Telly Leung :: Glee’s other ’Warbler’

by Jim Halterman

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday May 16, 2011

Believe it or not, there's a very distinct connection between the classic science fiction series "Star Trek" and, of all things, the current cultural phenomena known as "Glee".

That connection is singer/dancer/actor Telly Leung, who plays Wes Montgomery, one of the Warblers who joined the series along with Darren Criss last fall. Leung was only supposed to appear in a few episodes, but has seen his part (and all those of all the Warblers) expanded to the point that the Warblers has been added to this summer's "Glee" tour.

However, Leung won't be a part of the "Glee" summer tour, and therein lies the "Star Trek" connection, since the project he's busy working on, an original bound-for-Broadway musical called "Allegiance," has Leung playing a younger version of the character played by George Takei, the out actor best known for playing Sulu on "Star Trek." (More on this below.)

With the recent release of "Glee: The Music presents The Warblers," EDGE's Jim Halterman talked with Leung to get the behind the scenes scoop on the big kiss between Blaine and Kurt (Chris Colfer), the social impact of the gay story lines and characters on the mainstream series as well as how Leung found his part getting bigger and bigger.

Lucky guy

EDGE: Before we talk about "Glee," tell me how you got your start performing?

Telly Leung: I didn't know performing was what I wanted to do with my life until pretty late. I went to school at Stuyvesant and it was one of those schools you had to test to get into, and I started doing theater there as a break from all the physics and chemistry. I realized in high school that I looked forward to go rehearse for my musicals more than chemistry lab.

In college I started looking into performing arts programs and Universities, and that's when I went to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and most of my training was there. I was lucky enough to meet Billy Porter, who was also an alum, and he was directing my senior production of [Sondheim's] "Company." His first Broadway show out of school was the original Broadway cast of "Miss Saigon," so he knew a lot of the Asian American singers, actors and dancers working in Broadway and he got me into an invited-only/agent-only dance call for "Flower Drum Song."

I took a Greyhound bus at midnight one night from Pittsburgh and I got in at 9 in the morning, and I danced at my first real Broadway audition at 10, and that was my first Broadway show. It's all because of Billy Porter. I've been consistently working in theater ever since. I've been very lucky.

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Watch The Warblers sing "Teenage Dream":

Watch Telly Leung sing "My Time Now" from "Allegiance":

On the "Glee’ train

EDGE: How did "Glee" come along?

TL: It's funny. I never thought of myself as a TV actor, so I decided to pursue that. I had auditioned for "Glee "when they were looking for Darren Criss's role of Blaine. They weren't really even looking for the other two guys in the show, Wes and David (played by Titus Makin, Jr).

I did some sides and sang two songs and I didn't think anything else of it. Then they saw my tape and they were like 'Great! When can you start? We're not going to cast you as Blaine, but he is always flanked by these guys called The Warblers, and there are a couple of them that are on their council, and we'll have something for you to do for 2-3 episodes.' I said absolutely and who knew when they said 2-3 episodes that the story line would blow up and explode, and now in season 2 we've been in seven episodes where we were featured and it's been an amazing ride.

EDGE: What does it feel like to get on the "Glee" train? There's so much that goes into each show.

TL: I think doing any kind of television show involves long days and tight schedules, but when you do a musical television show the schedule is even tighter and time is even more precious, and it's pretty amazing what gets accomplished at "Glee" during a 14-hour day. It's a pretty daunting task but they do it beautifully. It's a machine over there, and a very well-oiled one. They accomplish the impossible, in my eyes.

EDGE: Is the Warblers CD just songs from the show or original stuff?

TL: It's all music from the show. It's Darren and Chris Colfer as the lead vocals. I don't know if you know this, but the vocals by the Warblers are actually done by the Tufts University Beelzebubs. It's always their arrangements and their voices. I know Darren flies to the East Coast often to record his lead vocals with those guys, so it's really those guys singing and their arrangements. They're one of the best a capella groups in the country and it's a bunch of University guys and they've been around forever so [the CD] is really a showcase of their vocal abilities and their arrangements, which I think are stellar.

EDGE: The Blaine/Curt coupling was like the kiss seen around the world. Behind the scenes, were you thinking 'Let's get on with this already' or did you think it played out right in the amount of time it took?

TL: I thought they did it exactly right. In my humble opinion as a fan, I really applaud the writers for doing such an amazing job of making us wait for it and making the characters wait for it. I think the waiting was the best part so when it did happen, it was like, 'Oh! These two characters have earned this kiss over a course of episodes!' It felt like it happened at exactly the right time. I know the creators were getting pressure from the fans and viewers to get them together but I think they were so smart about it and I really applaud them for that.

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Watch Telly Leung sing "Home" from "The Wiz":

Watch Eden Espinosa and Telly Leung sing "Take Me or Leave Me" from "Rent":


Why no tour?

EDGE: "Glee" is such a mainstream show, but what do you think of the gay representation that the show is putting out there?

TL: I think that it's so important. I grew up in New York, so the gay community is something that I've always grown up with, and I also grew up in a very ethnic neighborhood in Brooklyn, so diversity is not new to me, and accepting of other people's cultures, way of life and lifestyle was nothing new to me.

I love that "Glee" has made people sit together and watch together. It's amazing. Most people don't watch it on their DVRs. They actually come together as a community and say, "We're going to come together and watch 'Glee.' " So when they're talking about socially relevant issues like bullying or what it's like to be a gay teen or coming out and being openly gay... I'm so happy to be a part of something that is so commercially successful and using their commercial success for good and not evil. They have such an amazing platform to talk about such important things all the country and all over the world. They really push the envelope and I really applaud them for that.

EDGE: Are you going to be on tour with "Glee" this summer?

TL: I'm not because I'm actually workshopping a brand-new Broadway show called "Allegiance." It's a new show starring George Takei from "Star Trek"--and also a wonderful advocate in the gay community--and Lea Salonga, who won a Tony Award for "Miss Saigon."

"Allegiance" is an original musical about a Japanese American family during World War II in the ["War Relocation Camps," which were internment] camps, which is a part of our history which isn't really spoken about. The show is actually inspired by George Takei's childhood, since he actually grew up in [an internment] camp during World War II.

It's being directed by Stafford Arima, who directed "Altar Boys," and, actually, a lot of the "Altar Boys" team is here. Lynne Shankel is doing the music, Christopher Gattelli is choreographing and the Old Globe is actually going to be doing the out of town tryouts before we go to Broadway in the 2012-13 season.

The Old Globe is funding a 4-week workshop in New York this summer, which is why I can't go on the "Glee" tour this summer. George Takei plays an older man at the beginning of the show called Old Sam and he goes back in time to the camps and I play Young Sam so I play a younger version of him in the show.

"Glee" airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Fox. For more on Leung, visit For more on "Allegiance", visit the show's Facebook page or To find out when the "Glee" tour is coming near you, visit

Watch Telly Leung & Marcus Paul James sing "I'll Cover You" from "Rent" at Splash :

Watch Telly Leung sing "The Applause":

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.