What Ryan Murphy Said The set of Glee really was like behind the scenes

Fox’s hit teen drama Glee quickly became a smash hit with younger audiences as soon as it aired in 2009, according to The Guardian. Praised for their humour, social commentary and pushing boundaries when it comes to marginalized groups, the musical show’s young cast quickly rose to fame, and of course the behind-the-scenes topic quickly caught the interest of fans too.

While the “Glee” cast is certainly known for their numerous off-screen romances, there was certainly some tension as well. Star Lea Michele, for example, was called out by several cast members in 2020 for her condescending and verbally abusive behavior on set (via People). In addition, ex-girlfriend and co-star Naya Rivera called Mark Salling, who was charged with possession of child pornography in 2016, a suspect from the start. Rivera said of their brief relationship, “What the hell was I thinking?”

There’s another key Glee character who has also spoken out about what it was really like working with the cast: co-creator and showrunner Ryan Murphy. And it turns out he has mixed feelings behind the scenes.

Ryan Murphy says “Glee” was both the best and the worst time of his life

In a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy reflected on what it was like behind the scenes on Glee. Describing it as both “the best” and “the worst time of my life,” Murphy has been open about what it was really like working with his young cast. For one, he revealed that there was “a lot of power struggles” and a number of cast members “slept together and broke up.”

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Perhaps the most notable romantic relationship among the “Glee” cast was Lea Michele and Cory Monteith, who played the on-screen couple Rachel and Finn, but only dated from early 2012 until Monteith’s death in July 2013, according to Hollywood Life. Additionally, Naya Rivera and co-star Mark Salling, who played on-screen couple Santana Lopez and Noah “Puck” Puckerman, also dated from 2008 to 2010 before having a bitter breakup (via People).

However, the actual number of off-screen connections is likely much higher, as suggested by many cast members (and obviously Murphy himself). For example, in 2021, actor Kevin McHale, who played the wheelchair-bound Artie, responded to an open-ended question on Twitter, asking for a job where “all the staff [had] SEX each other.” He responded by writing “eelg,” which is “glee” spelled backwards. Rivera said in her 2016 book Sorry Not Sorry that the “Glee” cast “had the sex drive of bunnies and the bed-hopping skills of a polygamous cult.”

Ryan Murphy worried that the relationship between the cast and crew on “Glee” was getting too personal

While Ryan Murphy spoke about how much he enjoyed working with the actors who worked under him, he added to Entertainment Weekly that there was a certain element of camaraderie on set that turned out to have negative consequences: He’d gotten too close with his cast, which thwarted the authority he otherwise exercised so masterfully. “We’ve all gotten too personal,” Murphy said. “We loved it so much that we all went out to dinner and hung out and were always together, so there was no separation between the boss and the employee.”

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Murphy’s behavior on the set itself was notorious for causing some anxiety among his young cast. While many of the cast members were very close, there was obviously some tension with Murphy, who was not only older but also ran a very strict ship. For example, in 2011, Us Weekly ran an article where multiple sources talked about how hard Murphy could be working with. “Things are really bad on set,” a source said. “The cast talks about how much they love Ryan, but they hate him.” Another source said that Murphy “has had bad mood swings and can be really mean.”

However, his brilliance and talent have also garnered praise, with Lea Michele even saying that Murphy is “an incredibly powerful, talented, mega-genius man” in her book, You First, per The Hollywood Reporter.