How old the stars of ‘Glee’ were compared to their characters’ ages
- The pilot episode of “Glee” premiered on Fox on May 19, 2009.
- Cory Monteith was 11 years older than his character, Finn Hudson, when he appeared on the show.
- At 19 years old, Chris Colfer was only three years older than 16-year-old Kurt Hummel.
Spanish teacher turned show choir director Will Schuester is presumed to be in his early 30s in season one.
Will Schuester was a former student at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, and a member of the glee club in the ’90s, when they took the National Championship title. Despite being a relatively young teacher, Mr. Schue is constantly teased for his devotion to disco and classic rock.
He is hesitant to allow the glee club to perform more contemporary or controversial numbers, despite the fact that he regularly pushes the boundaries of appropriate relationships between himself and his students, a fact many “Glee” fans have joked about.
Matthew Morrison was 30 when he was cast on “Glee,” making him only a few years older than some of his costars.
Prior to “Glee,” Morrison had made a name for himself as a Broadway star, appearing in productions like “Hairspray” and “The Light in the Piazza,” for which he received a Tony Award nomination in 2005.
He was so close in age to some of his “Glee” cast members that they had connections before appearing on the show together. Though he and Lea Michele previously denied rumors that they had dated before being cast as teacher and student, Michele confirmed in 2014 that she had in fact dated Morrison back in the day.
“When we shot the [‘Glee’] pilot, I met Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, and Chris Colfer for the first time,” Michele wrote in her memoir “Brunette Ambition,” according to E! News. “I had worked on Broadway with Jenna Ushkowitz and Matthew Morrison before. Matt had been a friend of mine for years, and in fact, we’d actually dated back in the day for a Broadway beat.”
In the first episode of “Glee,” Rachel Berry was a 16-year-old high school student with dreams of making it big on Broadway.
We soon learn that Rachel Berry is a sophomore at William McKinley High School. Rachel joins the glee club in the hope of showing the school her talent and boosting her popularity, as she is being viciously bullied by members of the school’s cheerleading squad. Rachel goes on to become the star member of the club, and even lands her dream role as Fanny Brice on Broadway during her first year of college.
In the finale episode of the show, we see 25-year-old Rachel Berry in the year 2020 accepting her first Tony award.
Lea Michele was 22 years old when she first appeared on “Glee.”
Michele had already made a name for herself as a Broadway star in “Spring Awakening.” She reportedly landed the leading role in “Glee” after she asked to start her song over again after a piano mishap during the audition, a move that the casting directors apparently saw as quintessentially Rachel Berry.
Finn Hudson is the quarterback of the McKinley High football team, despite being only a sophomore.
Finn is assumed to be around 16 years old when we first meet him on the show. As the quarterback of the football team, he is one of the most popular boys in school and is dating head cheerleader Quinn Fabray at the start of the series.
He eventually begins dating Rachel Berry, his main love interest who many fans considered to be his character’s “end game.”
The last time we see Finn, in season four, he has returned to McKinley to help lead the New Directions. At that time, he is assumed to be around 19 years old. Following Cory Monteith’s death in July 2013, Finn was killed off. “The Quarterback,” an episode dedicated to Finn, did not reveal the cause of Finn’s death and instead focused on his life and the impact his death has had on the glee club.
Cory Monteith was one of the oldest cast members to play a high schooler.
Monteith was nearly the same age as some of the adult characters when he was cast on “Glee.” At 27, he was more than 10 years older than his character. A relatively unknown Canadian actor, Monteith was cast for his boyish charm and drumming abilities.
Monteith passed away on July 13, 2013, from an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. After a brief hiatus, “Glee” filmed a tribute episode to Monteith and his character Finn titled “The Quarterback.” However, showrunner Ryan Murphy recently said he would have handled Monteith’s passing and the continuation of the series differently in hindsight.
Santana Lopez is another 16-year-old high school sophomore.
She is known for being on the high school Cheerios cheerleading team and for her witty insults and vicious treatment of some of the other members of the glee club. Santana appears to have a change of heart after she strikes up a romantic relationship with fellow Cheerio, and her best friend, Brittany.
Naya Rivera was 22 years old when she was cast on “Glee.”
Rivera was hired on the show as one of the cheerleaders, thanks to her ability to sing and act as well as she could dance. She appeared on the show throughout its six seasons and even became a part of the main cast after the show shifted to focus on Rachel’s and Kurt’s storylines in New York City.
Rivera went on to have a music and acting career after “Glee” wrapped in 2015. She married actor Ryan Dorsey in 2014, but the pair split in 2018. They shared one child, a son named Josey.
On July 8, 2020, Rivera was declared missing after her son was found alone but unharmed on a rented pontoon boat at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. A search for Rivera at the lake ensued, with Heather Morris volunteering to help find her former costar. On July 13, Rivera’s body was discovered by divers.
The sheriff later said in a statement that it’s possible that Rivera and her son were caught in a rip current while they were swimming off the boat. According to what Josey told the sheriff, Rivera was able to boost her son, who was wearing a life vest, back onto the boat, but she was unable to and slipped beneath the surface of the water. The actress was not wearing a life vest when she drowned and an adult-sized one was found on the boat.
Mercedes Jones was another 16-year-old high school sophomore with vocal chops well above her years.
Mercedes Jones was repeatedly snubbed for solos in favor of Rachel Berry throughout the series. However, she goes on to great acclaim as a musician and even wins a Grammy by the events of the finale episode.
Amber Riley was 23 years old when she played Mercedes Jones on “Glee.”
Riley was a lead cast member on the show between 2009 and 2012, after which her role was reduced to a guest role. Prior to “Glee,” Riley auditioned for the role of Effie White in the 2006 movie musical “Dreamgirls,” which went to Jennifer Hudson instead. She sang two songs from the musical on “Glee”: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and “It’s All Over.”
However, in 2016, Riley was eventually cast to play the role in the West End production of “Dreamgirls.” She won the 2017 Olivier Award for best actress in a musical for her performance as Effie.
Like many other members of the original cast, Kurt Hummel is a 16-year-old high school sophomore.
Kurt is a very talented singer, but he’s insecure about his sexuality in the first season. He famously throws the “diva-off” against Rachel to avoid embarrassing his father and is constantly bullied by members of the football team for acting feminine.
Chris Colfer was the youngest member of the cast. At 19, he was only three years older than his character.
When Colfer auditioned for “Glee,” he actually auditioned for the role of Artie Abrams — at this point, the character of Kurt Hummel didn’t even exist, he told TV Guide in 2009, according to Digital Spy. However, the showrunners were so impressed with Colfer that they wrote him a role, seeing it as something of an oversight that there was no LGBTQ+ character in the original cast of characters.
Quinn Fabray is a 16-year-old high school student and cheerleader who gets pregnant in the first season of the show.
Quinn starts the series dating quarterback Finn Hudson but gets pregnant with Noah “Puck” Puckerman’s child. She devises a scheme with Will Schuester’s wife, Terri, to give her the baby, as Terri has faked her own pregnancy to keep Will in their deteriorating marriage.
Dianna Agron was also 23, making her six years older than her character.
Agron was only cast as Quinn a day before the pilot was set to film, E! reported. Her casting was so last-minute, in fact, that producers were pushing for the role to be cut entirely. She was ultimately a main cast member in seasons 1-3 and returned as a guest star in the final three seasons.
Agron also starred in “Burlesque” (2010) opposite Christina Aguilera and Cher, and in the 2011 action movie “I Am Number Four.”
Brittany Pierce is a 16-year-old high school sophomore. After she’s held back a year, she becomes part of the second generation of the glee club.
While Brittany, a talented dancer with a special talent for performing Britney Spears songs, starts the series off the same age as many of the other original cast members, she ends up being older than her castmates after she’s held back a year in the fourth season.
Heather Morris was 22 years old when she was hired on the show as a background character.
Morris, who had previously worked as a backup dancer for Beyoncé, was hired to teach the cast members the choreography to “Single Ladies.” The role of Brittany started off very small, with Morris having essentially no dialogue. However, the role eventually grew after the writers discovered Morris’ comedic acting chops.
Morris’ role was dramatically reduced in the show’s fifth season and onwards, though she did make occasional appearances and returned for the show’s “100” episode and the series finale.
Noah “Puck” Puckerman is also 16 years old when we first meet him.
In the first season, Puck repeatedly makes fun of the glee club and its members, tosses kids into dumpsters, and throws slushies in people’s faces. However, after he joins the club to get closer to Quinn, who is pregnant with his child, he finds that he actually enjoys performing and becomes a valued member of the New Directions.
He later enlists in the Air Force, and the last time we see him is on stage with other former glee club members for a final performance of “I Lived.”
Mark Salling lied about his age when he auditioned for “Glee,” claiming to be 19 when he was really 26.
“I just remember hoping that they wouldn’t ask me my real age because I lied during the audition,” Salling said during the cast’s panel at PaleyFest LA in 2015 when he was asked what he remembered about shooting the pilot. “They did. [Show creator] Ryan [Murphy] ended up coming to my trailer and being like, ‘How old are you, by the way?'”
However, Murphy told him that he was looking for someone who looked a little older, so his true age worked just fine.
Salling was a main character on the show in the first four seasons but became a recurring character in the fifth and sixth seasons.
In December 2015, a few months after the “Glee” series finale aired, Salling was arrested, accused of possessing child pornography. According to authorities, officers later found thousands of images and videos depicting child pornography on the actor’s laptop and a USB drive. Two years later, he pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal.
According to People, Salling would have had to register as a sex offender, enter a treatment program, and refrain from all verbal or electronic contact with anyone under the age of 18. He would also have to stay at least “100 feet away from schools, parks, public swimming pools, youth centers, playgrounds, and arcades, and pay $50,000 in restitution to each victim.”
Salling died by suicide on January 30, 2018, at the age of 35, about a month before his sentencing hearing scheduled for March 7.
Artie Abrams is a freshman when we meet him in the pilot, making him around 15 years old.
It’s not immediately apparent that Artie is younger than teammates Rachel, Kurt, or Finn.
When Jacob Ben Israel says to him, “I thought you were a senior” in season three, Artie is quick to point out that he is in fact a junior.
“Optical illusion. The chair adds a year,” he says of his wheelchair.
Kevin McHale was 20 when he landed the part of Artie, making him five years older than his character.
McHale was among the youngest cast members originally hired on “Glee,” which made sense when it was revealed that his character was a year younger than many of the other OGs.
Following his breakout role on “Glee,” McHale went on to have a successful acting career and even had a role in Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” spinoff series “American Horror Stories.”
He now hosts a “Glee” recap podcast with fellow cast member Jenna Ushkowitz, “And That’s What You REALLY Missed.”
Mike Chang originally had a small role on the show, but he eventually became the glee club’s resident dancer alongside Brittany.
At the start of the series, Mike Chang has relatively few lines. However, it’s soon revealed that while Chang is quiet and prefers not to sing, he is a talented dancer.
Though it’s repeatedly joked about that Mike is a dancer and not a singer, he does have a few solo parts throughout his career in the New Directions. Mike and Tina start dating in the summer between the first and second seasons, and they eventually became one of the longest-lasting relationships in the glee club.
Harry Shum Jr. tied with Cory Monteith as the oldest cast member.
Shum was 27 years old when he appeared in the first season. Prior to being hired on “Glee,” he danced in “Step Up 2” and later “Step Up 3D.”
After “Glee,” Shum went on to land a starring role in the Freeform series “Shadowhunters,” as well as movie roles in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Tina Cohen-Chang starts off as a shy 15-year-old goth girl but goes through a metamorphosis throughout the series.
Tina speaks with a stutter in the first season of the show, but it’s eventually revealed that she was faking it. Throughout the series, Tina becomes more confident in herself and her singing abilities. She even competes to be the “new Rachel” after the club’s star singer graduates.
Jenna Ushkowitz was 23 when she first played Tina Cohen-Chang, making her eight years older than her character.
Prior to landing the role on “Glee,” Ushkowitz worked as an understudy on the 2008 Broadway run of “Spring Awakening,” where she was scouted by show creator Ryan Murphy. Ushkowitz starred on the show throughout the first five seasons and returned as a recurring character in the sixth and final season.
After “Glee,” Ushkowitz went on to win two Tony Awards for her work as a producer on “Once on This Island” and “The Inheritance.” She also hosts a “Glee” recap podcast with costar Kevin McHale, “And That’s What You REALLY Missed.”
Jesse St. James shows up in season one as a romantic interest for Rachel Berry. He’s a senior, making him around 18 years old.
Jesse is the oldest school-aged cast member introduced in the first season of “Glee.” He is the star singer of rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline and begins a romantic relationship with Rachel to sabotage the New Directions’ chances of beating them at Regionals.
We last see him in the finale of the show, where he is now a Broadway director and married to Rachel.
Jonathan Groff was 24 years old when he appeared opposite his “Spring Awakening” costar and longtime friend Lea Michele.
His character’s and Rachel’s age difference in the show mirrored the two-year age difference they shared in real life. Groff and Michele were both in talks with show creator Ryan Murphy while he was ideating the show, and Michele even once said that Groff was the one who helped her to land the role.
Groff told The New York Times in 2010 that while he and Michele were doing “Spring Awakening,” he flew to Los Angeles to shoot a pilot for Ryan Murphy, which was never picked up. After a Broadway workers’ strike shut down the shows, Michele went to visit Groff in LA, where she first learned about “Glee.”
“We all went to dinner one night, with Ryan and some of the cast from the show,” Groff said. “And Ryan was like, ‘I’m working on this television show, ‘Glee,’ and Lea, there’s this perfect part for you, and I’ll keep you in mind.'”
Sam Evans, who was introduced in the second season of “Glee,” is assumed to be around 16 years old when we first meet him.
Sam, who transfers to McKinley High in his sophomore year, is recruited to join the glee club after Finn hears him singing in the locker-room showers.
Though he’s only 16 when we meet him, it’s later discovered that Sam has a troubled home life and eventually leaves McKinley so that he can financially support his family. He returns before the glee club heads to Nationals in the third season.
Chord Overstreet was 21 at the time, making him not that much older than his character.
Overstreet auditioned for the show prior to its second season with the songs “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw and “Easy” by the Commodores. In a studio test, he sang the chart-topping hit “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars. He eventually sang the song in his first episode, titled “Audition.”
After “Glee,” Overstreet went on to have a successful music career. He also starred in the 2022 Netflix holiday movie “Falling for Christmas” opposite Lindsay Lohan.
Blaine Anderson was also introduced in the second season as a member of a rival glee club, the Dalton Academy Warblers.
A year younger than his love interest in the show, Kurt, he is around 16 when we meet him, while Kurt is now 17.
Darren Criss was 23 when he first appeared on “Glee.”
While his character Blaine was a year younger than Chris Colfer’s character Kurt Hummel, Criss was three years older than his costar. Criss was also seven years older than his own character, which made his age difference one of the largest in the cast.
Prior to “Glee,” Criss was already well known as a founding member and co-owner of StarKid Productions, a musical-theater company based in Chicago. He wrote most of the music and lyrics for the viral hit “A Very Potter Musical,” in which he also played the titular role of Harry Potter.
Criss’ first number on “Glee,” a cover of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, became the fastest-selling “Glee” single at the time.
The “Glee” alum went on to have a successful acting and singing career. He received a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy Award for best actor in a limited series or movie for his portrayal of Andrew Cunanan in the Ryan Murphy series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.”
Sue Sylvester’s age is repeatedly joked about throughout the show … but it’s never confirmed.
Sue Sylvester, the head cheerleading coach and main adversary to Will Schuester, claims to be turning 30 in the first season. However, in the second season, Sylvester’s dating profile says she’s 27 years old.
In the third season, Sue Sylvester gives birth to a daughter named Robin. Roz Washington, Sue’s rival and the McKinley synchronized-swimming team coach, repeatedly tells Sue she is too old to give birth.
“Sue, you can’t have no baby. You are old as a hill. You ain’t gonna give birth to no child. You are gonna give birth to a grandchild. You are gonna get them stirrups and you gonna push, and push, and a full-grown adult is gonna pop out with a briefcase and a job, talking on a cell phone,” Washington, played by Nene Leakes, says in episode 12 of the third season.
Jane Lynch was 49 years old when she appeared on “Glee” as the fiery head cheerleading coach.
Jane Lynch was a successful actress before being hired on “Glee.” She appeared in a number of television shows including “The L Word,” “Psych,” and “Boston Legal,” but her role as Sue Sylvester in “Glee” soon became her most well-known credit.
“I jumped up and down every time I got a job, every time I got a spot on whatever show,” Lynch told Vanity Fair 2022.
In 2010, she won an Emmy for her performance, and she went on to star as Mrs. Brice in “Funny Girl” on Broadway in 2022, the same show that her character famously walked out of on an episode of “Glee.”
According to Lynch, she landed the role on “Glee” after producers told Ryan Murphy that he needed a villain written into the show before they could shoot it.
“So he came up with it: Her name shall be Sue Sylvester, and she will be played by Jane Lynch,” she told Vanity Fair. “I knew Ryan a little bit at the time. Then [screenwriter] Ian Brennan put his mark on it and kind of created her. So yeah, it was an offer. You didn’t get much of those in those days. I didn’t have a lot of them before that.”