How Glee became the most controversial show of the decade.

Glee was one of the biggest shows of its time.

The surprise hit, which ran from 2009 to 2015, about a high school Glee club was at its core a fun, light-hearted show. It tackled some tough topics – not always successfully – but it tried, and mostly it was a wholesome feel-good watch for those who enjoyed positivity and acapella versions of songs they were already sick of from the radio.

But beyond its happy-go-lucky surface, behind the scenes at Glee were many very dark, very ugly controversies and crimes.

The latest scandal broke just this week, five years after the show ended for good, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lea Michele, who played lead character Rachel Berry, tweeted her support for the movement following George Floyd’s death.

Her former co-star Samantha Ware responded to the tweet in all caps, calling Michele out for how she treated Ware on set.

Her account was backed up by other Glee actors, including Amber Riley – one of the main cast members, who played Mercedes – who posted a GIF of her sipping tea.


Alex Newell, who appeared on four seasons of the show, also backed Ware.

On Wednesday, Michele apologised on Instagram.

“One of the most important lessons of the last few weeks is that we need to take the time to listen and learn about other people’s perspectives and any role we have played or anything we can do to help address the injustices that they face,” she wrote.


“The responses I received to what I posted [on Twitter in support of BLM] have made me focus specifically on how my own behaviour towards fellow cast members was perceived by them… Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologise for my behaviour and for any pain which I have caused.”

The apology wasn’t received well, with many comments from fans and critics taking issue with Michele using the word ‘perceived’, insinuating she was putting the onus back on the ones who were offended.


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It’s just the latest in a long string of problems within the Glee cast, which was plagued by rumours of feuds and drama basically from the get go.

There were persistent claims that Michele did not get along with her fellow cast members, particularly Naya Rivera, though both woman and show creator Ryan Murphy say this was blown out of proportion.

Image: FOX.

Rivera described the Glee set as like a "polygamist cult" in her 2016 memoir, saying the cast would "bed-hop" and had "the sex drive of bunnies".

Then, from 2013, it got much more serious.

Image: FOX.

On July 13, 2013 Cory Monteith - who played lead character Finn Hudson - was found dead in a hotel room in Vancouver.

The 31-year-old, who was in a relationship with his co-star, Michele, at the time, had served several stints in rehab since he was 19, and had reportedly struggled with substance abuse since his early teens. His death was ruled to be accidental, the result of a toxic combination of heroin and alcohol.


Just three months after Monteith's death, assistant director Jim Fuller passed away from suspected heart failure, leaving cast and crew devastated, before production assistant Nancy Motes was found dead in a hotel room in February of 2014 from a drug overdose.

Fellow production assistant Cristina Lageman spoke at the time of Motes' death about the impact the tragedies had had on "the Glee family", with colleagues posting on Facebook: "We've lost another one."

Fast forward another few months and star Becca Tobin, who played Kitty Wilde on the show, lost her "workaholic" boyfriend Matt Bendik to a heart attack.

Image: Getty.

There was also the violence.

In 2011, Dianna Agron, who played Quinn, allegedly checked into a Los Angeles hotel under a pseudonym after her partner, fellow actor Alex Pettyfer, allegedly threatened her during a phone call, a couple of weeks after she moved out of their home together.

Rivera, who played Santana, was arrested and charged with a domestic battery misdemeanour in late November 2017, after "getting physical" and allegedly hitting her then-husband, Ryan Dorsey, in the head and face. The star was released on a $1,000 bond and the charges eventually dropped at Dorsey's request.

In 2013, Mark Salling, who played Puck, was accused of sexual battery by his ex-girlfriend and settled with his accuser out of court.

Two years later, police raided his home following a tip-off from one of his exes. He was arrested for possession of more than 50,000 child sex abuse images, reportedly found on his laptop and flash drive and in 2016 he was charged with receiving and possessing child pornography.


On September 30, 2017, he pleaded guilty and was expected to serve four to seven years in jail, register as a sex offender and enter a treatment program, among other conditions at a March 2018 sentencing.

But on January 30, 2018, Salling was found dead by suicide in Los Angeles.

A few years after the show ended, creator Ryan Murphy reflected on the drama behind-the-scenes.

glee cast lea michele drama
Image: FOX.

"It was the best time in my life and the worst time in my life," he told Entertainment Weekly.

He also looked back with regret on how he handled things as the showrunner in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

"I thought they wanted a parent, and they didn't. They didn't want me to tell them what to f*cking do. They didn't want me to tell them how to treat each other or what the world was like at the end of the day.

"I wish I could go back and do that differently with a lot of those actors. Some of them I'm still very close to: Lea Michele, Chord Overstreet, Darren Criss - but there were some that didn't work out well, and I regret that. I guess I just wish I had been able to let them figure it out for themselves."

Murphy said Glee "was a great lesson in what not to do moving forward."

But in late May, Murphy said he'd like to do a Glee do-over pilot.

Maybe it's better if he just lets this one lie.

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Feature images: Getty.