This just may be my best and most in-depth interview to date. Abraham is amazing, and he is obviously very passionate, too. I think we already knew that, though! Get ready for a good read, guys! Enjoy!
Q: Since TGP is more of an “inspiration” competition, rather than a singing competition, what is your story and how would you like to portray your story through a character on Glee?
A: Ever since this season of The Glee Project premiered, a lot of people tagged me as "Mike Chang 2.0" or "the other-other Asian," but there is so much more to me than being Asian. My biological father was an alcoholic and consequently, there was a lot of domestic abuse within my household. There's divorce, immigrating into the United States, walking home from school on my own when I was in the first grade because my mom was always working, getting bullied for my supposed sexuality and feminine traits--there is so much. Isn't that what Glee is all about? Stripping down the layers to reveal a multifaceted story? There are lots of great character ideas floating around, but I hope I can be a character that all people can relate to no matter what they look like or walk of life they come from.
Q: It must be difficult being in the throes of a reality television competition. Explain how you, personally, maintained relationships with the other contenders, while competing against them.
A: Walking into this competition, I thought I was going to go all Black Swan on everyone's asses and completely forego relationships for the chance to win (laughter), but it's not always about that. Relationships… that's what makes us human; so regardless of how rigorous our schedule was and how competitive it got, I would always end the night with a bedside conversation with Blake, have a talk with Tyler or chat about randomness outside in our little synthetic-grass-backyard with Nellie.
Q: Who on Glee inspires you the most?
A: I mean, I relate to so many characters on Glee--Rachel's ability to dream and strive for perfection, Mike's innate need to honor his parents, Kurt's determination and fight to create a paradigm shift with his own story of being different. But I definitely feel like Kurt and Coach Beiste have been the most inspiring characters for me thus far on the show.
Q: Do you see yourself as a role model?
A: I don't necessarily see myself as a role model. You know, I just strive to be the best me I could possibly be and I hope the same for everyone. I'm not going to pull a Miley Cyrus and be all "I don't want to be a role model! I can't be tamed!" If someone looks up to me and is inspired by me, I'm so humbled and honored; but at the same time, I hope that people remember that I, too, am human just like everyone else and that they look at not just the good, but the bad as well. You can always be inspired and learn from the mistakes as well.
Q: What song would you want your potential character to sing as your introduction into the show?
A: You're going to think I'm completely insane, but I would want my potential character's introduction song of sorts to be "S&M" by Rihanna (laughter). I mean, the character I have envisioned for myself is a spitfire and completely sassy, but becomes more vulnerable and open with each stripped layer (sort of like how I've been on The Glee Project). Plus, "sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me…" Use your imagination (laughter).
Q: If given the opportunity, who would you like to sing a duet with on Glee? What song?
A: Probably Blaine or Santana. With regards to the song… something with attitude. Maybe "Hold it Against Me" by Britney or "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse.
Q: Who/what is your favorite singer/band?
A: I have way too many to name, but I love The Beatles, Muse, Phoenix, Sigur Ros, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, William Fitzsimmons, Adele and Britney Spears.
Q: Do you have any original music?
A: Oh, definitely (laughter). You'll hear them in due time.
Q: If so, do you plan on recording an album at all during your career?
A: Somewhere down the line, I'd love to release an album or two (or ten). I love writing, I love performing, and I come sketch everything from staging to video concepts. All of it's definitely a part of me, but I'll release my music when I feel like the season is right.
Q: What acting or theatre experience do you have before The Glee Project?
A: None whatsoever. Oh wait, I played the DJ in my 5th grade production of Grease in elementary school. Other than that, none.
Q: What was your initial reaction for being cast on The Glee Project?
A: When Robert gave me that Skype call to tell me that I had been cast on The Glee Project, I told him to shut up and started bawling. I. Could. Not. Believe. It. It literally felt as though all of the bullying and criticism I had received for pursuing my dreams was slowly being brushed off and it just felt really… cathartic.
Q: What is your dream role on Glee?
A: My dream role on Glee… honestly, I'm not that picky (laughter). If Ryan wants to write a role for me, I would trust him and the writers to come up with something great for me, which I know they would. I've seen so many good ideas by fans though, so they probably have better ideas than I do. Like I said before though, I just don't want to play a stereotypical Asian role. I want to play a multifaceted and universal character that everyone can relate to. A little sass on the outside and a soft core on the inside would be nice though.
Q: Who would you like to see your potential Glee character “date” or “hook-up” with?
A: Either Santana or Blaine. Or both (laughter).
Q: Who do you think your character would rival with?
A: To be honest, this all depends on who my character is and what kind of person they are, but if it was based purely on my performance style, I could totally see my character finding a rival in everyone (laughter), but if I had to pick specifics, probably Kurt and Santana. I don't know why but that "Smooth Criminal" duet with Santana and Sebastian comes to mind.
Q: If you won The Glee Project, and they wanted you to play a gay character – how would you feel about taking on a role such as this?
A: I would love to take on the role of a gay character! I even saw an idea that was floating around that revolved around my ambiguous sexuality--that I could trick girls into thinking that I was gay and have them open up to me only so that I can take advantage of that and… you know. But heck, if I won The Glee Project and they wanted me to play a dendrophiliac, I would (laughter). I'm seriously so open to everything and everyone that playing any character, even if it may be out of my comfort zone, would be more than fine with me.
Q: Based on your experiences with bullying; what would you say to your fans in regards to learning to love themselves for who they are, regardless of what others say?
A: I really wish my fans--and everyone, for that matter--could learn to see themselves and see what I see, which is beauty and a hell of a story all around. But bullying is a culture and it leaves scars that remain for… a really long time. I mean, look at that whole "androgynous" exchange in the recording booth during Theatricality week. All of those painful memories from when I was growing up resurfaced in that one moment.
Here's an example: when you love someone, you don't just pick out the good; rather, you learn to love them in spite of all of their "negative" qualities. If we can so easily love others in that way, why can't we do the same for ourselves? Learn to love every aspect of yourself no matter what people say. Remember that you're different for a reason and you were crafted meticulously. Be the splash of red in a monotonous room full of gray. I think of how I was bullied so much growing up and how I really did want to give up at times… I really did. But when you do you and be the best possible you that you can possible be, it really does get better.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received from any of the mentors, including Ryan Murphy?
A: The best advice I've received thus far is probably from Ryan who said something along the lines of, "Be yourself. Learn to reconcile all parts of yourself and be proud of who you are in your entirety." It sounds so simple, but it's so profound. But in all honesty, all of the mentors' advice throughout the competition--and after the show (I speak to Robert regularly)--have been so valuable. They're really all amazing human beings and I am so honored to have been mentored by them.
Q: You stated in a few episodes that you have been ridiculed for your “feminine” attributes your whole life. What would you say in regards to that matter to clear everything up once and for all?
A: You know what I've learned in my 24 years of life?… Wow, that made me sound really old, but seriously. People will always choose to believe what they've wanted to believe. There are still people who insist that I'm gay and I'm just like, oh hello person-I've-never-met-before, you must know me so much better than I know myself! If anything, I feel as though people would understand where I stand with regards to my sexuality and my "feminine" attributes if they watched this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uS0ZLC2Mfw
Q: If you don’t wind up on Glee, would you ever consider going back to law school, or is your main focus establishing a career in the entertainment industry?
A: No. I hope I don't sound arrogant when I say this, but I don't have Plan B's. When I was set on going to law school, I had a goal score for my LSAT and a list of schools I wanted to get into posted on my wall and I ended up reaching my goal score (actually got one more point) and was set. With The Glee Project, it served as a confirmation for me that my true love is performing and sharing my story through my art. Through this show, I also realized that it's not just about me. It's about all of those people out there whose passions are confined and are restricted from pursuing the entertainment industry due to their families opposition and sociocultural values they hold so dear. Regardless of whether I win or lose, I fully intend on making my way to Glee someday and taking on this industry (music AND acting) by storm. We need to see more Asian Americans in this industry anyway and I'm more than up for the challenge.
Q: Individuality is necessary while establishing yourself as a performer. What do you have as an individual that you could bring to Glee, that isn’t already there?
A: Well, for one, I don't think there's a character that reflects the whole idea of straight but sexually ambiguous to others. I come from a background of domestic abuse, alcoholism, depression, financial hardship and more that haven't been covered on Glee yet. And I have YET to see an Asian character on Glee that is fully relatable by everyone regardless of what their skin color and background is. I am the antithesis of Mike Chang. Other than the fact that we're both Asian, we could not be more different. Plus, I can sing... and rock any hair color when the opportunity presents itself (laughter).
Q: Since you won the homework assignment in the Dance-ability episode, what was it like having a one-on-one mentoring session with Samuel Larsen – last year’s TGP winner?
A: Having a one-on-one mentoring session with Samuel was cool. In all honesty, I was hoping that his winning energy would somehow pass over to me (laughter). Plus, it was nice to be able to talk to someone who knows all-too-well how it feels to sit on those chairs in the choir room, perform in front of Ryan and walk up to that godforsaken list (laughter). I've gotten to know Samuel a bit more after the show and I'm happy to say that he's an awesome guy, so I'm glad to know him and see him continue on to do amazing things in his career.
Q: Your performance during the whole Vulnerability episode was pristine. When portraying a vulnerable character – where or what do you pull your inspiration from?
A: Thank you so much! It was probably one of the most challenging weeks because I had never acted before that point, but during that week in particular, I journaled a lot. I wrote about my insecurities and vulnerabilities, completely afraid of sharing them throughout the week, but knowing that it was necessary to deliver a raw and honest performance.
On the outside, I decided to strip away the red hair and color contacts so that I can get to the bare essence of who I am. I also wanted Asian Americans out there to better relate to me and see someone like them on their television screens. With that song though, I was assigned several "hold on" lines and I thought about my mother and put myself in her shoes during her times of being abused by my biological father. I was singing those lines to her and acting with her struggle in mind.
I know everyone has different approaches to acting, but to me, it's a process that comes from the inside-out. I wanted to transform myself--or rather, become myself in my entirety--both on the inside and have my appearance reflect what I was feeling inside. I remember I couldn't stop crying while I was in the booth (I'm actually crying on the track) and while I was shooting the video. I derive inspiration from everything and everyone though. That's why I rarely sleep in the car during long drives. You never want to miss out on a possible moment of sheer inspiration.
Q: Your LCP with Ali during the Adaptability episode will definitely go down in TGP history! Explain what was going through your mind during that performance.
A: Oh LORD (laughter). I wish it would've gone down in TGP history in a different way, but hey, it is what it is and I'm glad I got to share that experience with Ali. In short, it was my first last chance performance in front of Ryan, nerves were heightened because it was Adaptability week and I had no Idea what to expect, and I let those nerves get the best of me in those… wordy moments. I remember wishing that we could've gotten a better song, but I was determined to accept it and perform the living daylights out of that song though; and while it was a complete and utter hot mess, it is what it is and I know that performance is in no way telling of our abilities as performers. Anyway, let's move on… (laughter).
Q: Fearlessness was one of the most intense episodes so far this season. How do you, personally, show fearlessness in your career and your personal life?
A: I don't think any one person can say that they are without fear; rather, I think it's about facing those fears and not allowing that fear to paralyze you. I've faced so many moments throughout my life where I was afraid, one of them being completely abandoning a life of guaranteed security and stability (I got into pretty amazing law schools) and going against the wishes of my parents--amongst other societal pressures within the Asian American community--for a chance to do what I love. I gave up a lot to do what I love, but love requires costly sacrifices at times, doesn't it?
In that sense, I'm never afraid to take risks when I really believe in whatever it is that I aim to do. I don't compromise who I am or change in accordance to who I'm with or where I am. I'm me regardless of those factors. Even in my career, I don't want to be someone who's safe. One of my favorite quotes is from Woody Allen who said, "If you're not failing every now and then, it's a sign you're not doing anything innovative". I never want to stick with the norm or do what's "expected" of me. I want to do what I believe in and do work that's refreshing and slowly breaks any stereotypical molds that people may confine me in. Not everyone's going to like that, but quite frankly, I care more about bringing about change and breaking stereotypes in order to inspire people than to be liked.
Q: In Theatricality, Nikki asked you if you considered yourself androgynous. Explain how that impacted your performance in the booth, and why?
A: As people may or may not know, I had been bullied throughout my life for people's assumptions of my sexual orientation, so when Nikki made that "androgynous comment" right before I started singing in the recording booth, I was honestly sort of shocked and mildly irritated. It brought up a lot of those memories and on top of that…what was the point of bringing that up right before I started recording and then pretty much dismissing my answer, which I believe to be the truth?
I want to make this explicitly clear: anyone on the show can, and will, testify to this when I say that I support everyone's notions and beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. I am a heterosexual man, whether people want to believe it or not, but I will never be limited or constrained by what people consider to be gender norms, which are socially constructed in my view. I will shuffle to "Party Rock Anthem," play up my mysterious masculinity as I did during Sexuality week, or belly-dance like Britney depending on what the performance calls for. If anything, being able to blend both the masculine and feminine is not only something I do in my performances, but also my life--and I do believe that it is liberating. I am never going to be limited by gender constructs and will be me regardless--and THAT is being free whether people believe it or not.
Having said all of that, do I think Nikki meant any harm when she asked me that question? No. If anything, I think she was merely making an observation about me as a performer and trying to get me into the character of David Bowie who was known for his androgyny onstage. I get it--and I respect and love her for it. But I wonder if she would have ever said that to any of the other male contenders on the show, including Tyler... and you know what? I don't think she would have.
Q: Thank you so much for your time Abraham! Do you have any final words for your very avid fans?
A: I don't think words can ever suffice or carry as much weight when I say this: thank you guys so much. I remember when we, the contenders, were announced to the press and there was just this amazing reception from all of you.
It's been an amazing run on The Glee Project and thank you for walking with me in all of my ups and downs. As much as I love what I do, sometimes, it's really hard. There is so much going on within my family right now that makes it hard sometimes to really bask in every moment that has come my way… and then, I remember all of you. I see your tweets, your messages, your comments; and as much as you guys tell me how much I've inspired you, I hope you know how much you inspire me on a daily basis.
I know that for those of you who have had my back since the beginning, that my elimination may have come as a surprise or a disappointment. Some of you were even upset with me when I went back onstage. Whatever you feel though, I want you to know this: I will always fight for you and stand with you regardless of the cost. As long as one of you feel invisible or without a voice, I will always speak out for you, whether it be through my words or song. No matter the season, that will never change because when you really love someone, the external circumstances can never touch what lies at the core of one's heart, right?
The Glee Project has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I have no regrets. I know that this will be a foundation for what will be an amazing adventure--and career--ahead. So don't be sad for me. Be excited. There is so much more to come. I promise you that!
Always remember to be yourself and know that you are more than enough. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Okay, now I'm crying (laughter). I love you all so much. #TeamAbraham
Needless to say, this Q&A was fabulous. Thanks again to Abraham for these fantastic answers! I have so much more love and respect for you after this experience! I was really pleased to see that you really got into the deep elements of the questions. Your fans are sure to love this! I did very much, myself! MWAH!
Thanks to everyone who followed me today! I love each and every one of you! Twitter: @bobfoundGLEEK