One of the new show’s we are most excited about is Glee, the upcoming Fox show from the mind of Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Popular) about the worst high school glee club in the nation. So when we had the opportunity to chat with Glee co-star Naya Rivera, we jumped on it! We had so much fun chatting with Naya, she’s a real girl’s girl, and gave us the scoop on her role on Glee, how she got into acting, and what she’d like to do in the future.
When we started prepping for our interview, we discovered that Naya has been acting since around age 4, when she starred as little Hillary Winston on the short-lived comedy, The Royal Family. She followed that up with recurring roles on Family Matters and The Bernie Mac Show, among other guest roles. We were particularly tickled that she played a character called “Nice Girl” on 8 Simple Rules. Coincidence? We think not! So what brought Naya to acting at such a young age?
“My mom actually had moved [to Los Angeles] to pursue modeling, and so when she had me then, at 21, she just decided that I should go ahead and try my hand at it. I actually had the same commercial agent that she did when I was 8 months, 9 months old. So I’ve been doing it ever since than and I just grew to love it. “
Naya’s early work for Kmart, crawling around in commercials, will probably come back to haunt her when she makes talk show appearances, but we’re sure she was just adorable! As someone who has worked in the business since infancy, Naya does have some advise for other young people are thinking about becoming actors:
“First, sit down and figure out if this is really what you want to do, because it takes 150% committment. You can’t be wishy-washy, it’s hard. Be prepared for a million-and-a-half nos. You probably will not get a job for a while. But when you do book that job, it is so much fun. It is the most amazing feeling to be on set and to be doing what you love every single day. Go for it! “
After working with so many comedic greats in her already admirable career, we wondered if we were missing something with Ryan Murphy. Here’s a guy known for his intense dramatic shows – Nip/Tuck and Popular, for example – suddenly being buzzed about as having one of the funniest new shows on the horizon. What gives?
“Ryan Murphy is hilarious,” says Naya. “He is so quick and witty. Every week when we get the scripts, it’s like Christmas. We sit there in the makeup trailers cracking up.”
Naya plays Santana Lopez, who three of us suspect may have been conceived at a Carlos Santana concert. She’s a cheerleader on the school cheer squad named, are you ready for this? The Cheerios! “The Cheerios are really, really competitive. Santana is best friends with the head cheerleader, Quinn, and basically they’re just your typical Mean Girls.”
Wait, from Nice Girl to Mean Girl? “Yeah, for some reason they hate Rachel (played by Lea Michelle), and spend every waking minute trying to make her life miserable. It’s super fun. Every week I’m like, who are we going to be mean to now?”
Rachel is the Great White Hope for the new glee club teacher, but it sounds like Santana might give her a run for her money. “It’s cool because [Santana] does the whole singing/dancing thing, too, which is a surprise that kind of comes out of left field. People don’t really expect it [from her]. We’re doing all of these musical numbers that sometimes take whole days to shoot – I hope that people love it! “
Fortunately, Naya is an accomplished singer herself and is continuing to work on her singing while acting. She’s hoping to have some “hits” out soon so we’ll be watching AND listening to her. We shared a moment of geekiness over Kristin Chenoweth’s upcoming guest appearance on Glee, although we still couldn’t get any specifics about her role from Naya. But she assures us that it’s going to be “hilarious”. She teased us that her reaction after reading the script was, “Are you serious, Ryan? This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!”
As we talked, we discovered that Naya has some pretty specific goals for herself. In ten years, she hopes to still be working regularly, to have a family, and to “drive a G-Wagon and own a Louis Vuitton bag.” That’s our girl! It’s important to remember that working hard should be rewarded with a great bag, right? She’s also interested in taking a break from acting to persue screenwriting. Sounds like we have a triple threat in the making!
You can listen to our interview with Naya on this week’s Nice Girls Radio show. Check out the promo for Glee below and be sure to tune in to see Naya during the sneak peek at Glee on Fox after American Idol on May 19.