[SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOST RECENT EPISODE OF GLEE] Glee viewers were already shocked to see Kurt’s former bully Karofsky (Max Adler) pop up in last week’s Valentine’s Day episode, particularly since Karofsky pledged his love for his former victim. But tonight’s winter finale, “On My Way,” proved to be even more surprising. Spurred on by his own homophobic high school bullies both in school and online, Karofsky attempted suicide but was unsuccessful. Adler says he applauds Glee‘s producers for tackling such a timely subject. ” As an actor to portray this role on a show like this has been the most amazing opportunity that I could have asked for,” says Adler. “I was incredibly happy that they were brave enough and honest enough to go there because I think it’s a very prevalent issue now in the world.” EW talked to Adler about the emotional episode and future plans for Karofsky to return.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out about the suicide attempt?
MAX ADLER: It’s always [in] the script. The kiss. The prom. The suicide. I just get the scripts and am delighted to get that script. I remember last year there were a bunch of interviews I’ve done where I said I could see this ending that way, like as a negative result. But I didn’t think they would go there. I think because the fact that it’s so prevalent in the news and it’s such an epidemic, it needs to be shown and it needs to be talked about. I think all our hopes is that it saves a lot of lives and, to the bullies, I think it sheds a whole new perspective on what their words really do to people.
Was there any concern that the twist was too dark? Or too heavy for Glee?
My thought was this: the show is about high school kids. At that time of your life, there are no decisions that have been made for you. You have so much optimism and hope and you do anything you want. Along the lines of the comedy/tragedy map, you also need to also, to gain perspective, show the struggles and the fears and the anxieties of people in high school. I feel like if you ignore one side and show the other, it’s not as rich and powerful of an experience. If everyone can see both sides, there’s an amazing window of perspective that opens up and you can appreciate one now that you see the other. I thought it was necessary to go here to contrast with what is normally seen on the show. At the end, there is a message of hope.
The scenes leading up to the suicide attempt were so intense and emotional. That must have been tough to film?
Yeah, incredibly tough. I’ve talked to so many people via charities, via Facebook, via twitter. I didn’t have Facebook when I was in high school. Bullying then was more of a hand-to-hand combat. You had to do it face to face and you saw the reaction and you could see the emotion. Now it’s become more of like a verbal sniper. There are people that can fire at you from all angles on tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and there’s no way to stop it. And you get deeper and deeper into this whole and it’s incredibly scary. For me, to experience that and walk a mile in someone’s shoes, it was incredible and it was an amazing learning experience. Was it easy? No. But valuable? Yes.
It’s amazing to think about Karofsky’s 180. You at first appeared to be a standard bully and now he’s this rich, shaded character.
When I was first cast it was just two lines and throwing that slushy onto Finn and that’s what I signed on for. Now to be in over 20 episodes and three seasons has been incredible. You’re right, it’s a 180 but you have to understand why and what motivates that. For Karofsky, back at McKinley he expressed himself by fitting into this mold and not being himself and bullying was his outlet. When that didn’t work, he turned to the sensitive, softer Gorilla-gram method. That didn’t work. That’s when the desperation sets in. My dad always said to me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That always stuck with me. I feel like that what it is. You can have a few bad days but you gotta understand that there’s a whole future and a whole world out there that do accept you for who you are. That’s why we do what we do on the show is to make everyone realize that being who you are is one of the most beautiful things that you can do.
There’s gonna be a lot of outpouring of emotion from fans. Are you prepared?
I am. What I love about this role is that there’s no one way to look at Karofsky. There’s such a mixed reaction amongst the fans and not only about the romance or the whole Kurtofsky vs. Klaine.
Is that what people really call it? Kurtofsky?
Kurtofsky, yeah. Chris and I always say it sounds like a mean Russian ballerina. Beyond the coupling, there’s just the thought of what do you want for him? Do you want him happy and redeemed? Or do you want him to fail?
Will Karofsky return?
It’s kind of open-ended. As an actor, I would love the opportunity. As the character, we shall find out.
Do you think Karofsky is legitimately in love with Kurt? Or in love with the life Kurt leads?
Exactly. To me it’s never been lustful or sexual. It’s always been that connection of really admiring Kurt for being the only person Karofsky sees that’s truly himself. I think that’s so rare and for Karofsky to see that there’s just an incredible amount of respect and admiration. Kurt is like this beacon of hope and how it could be for Karofsky. It’s not so much he wants him in a romantic way. It’s always just a different need to have a genuine human connection with someone. That eventually is what can make Karofsky happy in the future, finding someone who will love him for everything that he is.
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