JJ Totah talks GLEE’s legacy and what comes next!
JJ Totah is a face to watch as he finishes GLEE’s final season tonight, closes out JESSIE’s next season (and maybe moves on to the spin-off…), and continues to popup on some of our favorite shows. The self proclaimed number one fan of AMERICAN HORROR STORY spent time chatting with me about what brought him to GLEE, what GLEE has meant to him as a fan and a cast member, and where he goes next.
I was wondering what it was that got you interested in GLEE – were you a fan of the show, did you watch?
You know Ryan Murphy created AMERICAN HORROR STORY and that is literally my dream show, I love that show, it’s amazing. I started getting into that, and I called my manager and said “oh my god I want to work for this guy, he’s amazing.” I had watched GLEE before. When I was 8, the show started, and my family, we religiously watched it, and I wanted to be a part of that whole dynamic with those creators. So about three weeks later, I got a call saying that I had an audition for GLEE and it was the next day. So I studied down, I studied hard. I had to do two songs. I had to dance; I learned the dance, and then I hopped on a plane to Florida for the next night for an event, and the next day, I found out that I booked it! I was so excited.
He is such a fun burst of energy. The dynamic he brings to the show, in a final season here, it’s a new character, and he is so much fun. What was it like going into a show that’s going off the air and has been on for so long, so it’s a family?
It was really easy to join in, and be a part of the family. They were really welcoming and nice and kind. They had their arms wide open, and it was really cool being a part of it. The whole point of the end of the show, with the glee club, is unity. And that’s all learning together, to work together. I think that’s why I lked that character a lot My character is always the star of the show. He was always amazing, the only one. But throughout the course of the last few episodes, he gets put back into his place.
What can you say about what we’ll see as the show comes to an end?
I honestly, they would probably murder me if I said really anything. I am super scared – we signed a contract and NDA every day when we got there. [laughs]
Do you have a favorite character on the show, that you got to interact with, that’s been a fun on screen partner?
Yes, Jane Lynch! I’ve always been watching her on everything she’s done, and she was super sweet. I got the chance to meet her three years ago, I recur on a Disney show called JESSIE, and she brought her two kids to watch a taping and I got to meet her then. She’s super sweet and so nice.
With JESSIE, that’s another show that we’re seeing go off the air after finishing the next season. Will your character get to go on to the spin-off?
I don’t know! We’ll have to see – we have one more year, and I have more episodes in that last season coming up! We stopped shooting that in February when we stopped shooting GLEE! The new show starts pretty soon, so I don’t know!
What else do you have coming up that we can look forward to besides the finale? Are you doing pilot season?
I’m doing a pilot with FOX right now, but I can’t say anything about it, but I can say that. So that is what’s happening, so don’t forget!
Is it hard to be in this world where you want to talk about things, but if you talk about things, you don’t know exactly what you can say or not?
It’s extremely hard. I waited months to tell about GLEE and it was very, very unfortunate! It was killing me! I was watching these people, tweeting all these things, GLEE’s ending, all this other stuff, and I’m like, no not yet! Not yet, not yet, my character’s coming! Just wait!! [laughs] Can you enjoy this, please maybe? I was really surprised with the outcome and I was so happy that I had waited! Myron, my character, was trending on Twitter. Child star was trending on Twitter, so it was really cool.
GLEE has had such a legacy – it’s going off the air, but I don’t think it will ever go out of the mind of fans and TV watchers. What has it meant to you to be a part of the show, or as a fan of the show?
The show has meant to me – like you said, it’s a legacy. It’s a huge thing. GLEE changed the history of television, it really did. It started a new category, and now we have all of these shows like EMPIRE. They sing and it’s the number one show on television. GLEE also started a huge “outbreak” for having characters that are gay or lesbian, transgender, especially this season, all about Beiste, the character. I really think they’re just breaking the status quo of social everything. We’re opening up and showing a new start – every one can be treated equally.
Do you have favorite shows that you can’t miss?
Number one, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, number 2 SCANDAL. SCANDAL, Olivia Pope is literally my life. She is amazing. Kerry Washington, she’s awesome. EYE CANDY, Victoria Justice’s new show – I try to stay up to date with her. She’s really sweet, try to stay up on that one. CHOPPED, as well.
I put CHOPPED on, and 6 hours later, when the marathon ends, I can finally leave the couch.
Oh my god, yes. Once it hits CHOPPED: CANADA, I literally turn off the TV. I don’t do CHOPPED: CANADA. It’s for a different country, do you understand? [laughs]. It just confuses me! [laughs] Then again, I made the mistake by getting all the channels on my cable, and shows from random countries keep showing up!
You talk about loving AHS, and SCANDAL, but we’ve seen you do a lot of comedy – is drama a world you want to be in? Everyone is going to say they want to do both, but are you making a conscious effort to do both going forward?
I think both – if you ask someone what they like better, and they pick one over the other, they [might not be] successful in this business. I’m saying that’s a definite “no” but it’s going to be very hard for them to do it, you know what I’m saying? You have to be open to doing everything, especially as an actor, you want to learn to grow, and learn to do all of that other stuff. I’d definitely love to do drama. Some of the shows that I do watch are dramas, but like, 2 BROKE GIRLS, I was on that show; it’s hilarious. And of course, MODERN FAMILY. I love horror so much. I used to be so scared of horror movies! [laughs]. One time, my friend Skai on JESSIE, she would always bring me the scariest movies ever, and I would never want to go. After religiously watching these scary movies, and she brought me to Florida for the first time, and we went on to Disney 360 and she took me on all of these crazy rides, and she opened me up to my scary side! I deeply enjoy it. I would love to be on AMERICAN HORROR STORY, or something like that.
It helps that so many comedies have bits of drama in them, and so many dramas have the humor, plus all of the horror shows we’re seeing now. There is so much TV, you have to love everything to watch it all.
And so, that’s what’s really cool. I love the anthology series. I [know] it’s been done before, but I’ve only seen [Ryan Murphy’s] work on that, and I feel like that’s perfect. I see the show, I’m going to love the actors, but after season 1, I might get super bored of the same story, so I don’t want to have to wait until Season 2 to find out what is going to happen. I like seeing the same actors but different story lines.
Was there a moment where you said “I want to be an actor?”
I did local theater as a child when I was really young, 2-8, but when I was 9, I said that I wanted to take an acting class in LA, because I thought that there was going to be new classes there. I had researched stuff, my little 9 year old mind on my little MacBook. We found an acting class, and I took it, the lady referred me to another lady called Joey Paul Jensen, and she held a stand up comedy thing at The Improv for kids and I did that. I performed for three months, and that’s how I found my agent and manager, and I’ve been going out on auditions ever since!
The GLEE series finale airs Friday, March 20, at 8/7c