Wetpaint Exclusive! Stephen Tobolowsky on Bringing Crazy Sandy Ryerson Back to Glee
Remember Sandy Ryerson, the original McKinley High glee club coach-cum-drug dealer in Season 1? Allow us to refresh your memory: “Who is Josh Groban?! Kill yourself! He is an angel sent from heaven to deliver platinum records unto us. And if he were here right now, I would club you to death with his Critic's Choice Award.” Ah, yes. Stephen Tobolowsky’s wacky one-liners as doll-collecting, Groban-obsessed Sandy rivaled those of one Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). We caught up with Stephen, who’s been pretty busy to say the least — see: IMDb.com — to find out if there are any plans for him to return and give the recently disgraced Cheerios coach a run for her money.
Wetpaint: You appeared in the first seven episodes of Glee’s first season. Any plans to return? Stephen:I would love to return to Glee, but that is always in the hands of the writers and producers. Glee is one of the most fun shows I have worked on. The cast and the crew make every day special. Don’t get me wrong. I never felt the set of Glee was fun and games. Everyone works very hard on the dances and the songs. The days are long, but for an actor — a theater actor like I am — it is heaven. Describe the character of Sandy. What was it like to play him? Stephen: Sandy is a character who is always living in a sort of illusion. He loses track of who he really is. He thinks of himself as a powerfully creative force. A man who is not understood and victimized. At the bottom of it all, Sandy is in it for Sandy. He sells dope and makes tons of money. He pushes everyone around to his will. He would be more unpleasant except his world is so small we find him amusing. If you did return, what direction would you like to see the character take? Stephen: I always thought the character of Sandy would be important to the show because he is one of the very few characters that has a life in and outside of the school. He could either be a help or a harm to Will in two different arenas. He could help or harm Sue’s effort to control everything. That would be important for lots of plot developments if you ever wanted to broaden the scope of the show.
So for example... Stephen: Ryan [Murphyy] mentioned at one point he saw Sandy as Will’s employer in one of his extra jobs.
Do you still get recognized for Glee? Stephen: I get recognized for Glee all of the time. Along with Groundhog Day, Garfield, Freaky Friday, Deadwood, Heroes, and now Californication. People spot me. Must be the bald head.
Do you have a favorite scene you filmed or moment on set during your time on Glee? Stephen: Too many favorite scenes to pick one. I am very happy with the “Acafellas.” I loved shooting [Beck’s] “Loser”. The writers always gave me great material. Sandy sang and danced with Will and the Acafellas, plus he was McKinley’s glee club director before Will. What was your background in musical theater before Glee? Stephen: I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and my first professional jobs were in musical theater. I did regional versions of Broadway shows like: Young Abe Lincoln, Godspell, CanterburyTales, Whispers on the Wind, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Purlie. Godspell and Purlie were gigantic hits in the city and I got [my first] experience of people rushing up to me in laundromats asking for my autograph. Your Glee character had a bunch of really funny one-liners. Did you ad-lib any of it? Stephen: Ryan Murphy let me ad-lib pretty much all I wanted, however I can take no credit for the Josh Groban line! Your IMDb page says you’ve appeared in over 200 films or television shows. Which do you enjoy more: film or television? Stephen: Film and television are very different. And Glee is different from either. Glee is more like doing a play. The rehearsals for the dances and songs plus the rehearsals for the scenes. There was a kind of camaraderie on the set you usually get in a play. It is a lot of fun.
What projects are you currently working on? Stephen: I just finished a season of Californication, and last week I shot an episode of Community — right around the corner from Glee.
Who’s your favorite Glee character? Stephen: Favorite Glee character... it would have to be Sandy, of course.
Lightning round! Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the following names: