20 Things You Didn’t Know About Darren Criss

Giffoni Film Festival 2015 - Day 8

For most people, chances are good that Darren Criss is recognizable to them from the hit TV show Glee, which captivated audiences not just in the United States but also in other countries situated all around the world, thus spawning not just fandoms but also lesser imitators. However, it is interesting to note that Criss is not just a successful actor as well as a successful singer, but also someone who was an outstanding theatrical performer before he made the change to the TV screen. In fact, he went as far as co-founding his own musical theater company with some of his friends, which is a rare accomplishment.

Here are 20 things that you may or may not know about Darren Criss:

1. Is Eurasian

Criss is Eurasian, which is an interesting way to say that he has both Asian and European ancestry. This is because his mother, Cerina, comes from the city of Cebu in the Philippines, while his father, Charles, comes from the city of Pittsburgh in the state of Pennsylvania. As a result, he has Filipino ancestry from his mother as well as English, German, and Irish ancestry from his father.

2. His Family Is Interested in the Arts

Given Criss’s interest in the arts, it should come as no surprise to learn that his family has shown an interest in the arts as well. For example, his father has been known to serve as a patron of the arts, which is important because a lot of artists would not be able to make their art without the support of those who share something of their passion. Furthermore, Criss’s brother, who is also named Charles, is a member of an indie rock band called the Freelance Whales.

3. Studied Art

While he was a student at the University of Michigan, Criss studied the arts. As a result, when he graduated, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, having majored in Theater Performance and minored in both Italian and Musicology. Considering the success that he has found since his graduation from the University of Michigan, it seems clear that Criss has made excellent use of what he learned from school, which can be said to have formed a firm foundation on which he could build his career in the arts.

4. Can Play a Number of Instruments

It is interesting to note that Criss became interested in music at an early age, which in turn, provided him with the motivation to learn not just one instrument but multiple instruments. To be precise, he started out with the violin at the age of five, but in time, he started picking up other instruments such as the drums, the guitar, the harmonica, the mandolin, and the piano. As a result, Criss became the front-man of his own band as well as the concertmaster of his school orchestra, thus showing his interest as well as his skill when it comes to a wide range of music.

5. Spent a Semester Studying Italian Theater

Likewise, it is interesting to note that Criss became interested in theater as well at an early age, which can be seen in his participation in the Young Conservatory program of the American Conservatory Theater as well as his participation in school performances of classics such as Fiddler on the Roof, The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Music Man. However, one of the most interesting examples of Criss’s interest in theater can be seen in the fact that he spent a semester studying Italian theater at the Accademia dell’Arte in the city of Arezzo, Italy.

6. Voted Likeliest to Win a Grammy

His fellow students seem to have recognized his love for the arts. After all, when they graduated from high school, they voted Criss as the one who was likeliest to win a Grammy after graduation. So far, this prediction has not come true, though it is interesting to note that he came close in 2012 when Glee: The Music, Volume 4 was nominated for the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. However, since he is still young, he has plenty of time to make it come true.

7. Wrote Title Track At the Age of Fifteen

In 2009, Criss released his first EP, which was called Human. In total, it featured five songs, but the one that stood out the most was the title track. It was particularly interesting because Criss has stated that it was the first song that he ever wrote, though he has been making changes to it because of his perfectionist tendencies. For what it is worth, the EP met with a fair amount of success, though in the end, an EP is still just an EP.

8. Co-founded StarKid Productions

After he graduated from the University of Michigan, Criss teamed up with some of his friends from school in order to found StarKid Productions, which is a music theater company that is based in Chicago in spite of its Michigan origins. In main, the music theater company specializes in musical comedies based on pop culture, though its members are versatile enough to do other things such as books, concerts, and web series as well. Just like how Criss has managed to find success in his endeavors, StarKid Productions has managed to find success with its endeavors as well, which is remarkably impressive.

9. Got a Start as Harry Potter

As was mentioned, StarKid Productions specializes in musical comedies based on pop culture. As a result, one of its earliest productions was A Very Potter Musical, which was based on the books but took some liberties with their story-lines. Criss played Harry Potter in not just A Very Potter Musical but also its sequels, A Very Potter Sequel and A Very Potter Senior Year. The success of the production provided StarKid Productions with the resources needed to come up with more material along the same lines, while also providing Criss with a significant boost to his career.

10. Replaced Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway

In 2012, Criss managed to make his debut on Broadway by replacing Daniel Radcliffe in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying for three weeks. His performance proved to be a commercial success, seeing as how his numbers managed to beat his predecessor’s numbers for all but his predecessor’s last week on the show. For people who are not familiar with Radcliffe, he was the one who played Harry Potter in the Harry Potter movies, which makes this anecdote strangely amusing.

11. Got His TV Debut on Eastwick

By using his success from his theatrical performance, Criss managed to land a role on Eastwick as the character Josh Burton, who had an important role in a five-episode arc. The show was about the witches of Eastwick, who were three women who received supernatural powers after coming into contact with mysterious stranger, which is more than a little bit reminiscent of how witches were believed to have gotten their supernatural powers in the Early Modern period. Unfortunately, while Eastwick managed to secure a respectable following, it became one of the more than 80 shows to be cancelled in 2010.

12. Started Out As a Guest Star on Glee

Initially, Criss’s character on Glee was intended to be no more than a guest star who would make occasional appearances from time to time. However, his popularity with the fans of the show caused the show-makers to change their minds, with the result that his character switched over the same school as the main characters by the third season. In significant part, his popularity was driven by the chemistry between his character and main character Kurt Hummel, who was being bullied in the story but received some much-needed assistance from the former.

13. Loves the Fact that His Acting Changed People’s Minds About Gay Rights

Eventually, Criss’s character managed to get married to Kurt Hummel in the final season of Glee, which was a natural conclusion to what had been building up throughout the years and years. Criss has stated that he loved the fact that a lot of people commented about changing their opinions about gay marriage because he saw a lot of his friends struggling with similar issues when they were growing up, which made the marriage more important from a cultural perspective than most people imagine.

14. Got His Film Debut with Girl Most Likely

In 2012, Criss got his film debut with the film called Girl Most Likely, which was a comedy about a playwright who staged her suicide in order to get her ex’s attention, got committed to hospital, and then got released into the custody of her estranged mother. In it, Criss played a character called Lee, who encouraged the heroine of the story to persist with writing her play in spite of her insecurities as well as all of the shenanigans that happen throughout the course of the film.

15. Performed At the 57th Presidential Inauguration

Criss had the honor of performing at the inaugural balls of the 57th Presidential Inauguration, which saw President Barack Obama being inaugurated into his second term as the President of the United States. There, he performed When You Wish Upon a Star as well as other songs for a receptive audience that included President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, which must have been quite an experience.

16. Supports The Trevor Project

It should come as no surprise by this point to learn that Criss is a supporter of LGBTQ rights. One interesting example is his support of The Trevor Project, which is a nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent suicides among target groups by providing a toll-free hotline as well as information to those who need it the most. This nonprofit is important because LGBTQ youth have much higher suicide rates than other youth, thus making it a matter of the utmost importance.

17. Did a Cover of New Morning

Another example of Criss’s support for philanthropic endeavors can be seen in how he performed a cover of Bob Dylan’s song, New Morning, along with his brother, Chris. The song was intended to be part of a compilation album called Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Like its name states, the album was meant to honor all of the work that has been done by the nonprofit organization over the years, which range from raising awareness to seeking the release of political prisoners in countries situated all around the world.

18. Is an Investor in an E-tailer

To be exact, Criss is an investor in The Motley, which is a retailer based out of the state of California that sells men’s grooming products through the Internet. This means that it sells a wide range of branded products for skincare, shaving, as well as other grooming needs that are common among men. Criss became an investor in the operation because he was a fan of its products and services, thus leading to a natural business alliance.

19. Founded Elsie Fest

The first annual Elsie Fest was held in New York City in 2015. In short, it is a festival meant to celebrate music from both the stage and the screen, which in turn, means that it features songs from both Broadway and the pop genre. It remains to be seen whether Elsie Fest will become a true success, but so far, Criss has promised that it will be making a return in 2016 as well as in subsequent years. Naturally, part of the proceeds from the event went towards charitable causes.

20. Has Done Some Voice Work As Well

Interestingly, Criss has also done some voice work in animated shows as well. For example, he voiced a character on one episode of the Cleveland Show. Similarly, he did some work with not just the Transformers franchise but also the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, albeit in minor roles. For that matter, he has also been involved in a number of animated films, including The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Stan Lee’s Mighty 7.


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