Alex Newell caught TV viewers' attention first as one of the four finalists on the original season of Oxygen's "The Glee Project," then as Wade Adams, the rival show choir lead who turned heads performing in a dress and heels as Unique. Starting this year, Unique has transferred to McKinley, started settling into her identity and is stealing the spotlight as Lima's newest vocal powerhouse. We caught up with the "Glee" star to talk about his Beyoncé obsession, his forthcoming movie and why Frank Ocean is the ideal boyfriend for both him and Unique.
Last week on "Glee" we found out that Unique's parents don't want her to play Rizzo, even though she won the role. Is that going to play out further from this episode?
It's so sad. It's going to be an issue, but it's not like a giant issue. I don't know how much further it's going to go. It's not that they're not supportive, they're more worried about my safety. Unique is more of, 'I know I'm good, I know.' Once her mind is made up there's no changing her.
The week prior it came out more concretely that Unique identifies as a female. Were you aware before you got the script? Were you always aware that was where the story was going?
As soon as I got the first script for "Saturday Night Gleever," I was totally unaware that the character was even going to be trans. I was like, "well, that's just the line." But then going in depth with the character I could understand it more and see where the character was going. I wasn't shocked when it happened, but at the same time I wasn't appalled either.
What was the process like post-"Glee Project" in getting this particular role?
I had the role tailor-made for me, which I think is absolutely one of the craziest, most outlandish, funniest things ever.
For you, what's the most fun part of the day when you're shooting?
The point at the end of the day where we're all extremely tired and we're all having fun and you get to see everyone's tired mood. Everyone gets tired differently. And we get silly. Between early mornings and late nights, that's when we take to our phones and let the world have a peek.
"Glee" is known for the romantic entanglements, so it begs the question, when does Unique get a boyfriend? Do you have an idea for who would be an ideal boyfriend for Unique?
I don't know. Unique doesn't have a boyfriend and she really wants one, and so does her owner!
What would Unique look for in a boyfriend?
Someone hot and someone dark and someone handsome. (Laughs.) I think she needs someone who would support her no matter what. When you look at Unique, she doesn't have too many people who support her and accept everything she's going through on the inside.
Do you have a favorite song you've done so far on "Glee"?
Thus far my favorite song is "Womanizer."
Are you a big Britney fan?
I'm not. That's the shocker part about me. I'm the biggest fan of Beyoncé that you'll ever meet. I told my mom this and my mom thought I was being blasphemous, but Beyoncé kind of equals Jesus for me.
Is Beyoncé the artist you most want to cover on "Glee"?
I really want to do a Beyoncé song and I really want that Beyoncé song to be "Countdown."
Can you tell Ryan Murphy that?
I don't have the balls to go up to him and tell him I want this song.
I was going to ask dream duet partner, but I'll assume that would be Beyoncé. Would that be terrifying for you, to sing with Beyoncé?
Of course. Late one night I had this crazy thought where I looked at Heather (Morris) and thought that was should do that Beyoncé and Shakira song, "Beautiful Liar." Hello, gold!
Besides Beyoncé, what else are you obsessed with musically?
I love Frank Ocean. We're going to get married. In true life, we should get married.
He could be Unique's boyfriend on "Glee"! That's how you can meet him.
That's valid, good thinking! (Laughs.)
You're so talented, are you thinking about making your own music yet?
I'm not at that point yet. I don't think I'm at the point in my life right now where I want to make an actual album, but one day I do. A long, long, long time from now.
You have your first film coming out, "Geography Club." What can you tell me about it? When did you get involved?
It was post my first episode of "Glee." I remember getting a call from Robert Ulrich saying there was a company that wanted me to audition. This character isn't as confident as Unique. He starts off in the beginning as 80 percent straight and 20 percent gay. He's just not comfortable enough to come out. He's extremely effeminate, over-the-top flamboyant, and you see the movie unfold so by the end of the movie he's 100 percent gay.
Outside of the movie and "Glee," what's up next for you?
I'm just taking it one step at a time right now. I'm trying to get through one thing before I tackle the world. When I start to tackle the world no one is going to stop me.