Lea Michele has had a starring role on Broadway, a leading role on TV's "Glee," and now she's made her motion picture debut in the star-stuffed "New Year's Eve," which just topped the box office in its opening weekend ($13 million). As Rachel Berry on the hit Fox show she's an overly ambitious high schooler with her sights set on New York, and in the film Michele's character is similarly ambitious, an aspiring singer who's booked her first big gig on the biggest New York night of the year. But that's where the similarities end, and Michele embraced the chance to stretch her acting chops in a role outside the "Glee" bubble. We caught up with Michele to chat about her New Years traditions, the difference between filming a movie and 'Glee,' and if fans can expect any solo music from the star soon.
You're a New Yorker, how was it to get to film your first movie in your hometown?
It's definitely one of the reasons why I wanted to be in the movie. I got to go home and see my family! Being a New Yorker, New Years, it's such an important night for me. I love the holiday. It's like I couldn't have picked a better situation. It's like I picked all the things -- I want Garry Marshall to make it, I want it to be in New Years Eve, I want it to be in New York, I want to pick Ashton Kutcher to star opposite.
How was working with Marshall?
He was amazing. I'm from the Bronx, he's from the Bronx. He reminded me of my grandpa. I adore him, he's the nicest man on the planet.
Do you have a stand-out New York New Years memory?
I do the same thing every year. I'm with my family, we go to Central Park. We just make it very New York, nothing too big, nothing too crazy. Just very family oriented and fun.
Have you ever watched the Ball drop?
I did go see the ball drop once in Times Square. You know, it's not something that real New Yorkers actually go and do. It's nice to experience it just once. It's so crazy you need to be absolutely prepared. It's literally like going and being prepared for war!
How did the movie schedule compare with your work on "Glee"?
I work 17 hour days, all nighters, dancing and singing. I don't think anything will ever be as hard as "Glee" is, but doing the movie was really fun. Garry makes the set such a nice environment. I missed my "Glee" family and I missed playing Rachel, but it was nice as an actor to play a different role and get to exercise my craft a little bit.
How would you describe your character?
I play Elise, she lives in New York in the same apartment building as Randy played by Ashton. They've never met. She's a singer, and gets her first big gig to sing backup for a rockstar in Times Square. She gets stuck in an elevator on the way there, and almost doesn't make it to her big event. And she meets Randy in the elevator.
You sing in this movie and you sing on "Glee"... when can we expect an album of your own?
I should say something good, this is Billboard! But I feel like I've already made, and I have sort of already made, like five albums in these past three years. We've recorded over three hundred songs on "Glee," it's pretty unbelievable. An album, I'm never going to say I'll never do it, but it will probably be down the road.
Any music you're listening to now as an inspiration or just for fun?
I'm loving Florence (+ the Machine)'s new album right now. That's really been my album. I love Kelly Clarkson's new album also.
Last week on "Glee" Rachel dealt with the consequences of her actions and is banned from performing at Sectionals. How does she deal with being sidelined?
She's going to be fine. I really wanted to show people how much Rachel has really grown up and how she's matured. She takes not being in Sectionals really well. She needs to help the group find another member, so her and Finn go and try to find Sam.
We saw that Sam is working in strip club. How do they know where to find him?
I imagine they still keep in touch on Facebook. Rachel's on MySpace, I think.
You just finished filming the holiday episode, can you tell us anything about that?
The Christmas episode is always incredibly difficult because we put so much stuff into it. Matt Morrison directed that episode and did a wonderful job. There's something really special we did in that episode that I'm really excited for people to get to see.
Can you give us a hint?
(Laughs) I can't say.
AOL TV spoke with Harry Shum Jr. about a game you guys play on set, Psychiatrist. How are you at this game? He mentioned Chris is good at it.
Chris is good at it. They did it once to me. They make you leave the room and they all think of one common thing and you have to guess what they're thinking. It's very confusing to explain, but it does make the time go by nice and quick.
What was the hardest one you had to guess?
Ryan Murphy made everyone be the Pope when I had to guess. I don't know how I figured it out exactly.
In keeping with the New Year's theme, any resolutions for 2012?
I just want to keep working hard and take good care of myself and my family. I don't usually come up with resolutions, but I come up with an overall idea to live by.