Dianna Agron on Life, Glee, and the Paparazzi
DIANNA AGRON IN I AM NUMBER FOUR. FILM STILL COURTESY OF DISNEY
Lea Michele and Amber Riley may have the powerhouse vocals, and Chris Colfer has the Golden Globe; but of all the Glee kids, it is red-hot, blonde-haired Dianna Agron who has caught the eye of Hollywood’s studio executives. After a supporting role in last year’s woefully underrated The Romantics and a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it part in Burlesque, Agron takes the female lead, opposite her real-life boyfriend Alex Pettyfer, in this weekend’s I Am Number Four.
The film, in many ways, represents a departure for Agron. But substitute singing and dancing for aliens and blow-‘em-up action—the movie is produced by Michael Bay, after all—and you just may see more similarities than you initially realized. Agron plays Sarah, a girl who falls in love with a boy she can’t have—the alien John. Romantic drama is no stranger to Quinn Fabray, the on-and-off again head “Cheerio” who has had more boyfriends than she has had outfits on FOX’s megahit musical comedy. As for her real-life romance with Pettyfer, whom director D.J Caruso set her up with, the two have kept mum—and the sparkly diamond band Agron wore on her right hand during our interview did little to dispel our suspicions that the two are indeed engaged, as many in the press have speculated.
We sat down with Agron at The Crosby Street Hotel to discuss how she deals with the invasion of her privacy, her lower-in-true-life speaking voice, her aspirations—or lack thereof—of being a recording artist, whether or not she prefers the themed, tribute episodes of her television hit, and many more juicy Glee tidbits.
SAM BELLIKOFF: You are doing so much press that you’re losing your voice. Do you lose your voice a lot?
DIANNA AGRON: No, not until this past month. We’ve been filming during the week and then doing quite a few junkets on the weekends for I Am Number Four. It really just happened, two weeks ago was the first time. Now, the mentality is to rest your voice at any opportune moment. I went to the recording studio yesterday and I’ve never had this—I couldn’t sing. It sounded completely unnatural, like I had a frog in my throat. And I kept saying, “I’m just so sorry, I’m just so sorry.” And Adam [Shankman] is saying, “It’s because you’ve been talking on the phone to… you know… [laughs] late-night.” But yeah, it just keeps coming and going.
BELLIKOFF: I imagine you’re still shooting Glee and recording. Is that scary if you lose your voice?
AGRON: Exactly. There’s been a couple of scenes where I can’t even… Quinn’s voice is higher, and it’s got this pitch to it. You’re going to be able to tell. I just couldn’t do it, so, you know. It will come back one of these days.
BELLIKOFF: Is her speaking voice higher than your regular voice? Your voice does sound a little lower…
AGRON: I guess my voice kind of changed in middle school. It was what it is now. I remember there was this boy who used to walk behind me and sing that song that goes, “Walk like a man, talk like a man” and I was devastated. So I learned that I can pick up my voice if I want to. But that’s not my comfortable speaking voice, or if I’m tired… it just all kind of varies. But with Quinn, she sees herself as having to be elite and perfect, so I didn’t see her with this raspy voice.
BELLIKOFF: Quinn’s such an interesting character. In the pilot, she was definitely the villainous cheerleader. And then you had one of the biggest—if not the biggest—dramatic story arcs in the first season, and continuing onward. Was that something that was always planned? Were you supposed to be part of the glee club from the start?
AGRON: That, yes. They knew they wanted her to join, but they also had the mindset that she could be axed really quickly. FOX really wanted that character, at least in the pilot. Ryan [Murphy] and Brad [Falchuk] and Ian [Brennan] hadn’t found a girl yet that worked for everything they needed, but at the same time, they didn’t see the need for the character unless she was brought to some new light. Luckily, I didn’t know that. The pressure during the first couple episodes, I probably would’ve freaked myself out. It would’ve been horrible. I would’ve gotten fired. Also, what they told us now, in retrospect, is everybody started off a certain way to them. Then by getting to know us as real people—that also influenced the characters.
So no, I wasn’t pregnant in real life, but I hope I’m a very understanding person. That’s something I was raised to be aware of—not everybody has the same shoes to fill or walks the same way or is on the same path. When Quinn became pregnant, she had to go through that. She had to give up things and overcome situations and be mindful that these people around her were showing her true support and friendship. So, they did know during the second episode that she was going to be pregnant, but I think that the reasoning was more how ironic it is—the celibate cheerleader cheats on her boyfriend with his best friend and becomes pregnant. Then from that, that found its wings as well. And that’s how everybody’s characters have been.
BELLIKOFF: I’ve seen interviews, where people ask you which character in Glee were you like in high school. You have said basically, I wasn’t the über-popular kid, but I wasn’t the nerd. Do you think that Glee compartmentalizes the high school experience?
AGRON: A bit. I think it was more so in the beginning, to make it simpler, especially because our show was so different. I think they thought, let’s start it out to make it more viewer-friendly. And then once you get past the basics of these characters, now let’s show their depth, now let’s show all the broad strokes. And that’s still going on. It’s hard because there are so many characters on our show. You might go quite a few episodes without new journeys for that character or challenges, things like that, and then all of a sudden, it hits you. That’s the great thing about our show, too. We don’t ever know what’s coming up. You could be pregnant, you could be in juvie, you could have all these things happen to you. It really forces you to focus and think on your feet and dive in there, because you don’t have time to make mistakes.
BELLIKOFF: Has there been a favorite song that you’ve performed?
AGRON: “Say A Little Prayer” will always have that sentiment for me as an individual, because it was the first one that I did. That was the day when we went over to the Nip/Tuck set. They were finishing up that season, and Ryan created that show as well. Some of them came over and were watching and I thought… no pressure. But it really ended up just being a blast. Also, “Somebody to Love,” that was something that we had fun filming. But then, we went to the upfronts for the first time in New York and saw that FOX was really behind us. There were huge posters all over the city and billboards, people walking around with these giant balloons that were harnessed to them, saying Glee. It was the first of all of that awareness. That was the song that we performed while we were there. Our choreographer practically made all of us cry before we went on stage. He said, “Look this is something that we love doing and we’re working hard for. When Freddie Mercury sang this song, this is what he was talking about. These were the emotions behind his lyrics.” He went into that whole story of how he was dying… He was just like, “You guys, this is something that we’re always going to remember.” That song as a group is something that more often than not, everybody will say, that’s a really special one for us.
BELLIKOFF: Do you like doing the tribute episodes more?
AGRON: I think it varies. One of my favorite episodes to shoot was the Rocky Horror episode. Usually I like the more extreme characters that require more hair and makeup…
BELLIKOFF: And you personally like dark things. I know you’re a big fan of Tim Burton and witches.
AGRON: Yes. And cemeteries and skulls. They’re more interesting than bubblegum and lollipops to me. So there was that. With the Britney Spears one, I wasn’t really involved too much, so it was fun to watch it come together. The Madonna episode, especially that girls’ number, so fun. But sometimes when you have too many of those… I miss the real intimate moments and the drama. I’m fortunate that our show deals with both, so you kind of get a taste of everything. I don’t think either one is wrong or right. It’s just about what you’re in the mood for.
BELLIKOFF: Do you have aspirations to be a recording artist, outside of Glee?
AGRON: No, not really. I never solicited myself as a singer until I realized I could use that to a musical standpoint. I loved musicals growing up. Classic films were some of the only ones I watched. So when the opportunity came for the show to audition, of course it was all of a sudden, “I sing! I sing! Send me in, please. I beg of you.”
BELLIKOFF: “I’ve been singing for years!”
AGRON: Exactly. Exactly. And we’ve all grown as singers through the show and learned. It’s very different.
BELLIKOFF: You seem close with everyone. Do you still live with Lea Michele?
AGRON: I don’t. We lived together for about six, seven months. She was towards the end of her lease and I was staying with my two best friends who I lived with for about 4 years in Los Feliz. They are still my two best friends, but I lived in the loft. Once I started working the Glee hours, I was having to compensate for my schedule. So Lea said, “If they’re ok with it and they find somebody else, why don’t you move into my place? You’ll be here for six or seven months and then we’ll decide what to do then.” It was a lot of fun. Once it came to the end of that, everybody seemed to move into their own place.
When I first moved to LA, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and it got a little seedy around our area. One time, SWAT was at our building because somebody’s houseguest had gone off their meds and was schizophrenic and shouting, “He’s going to kill me, He’s going to kill me!” Somebody called the cops. I’m coming home from a dance class and I see this chopper circling my building and SWAT all downstairs. Going from sharing a one-bedroom place to living in a loft to two people living in a house to me having my own place by myself has kind of mirrored my career… small steps to bigger, to bigger, to now having a steady job.
BELLIKOFF: Yeah, it has been sort of a quick shot up. How has the fame affected you? How have you been dealing with that?
AGRON: Well, on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t really affect me much because the places that I go in LA very rarely have paparazzi, and if there are fans, they’re so nice and easygoing. The only thing it changes sometimes is there can be interviews where they will skew your words or there can be things that you hope people don’t assume about you. Sometimes there are paparazzi that take photos and you don’t know they’re there. So you’re laughing, kicking up your heels and doing silly things. You don’t even realize it. And then there’s other times where they’re two feet away from your face and it’s invasive and it feels threatening, so you don’t want to be smiling. You just want to get out of that situation. You know people can look at it as, “why is she playful there and why is she so cool here?” It’s not that. It’s just literally, they’re shouting nasty things at you and they’re in your face. You can see a picture and people can interpret it different ways.
It’s that about your life, all of a sudden. You decide you don’t want to talk about something and somebody writes a press article anyway, and you think, well I hope people don’t think I said that or I hope people don’t think I’m trying to use this to promote my movie. I would never do that type of thing. Then you just realize at the end of the day, everyone is going to have their opinion on your life, more and more so as you go along. As long as you’re getting to work and be a part of it—still having fun, learn to just not sweat it so much and keep doing the things you love. Keep going on hikes, keep having your friends in your life, keep that downtime sacred as well because as hard as you work in any job, it’s really nice to have the relaxing de-stressors. Stress is the worst thing. That’s the ultimate demise of any good thing. So yeah, just trying to keep it all grounded and keep it all normal. Have fun, do your job. [laughs]
I AM NUMBER FOUR IS OUT TODAY IN WIDE RELEASE. GLEE AIRS TUESDAYS AT 9 PM ON FOX.