100%

      • Trey

        I disagree, I thought that Anything Goes/Anything you can Do and Ding Dong the Witch is Dead were way better preformances.

      • Vivi

        Mike Chang singing was the second best part of the season. The first was getting to see him shirtless again!

      • rachelleet

        mike chang did an awesome job in the episode! but why all the hype with emma and will? that seemed a bit overdramatic. and his rendition of fix you was…meh…

      • B

        I agree.

    • MJ

      And then to further blow our minds, he sang not once but TWICE in the same episode.

      • chase

        Loved it! Love me some Mike Chang!

      • Wendybird

        Mike Chang can sing!

    • Wendybird

      I am so beyond sick of Mercedes. Literally all she does is whine about how she never gets the solos. Seriously I just want her to shut the heck up! And she is definitely not a better singer than Rachel. I want to stick with the show but Mercedes character has always been my least favorite and this episode shows exactly why.

  • Aaron

    Tonight’s episode was awesome! Amber Riley has always been as talented or more than Lea Michele, so it’s nice to finally see that showcased instead of having her only come in to hit a high note at the end. It’s just unfortunate that Mercedes had to lose everything by episode’s end because she finally stood up for herself.

    • Fame

      LOL. Really? No way. Amber Riley can’t even compare to the likes of Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce, let alone Lea Michele. But your opinion.

      • Shawnuel

        My opinion also. I’d rather listen to emotional investment in a performance than a desperate attempt to be noticed. That’s how I view the difference between vocalists like Amber and Naya vs. Lea and Chris…..The first two are representational singers……they evoke an emotional response….want to give their audience a cathartic experience. Lea and Chris are presentational singers……it’s all about how it appears…..and trying to gain praise and acceptance. That’s how I see it anyway.

    • HoneyB

      She lost everything because she gave up everything. Her own damn fault. Mercedes is not as good as she thinks and certainly not as good as Lea Michele. However, she nailed her Effie bit.

      • Captain

        Exactly. She was getting exactly what she wanted but she was too proud to share the spotlight. I don’t feel bad for the Diva.

    • LOL

      You Amber stans crack me up. Can’t compliment your girl without bring Lea down, huh? Just shows you don’t have anythign to back it up with.

  • Greg

    Not the best episode. I was bored with most of it.

    • Edna

      I agree with this. EW kept pimping this episode as the best ever and it’s one the most boring episodes. A lot of the plot lines feel recycled either from previous seasons or from childrens’ shows.

    • Andy

      Agreed. I’m thisclose to ending it with Glee. The plots are recycled and they don’t even do pop music anymore. I counted (I was bored, after all) and 11/15 songs this season have been Broadway songs…

      • Dave

        Ummm because pop songs are deplorable…especially when done by the new directions kids.

  • Dezimarie

    I actually felt that she out sang Lea on the song from “Fame”. Seriously they should have never even tried to have Lea sing “Out Here On My Own” . I am a fan of both young ladies, but having Lea sing that song hurt my heart knowing how awesome Irene Cara was with the original.

    • Jason

      They had Lea sing in a lower key and let Amber sing over her so it sounded that way.

    • Emma

      That is not Lea’s natural key. That’s why she sounded hoarse. Not to mention, they edited all the good parts to Mercedes to make her sound better. In general though, I love both characters.

      • Rachel

        huh. didn’t notice that. now on a second hearing of the song Emma’s right. Rachel’s in the wrong key.

      • YEP

        That is not the right key for her to sing in. I wonder why they had Lea sing in a differernt key and not Amber. I mean, to hear all of you, Amber is the bestes singer to ever sing a song, so she shouldn’t need a song manipulated to make her sound better. Hmm….

  • Rose in PA

    One of the best eps ever. When Mike danced with his mother, I cried. Did not expect the emotional impact of this one. And Emma, praying at the end? So poignant. The first two were just OK this season but this one knocked it out of the park

  • jleni

    Loved this episode.

  • hmm

    I also saw Mercedes joining the other show choir from the beginning…I have a question though:.Are she and Kurt still friends? It doesn’t seem like it…

    • Wyn

      I think it’d be hard for Kurt to be close friends with an overweight black girl. He has to be the one who is the most oppressed, and Mercedes would have none of that.

      • huh?

        where did that answer come from??

      • Rachel

        whhhaaat? Wyn I don’t think you’re correct. if they aren’t hanging out as much its because they both have boyfriends and are super busy

      • hmm

        But in that respect: Rachel has a boyfriend too…And Kurt and Rachel are doing stuff by themselves soooo why couldn’t they include Mercedes in that?

    • lady

      The haven’t really been friends since Grilled Cheesus when she tried to shove her religion down his throat.

      • Kate

        False, she didn’t push her religion on him…she was trying to help him believe in something, God or no God sometimes people need a little hope to makes things better, if you looked in the lastest show it’s proof

  • Amy

    I enjoyed this article, most likely because it did not focus primarily on Rachel and Kurt. Mercedes and Mike’s performances were enjoyable and made me remember why I initially liked Glee. (Right now, I’m on the fence.)

  • guest

    The story was simultaneously lacking in substance and over the top melodramatic — if that’s even possible. And I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when Mike’s dad at the beginning of the episode said “Being in glee club is detrimental to getting into Harvard.” Right. Because universities HATE extracurriculars and well-rounded students. I thought this was nonsensical. Also…while I love Coach Beiste…I feel bad for her. I feel like the writers / Ryan Murphy sometimes make her look like an animal with her eating habits…they seem to back-handedly mock a lot of the heavier characters like this. Just my opinion. I do like glee on a basic level but I think the plot has become totally illogical and I have to turn off all brain activity to be able to watch the show without thinking “wait a minute…what? that makes no sense.”

    • lenny

      I don’t entirely disagree with your opinion, but when I was applying for colleges, I did actually go to a recruiting talk for Harvard where they said they weren’t looking for well rounded students. They wanted people who excelled in one particular field, as opposed to being merely good all around. I was more irked by the fact that his Chinese dad clearly looked more Korean.

      • jk

        Forget the dad looking more Korean than Chinese, focus on the fact that they seemed to use every asian parent sterotype they could think of.
        Also, I know they might later on want to use music from that show Book of Mormon(please forgive if the title is incorrect) but why did they have to cast Cartman and Cartman’s mom as Emma’s parents.

  • Kerrie

    It was an amazing episode. My mom had given up on Glee, but I convinced her to watch this season. She now has faith again. It became banal with the he slept with her or she slept with him. It is now about the singing and acting and the struggles of different individuals, not just Rachel and Finn. This episode showed the home lives and struggles of other characters such as Emma and Mike and it made it more realistic. Phenomenal episode.

  • brainiac

    I agree. Loved it so much. At the end, I was weeping.

  • iHeart

    Wait a minute didn’t MIke sing already in the duets episode last season?

    • HoneyB

      He “sang” the song “Sing” which does not really require singing, just singsongy talking.

  • Kevin

    When did Mr. Schuester turn into such a bitch?

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