In an incredibly honest, sensitive and thorough interview with Fusion's Alicia Menendez on Thursday, Alex Newell was invited to explain his career, his relationship with his mother (he lost his father when he was 6), and his role as Unique on Glee, the first transgender teen on network TV. At one point after explaining some of the misconceptions, Menendez asked about the blowback from Fox's Bill O'Reilly.
"It's wrong to call people dopey," Newell told Menendez. "When it's something this poignant and such a big part of the society, you can't call kids dopey because this is something that they're actually going through, this is what they feel on the inside, there's nothing dopey about it."
He addressed the confusion that "some people don't understand that I do play a character" as well, stating: "I must be doing it well if they really think that I'm living my character's life."
His portrayal of Unique—including the show's storylines about his family’s concerns about gender presentation and the school's policies on which bathrooms transgender teens are allowed to use—have reverberated with a national audience. "It's just been a blessing," Newell said
While people like O'Reilly haven't been positive, those close to Newell support him.
"You're my son, you're my only son," he recalled his mother saying. "It's just me and you in this world and I will love you regardless of what you choose in your life."
The actor also addressed actor Cory Monteith's death and what it's been like to return to the Glee set: "It's been hard," he said. "We lost such a giant part of us, a giant part of the show, a giant part of everything that we do every day. But we try to do it in honor of him. It's his show. It still is his show."
Watch the entire interview below: