When Darren Criss landed on our March 2011 cover, his Glee-crooning, Broadway-conquering "Teenage Dream" charm offensive had barely begun -- and it hasn't slowed down since.
"Anytime I have free time, I try to fill it up, as much as humanly possible, as quickly as possible," says the actor, who's played Blaine in the hit series for three seasons and scored a lead role last year in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. With Glee on summer break, Criss, 26, recently struck out on a sold-out 16-city tour, where he tested out new songs from an album in progress. He's also preparing to unveil his first feature film, Girl Most Likely, in which he helps a failed New York playwright (played by Kristen Wiig) get her groove back. We checked in.
...Backstreet's Back "My Girl Most Likely character, Lee, is in a novelty act at one of the casinos in Atlantic City. There's a Britney Spears character, and I'm in a fake Backstreet Boys group. He's surrounded by all this absurd caricature, but serves as -- and I mean this in the comedic sense--the straight man. You want to be funny, but your job is to look at the audience and go, 'Is this really happening?' "
...He's With the Band "My new tour ain't no Glee tour -- that was a massive stadium tour. I got treated like a prince. Now we're sleeping on the bus and showering at the venues -- it's, like, 16 guys on the bus together, doing it old-school. I quite like it, actually. I never wanted to have my name on the marquee. I was always a band guy."
...Only in His Dreams "Chris [Colfer] and I are both very passionate about our own personal projects. I don't know how he does it. Chris is always busy on set, in the corner with his computer, writing down the next chapter of his next book. I just sleep a lot. That's when I have a lot of good ideas."
...Team Klaine "People reacted in positive ways to a recent earnest storyline about Kurt and Blaine's relationship. The only thing I'm surprised about was the lack of any kind of backlash. I think that's the greatest trick Glee has pulled off: normalizing the subversive. I'm always happy to be on the show. I think it would be cool if they pulled a Saved by the Bell and we all got summer jobs at the same place."