Matthew Morrison, best known for his role as Will Shuester on the hit TV show “Glee,” is really a Broadway baby.
Morrison started his career on Broadway in the 1998 musical version of “Footloose.” Four years later, he co-starred in “Hairspray” as teen idol Link Larkin. He then appeared in “The Light in the Piazza,” receiving a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Following his co-starring role as Lt. Joseph Cable in the 2008 revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific,” Morrison made the switch to TV.
The role on “Glee” as Spanish-teacher-turned glee club director at William McKinley High gave him the best of both worlds as he and his students often broke into song to advance the storylines.
Now Morrison, 38, is bringing his act to the South Florida stage. On Friday, he will appear with SiriusXM radio star Seth Rudetsky at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale to chat about his career and perform some music. We talked to Morrison about his two worlds: TV and the stage and what it’s like going from scripted to unscripted:
Q: What is one thing you wish you had known about the entertainment industry before getting started?
A: I wouldn’t have taken myself so seriously. Because at the end of the day we’re, as actors, getting up and playing make-believe, and sometimes you can get really into it. I do get into my characters, but at the same time I don’t let that linger in my life after the performance. Just to have more fun with it.
Q: When did you realize that you wanted to perform as a career?
A: When I was 10 years old. It was the first time I was on stage. It was in a children’s theater production when I was visiting family in Arizona. It was called “The Heardsmen go to Camp.” I’ve never heard of it before or since then.
Q: What was the transition like, going from performing on Broadway to starring in “Glee”?
A: It wasn’t such a huge transition. The show was like a theater show because we got to act sing and dance. The difference was we didn’t have an audience to laugh or give us applause. We didn’t have the audience interaction.
Q: How does performing with Seth Rudetsky differ from your typical concert?
A: I’m a very meticulous and prepared person, and Seth Rudetsky’s shows are off the cuff. I never know what he’s going to ask or what he’s going to bring to the table, what we’re going to talk about. But that makes it exciting. It makes it fresh. For me, it’s a little scary. But it’s thrilling at the same time because we get to explore. He talks about different aspects of my career, but at the same time he goes back to my childhood. It just opens up a lot of different conversations — and laughter.
Q: How did being on a hit TV show affect your life?
A: It opened up a lot of doors. I’m in a position now where I get a lot of offers to do different shows — theater, television, film — and it allows me to go to different cities around the world. There’s a great built-in audience that comes to these shows because of “Glee.”
Q: How do performers deal with shows that are not big hits?
A: You just have to throw yourself into it. At the end of the day, you’re getting a paycheck to do what you love, even if that show isn’t the best.
Q: Do you prefer performing in live theater versus filming for TV or movies?
A: Always live theater. There’s nothing like having that audience interaction. It is a real relationship with an audience, and the audiences change with every show. You go on different journeys with different audiences. With television, you don’t get to experience that. The biggest thing I learned on “Glee” was to trust that I was funny. I was doing these amazing scenes with Jane Lynch, and then after we finished this great joke no one would laugh. Because if anyone laughed it would ruin the take and we would have to do it all over again. You really just have to find that trust in yourself that you were doing good work and it was funny.
Q: How does the lifestyle differ living in New York versus in L.A.?
A: I love both, but my preference is always New York. You walk outside and you can feel the energy. It’s just vibrant and alive, and it’s ever-changing. It’s inspiring. I’m inspired every day here. I feel like in L.A. you walk out of your house, and you hop right into a car. It’s not soul-sucking, but it doesn’t give that inspiration that New York does.
Q: Can you clue us in on any new projects you’re working on right now?
A: I’m doing these concerts all over the world right now, and I’m actually working on a new company. I’m trying to be a little entrepreneur these days. The company is called SHERPAPA, and it’s a company focused on the gift-giving experience for cool and stylish dads. We want to provide supplies and encouragement to dads as they go on the biggest adventure of their lives.
If you go
▪ What: Matthew Morrison: Broadway Concert Series hosted by Seth Rudetsky
▪ Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale
▪ When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17
▪ Cost: $37-$123. Purchase at Ticketmaster.com