Jenna Ushkowitz may be best known for playing Tina Cohen-Chang, the formerly stuttering founding member of New Directions on "Glee," but the 25-year-old actress has had a longstanding career in entertainment before she graced McKinley High.
Ushkowitz' first role was at age 3 on "Sesame Street," and she went on to appear on Broadway at 9 in the 1996 revival of "The King and I," as well as serving as an understudy for "Spring Awakening" around the filming of "Glee's" first season in 2009.
On "Glee" she gets to showcase all her talents, from taking on songs like "Tonight" from "West Side Story" and Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," to her dance moves, most notably as part of the iconic "Single Ladies" dance with Kurt and Brittany in Season 1, and her dramatic flair coming clean about her fake-stutter and navigating the dynamics of teenage love opposite Artie (Kevin McHale) and Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.). We caught up with Ushkowitz during a lunch break on set to talk what's next for Tina, where she takes her musical inspiration from, and what kind of roles she'd like to take on post-Glee.
First, rumor has it you're part of Lady Gaga's next music video, for "Marry The Night." Can you tell me anything about that?
Um. Where did you hear that from? (Laughs) I can't confirm or deny anything at this point.
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Well, you Tweeted this so I think you can confirm -- you were in the studio recording a song for "Glee." Everyone is anxious to hear her sing again... can you tell us what she's performing?
I sing a little, it's not a solo for Tina, but I was in the studio for one of our mashup numbers that we weren't going to be doing. It's episode 6. There's a couple of really fun mashups and I get to sing a little on those.
Do you know about any upcoming solos for Tina?
Not that I know of for my character. I'm just patiently waiting, I know Tina's time will come. But nothing as of right now.
What episode are you filming now?
We're on six and seven. We're past "West Side Story" at this point and getting toward Sectionals and who's going to come back into New Directions. It's a little bit like -- we lose some members and we gain some members back, are we going to have the full group by sectionals?
Where does Tina stand in terms of the competing glee clubs?
We saw that Mercedes wants to go over, and I think she's really sad about Mercedes. Mercedes is her buddy and she's always been there for her, and she was there when it was the start of the club with five awful people. She's sad, Tina tends to get really emotional.
True, she is emotional. The last few times she sang she's been in tears!
I know! I'd love for a future number to be a nice, victorious, rise to the top number.
Speaking of "West Side Story," is Tina part of the show? We didn't see many names on the cast list.
Yes, Tina is in the show believe it or not! She's in the ensemble, she plays Consuela in the "America" number.
The other major plotline right now is the class presidency race. Who is Tina supporting?
It's never written, but I've sort of decided to have my allegiance with Kurt. I feel like she'd be mad at Rachel for wanting to run, and not think it's fair she'd do that to her friend. And Brittany is a funny person, but Tina's a little bit smarter than that and wouldn't want her running her school.
What are you hoping for this season for Tina?
At this point I'd love something, some challenge or issue that has to do with her own life rather than a relationship. I think we've discovered that whole thing, so I would love some song that has to do with a conflict of hers. We could go into a dream sequence maybe.
Any artists in particular you'd want to sing on the show?
I've always wanted to do Adele, but I also want to do Sara Bareilles, or Pink, something fun like that. I think that fits Tina's range of things.
Do you guys pay attention to ratings or how songs are selling?
No, it's just a matter of getting through this year and doing really good work. If we notice it's mostly positive, its usually "Oh hey, congrats, your song is No. 2 today." It's more of a support and proud feeling than "We stink and we're going to get canceled."
Last episode we met Mike Chang's parents. Have you thought about who Tina's parents would be and how they'd interact?
It would be pretty interesting. Nothing has been set or written, but we always thought Tina's mom was extremely feminist and very traditional, and her father was Jewish. Mike's parents are so traditional in their ways and would get along with Tina's mother more than her father. I've always wanted Sandra Oh to come on and play my aunt.