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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Glee’s Max Adler — The Bully’s Back

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By Neil Woulfe
Radar News Director

The music of Lady Gaga made a welcome return to Glee on Tuesday night, but so did another interesting character — closeted high school bully Dave Karofsky, played by Max Adler.

As fans of the hit Fox TV show know, on last November’s episode of Glee entitled “Never Been Kissed”, Max’s character shocked fans when he kissed Kurt, played by Chris Colfer.

In that one moment, Max broke out from the background of Glee with a vengeance. On Tuesday night’s episode, Max was back in a big way — in a new storyline pairing him as a fake couple with fellow gay (and closeted) student Santana, played by the delicious Naya Rivera, as a way to get Chris Colfer’s character Kurt back to McKinley High.

In real life, Max couldn’t be more different than Karofsky, and last fall, RadarOnline.com first had the opportunity to chat with this extremely talented and affable actor.

Radar: Glee fans were completely stunned when your character kissed Kurt last fall.  Did you know from the very beginning of Glee that this would be the eventual path your character would be taking, or did it come as a surprise to you when you read the script for that episode? What did you think?

Max: “It came as a total surprise. When I got cast originally, all I knew was that it was for a one episode gig, with two lines, throwing a slushy at Finn. So, the fact that they have chosen to expand my character to have so much depth and so many layers is just an honor and so incredible, but to answer your question, (as for my knowledge at least) this was not planned from the very very beginning. The only thing I was told was at the 2nd season premiere, (Glee’s creator) Ryan Murphy
came up to me and excitedly said ‘we just wrote some really good stuff for you for episode 6′. I had no idea what that meant, until I read it! And I was surprised, yes, but I thought it was so awesome that they would allow this character to go there. And it is a true blessing and honor to be able to play such an important role at this time in the world with all the bullying and gay rights activism happening.”

Radar: When you kissed Kurt, your character changed from being somewhat one dimensional to complex, and I’d imagine, many fans actually felt sorry for you. How did people react to your character before the game-changing kiss, and  how do they react now?

Max: “People reacted in the same exact way you did. They told me they saw me as a one dimensional dude, with not much depth, who was almost, to them, seen as a glorified extra who’s scenes would be predictable and he would be bullying just to bully. Of course, I had viewed this differently in my own head, haha, but I can see the audience’s point from their perspective. But now, again, they are reacting the same as you. They feel sympathetic towards Karofsky, and see he has a heart and
he is just a scared, fearful, confused guy who isnt really quite sure how to deal with his emotions and where to even start.”

Radar: In one past episode, you winked at Kurt, and then threatened to kill him, which was incredibly disturbing to watch. What was your feeling about that line?

Max: “I thought it was very powerful. Chilling, terrifying, horrifying, yet, at the same time, heartbreaking. Again, thrilled that the writers went there. Because there are kids who have messaged me since that episode saying they used to hear that line spoken to them day in and day out at school, and how they wished they didnt have to wake up in the morning and go to school and hear it again, and they were so afraid to go from class to class that they changed their routes every day, it’s
very real. So, to get to play that role and show the audience what is really going on out there and not watering it down and to show people how students (both the victim and the tormentor) are dealing with it, is an honor.”

Radar: You taped a powerful PSA for the Trevor Project, in which you said that you talk to kids, and you’ve been struck by how many young people say they think they deserved to be bullied. Tell us about talking to these kids and what they tell you? Is there one particular story or comment from a young person that has stuck with you.

Max: “Yes, people from all around the world, in many many different countries, either Facebook me, Twitter me, or will send letters through  my representatives, explaining to me their whole life story and back story, because they are connecting with Karofsky, and it truly is touching. Not one in particular sticks, they all stick. They are all so different, yet the same. They all have different reasons they were afraid (parents disapproval, religion, getting teased on their sports team, getting harassed by their older siblings who they looked up to etc) and then I hear stories of how people’s lives reflect the locker room scene to a T, where a girl broke another girl’s nose after punching her when she was teased, but then ended up dating her. Or another where this man’s parents had cut him off from the family, but that after watching this episode with them they all had a good cry and everyone realized how confusing and tormenting it could be to not know yourself, let alone not having support from your family and friends. Very moving stuff, which inspires me to keep going with this role.”

Radar: Most people can relate to the feeling of not wanting to be different — or perceived as being different — in high school. What were you like in school? Were you a theater kid or jock? Any experiences with being bullied or bullying?

Max: “In high school, I was very active, and fairly popular. Senior Class VP, involved with the jazz choir, show choir, drama club, National Honor Society, charities, etc…But, in elementary school, I moved to a couple different ones within a short time, and I was picked on for being the new kid because everyone had known each other and developed cliques and relationships and inside jokes, and they reminded me I was the new kid every single day, and it definitely sucked. Luckily, I had a very
open relationship with my parents and they would tell me that I did nothing wrong and I do not deserve this and these other kids are just insecure with themselves. And it stuck with me. And helped me to get through it, hence, my It Gets Better video, to hopefully relay this same message to others out there, who arent as fortunate with the parental advice I was lucky enough to receive.”

Radar: Can you give us any hint about where your character is headed? Will he come out? Any chance he could become Kurt’s protector — or perhaps, romantic interest?

Max: “I have no clue. I’m dying to know myself. At this point, I could see it going in so many directions, which is really the fun of playing such a character. He is so unpredictable that he could really go anywhere at this point. The writers haven’t led me astray thus far, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with for Karofsky next.”

Radar: Wouldn’t it be great if your character comes out and joins the Glee club? Do you sing? Would you like to perform on Glee, and if so, what song?

Max: “It is certainly possible, as is anything else. I do sing, and dance in real life. I was very involved with my school and community theaters and show choirs. If the writers write that in, I will gladly go there. If not, so be it! If I did have to sing, I love the crooners. Sinatra, Buble, Dean martin etc. Those styles of songs I could have a lot of fun with.”

Radar: The list of guest stars on the show has been amazing – Britney Spears – Kristen Chenoweth, John Stamos – Gwyneth Paltow – Carol Burnett.  Although your character really hasn’t had interaction with them on screen, did you have a chance to meet any of them?  Who would you love to see guest-star on the show – maybe someone playing your parents?

Max: “The only person on this list I actually met on set was John Stamos, and he is awesome. Super nice,open, talented, friendly, guy. And you know, I grew up watching him as Uncle Jesse on Full House, so to be sitting next to him in the makeup trailer chatting it up, was a very surreal moment. My dad has already been cast and will appear in the November 23rd episode. He is Daniel Roebuck. Excellent actor, and a true gentlemen. As far as who I’d like to see guest star, I think a Justin Timberlake appearance could be fun. Respect his work so much, and the fact that he can act, sing, and dance well would be a pretty easy fit.”

Radar: Can you tell us a little bit about your background: where you are from, your prior credits and how you joined the cast of Glee?

Max: “I’m from Scottsdale, AZ. Went to Horizon High School, moved to LA right after graduating to pursue acting. After about a year or so of just working double shifts to pay the rent, and figure out how this industry works, I started to chug away at making my dreams a reality. I got several guest starring roles on tv shows such as Cold Case, Ghost Whisperer, What About Brian, The Defenders, etc. I also did a couple indy films, as well as many commercials. When I heard about Glee, my heart started racing. Back in AZ, I used to host Nip/Tuck parties at my house. All my friends would come over and crowd around the tv and watch weekly. I just was obsessed with the show and thought if I could ever meet Ryan Murphy and just tell him what a genius he is, I could die happy. So, when I heard he is doing a show on FOX about school choir kids, I freaked. To land that role of Dave Karofsky even for just one episode a year ago got me all hyped up, and to experience now what it has turned into, to go to Paramount and have the privilege to say these words the amazing writers have given me, while at the same time touching people’s lives, has just really been a dream come true and an honor and I still can’t believe it happened.”

Glee airs Tuesdays on Fox; the season finale airs May 24 at 9/8c.

 

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