Ryan Murphy Created 'Glee' for Jonathan Groff But Actor Turned It Down

Ryan Murphy first offered Glee to Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, but Groff turned it down.

“I really felt like I didn’t want to sign on to be a singing teenager again for another seven years,” Groff told Vanity Fair this week. At the time, he was 23 and had just finished a two-year run of playing a teenager in Broadway’s Spring Awakening with Michele.

“Ryan Murphy had told Lea Michele and I that he had written this show Glee for the two of us, and would we be interested in doing that?” Groff recalled, saying he ultimately said no.

“I really wanted to act. I love singing but doing that felt like more of the same as opposed to something that would be an opportunity for artistic growth,” he said. “And that next year, I did three off-Broadway plays.”

Groff said he has no regrets about the choice he made. “When I came out the other end of that experience, I understood the truly life-changing power of doing great material. Spring Awakening changed me from the inside out as a person. I came out of that experience feeling like, ‘Ooh, I want to keep doing this. I want to keep stretching and growing and challenging myself as an actor.’”

In addition to Glee, Groff said he was also offered a role in the Broadway revival of Hair, but instead he “went to Playwrights Horizons and the Public Theater and did plays there for the next year.”

Groff actually did take a role on Glee but only as a recurring guest star. He played Jesse St. James, the antagonist-turned-boyfriend-turned-friend of Michele’s Rachel Berry who appeared in seasons one, two, three and six.

Glee ran from 2009 to 2015. Michele co-starred with Cory Monteith, ostensibly the role Murphy offered Groff, until the late actor’s death in 2013.

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