Lea Michele had a few minutes to chat before her book signing began in New Orleans, where she films the new television series "Scream Queens" alongside Emma Roberts and fellow theatre actors Nick Jonas, Keke Palmer and Ariana Grande. Between her time on the TV set and her weekly dose of Pilates, Michele is currently promoting her new book "You First," a how-to on "journaling your way to your best life."
Before greeting fans in NOLA, she chatted about Hester, the freakishly awkward teen she plays on "Scream Queens" who is obsessed with death and regularly sports a neck brace; how she journaled her way to success, after taking a "page" from best friend and Spring Awakening co-star Jonathan Groff; her dream of returning to Broadway in Funny Girl; and an upcoming album.
How are your book signings going?
Lea Michele: Oh my gosh, we did one yesterday in L.A., and right now I'm on my way to the book signing in New Orleans, so it's super exciting.
I'm excited to finally chat! I know most of the Spring Awakening gang, but we've never talked before.
LM: I think they're all going to the opening night tomorrow for the new production. I just saw it last night, and I was crying through all of Act I. Did you love it?
LM: I loved it. I saw it in L.A., and I just thought it was so incredible. I wish I could be there tomorrow, but Jonathan is actually going to take my mom, so… she's going to represent for me!
I'm loving "Scream Queens," but more so I'm loving your costumes. What are your thoughts on Hester's outfits because they are cracking me up? The one with the ice cream cones on her boobs…!
LM: Thank you. Well, our costume designer Lou Eyrich — she did the wardrobe for "Glee" and "American Horror Story" — she's so talented and so incredible, and I really just left this up to her. I wanted to obviously be as far away from Rachel Berry as possible, and what that meant for Hester — we were sort of uncertain at the beginning, and I don't know how we came upon it, but it turns out to be this sort of like '90s Janeane Garofalo, but with some girly accents. And, I really, really, really love it… The neck brace for the costume is actually very comfortable.
I've read that you totally put your faith into Ryan Murphy on this one — and that you always do — but what was your initial reaction when you were told that she was going to be in a neck brace?
LM: Well, he presented the role to me straightforward, saying that there would be a neck brace, so I knew what I was getting myself into, and I thought, "Of course! It couldn't be any [more] different from what I've been doing for the past seven years, so yes 100 percent."
I'm loving your physical comedy in this! Tell me what's going on behind the scenes. There are a bunch of girls in the cast of "Scream Queens," so who has been the most fun?
LM: Oh, it's been so great! I've worked a lot with Emma Roberts, Billie Lourd and Abigail Breslin, and we've all just become such good friends. I love working with Emma, and I love having fun with them outside of work. Emma and I, we do Pilates together every week and make sure that we're taking care of ourselves here in New Orleans. We're away from our families, so we really are relying on our cast members to sort of be our connections and help to make this experience as fun and as exciting as possible.
Has there been any crazy/hysterical moments from set thus far?
LM: [Laughs.] Well, I mean, everything that we do is pretty crazy and hysterical to begin with. Obviously, just from seeing the pilot episode where we're buried up to our necks or we're having [words from] sharpies written on our bodies and doing shots of mayo and stuff like that — we get to do enough crazy stuff every single day.
Tell me about the new book. I loved "Brunette Ambition." When it was released, I wrote about the 10 things you need to know from it. But, I haven't dived into "You First" yet, so give me the scoop.
LM: Well, I'm really excited. I've had this idea for a really long time. After Spring Awakening — and I talk a lot about this at the beginning of the book… I dedicated this book to Jonathan because when we were in Spring Awakening, every night after the show, he would journal. And, it was so weird to me that he wanted to spend an extra hour after work every night writing things down, but I started to understand what a nice thing he was doing, and I started to do it myself, but my journaling was much more goal-oriented, and it was a safe place for me to write down some of my dreams. We were also having these incredible celebrities come every night to the show, and they would say really encouraging things. I started writing it down, and before I knew it, I had this bible of goals and dreams, and I found that the more I wrote things down, the more I made them happen. I believe in the power of writing things down and manifesting your dreams, so that's where this book came from. It's divided into four sections with guided questions to help ask yourself questions that you may not ask yourself [or] haven't asked yourself yet. And, I think it's a really fun journey, and I think it's important. The title sort of says it all… We live in a very digital world, where we are kind of listening to what everyone says we should and shouldn't be and how we should be, and this is your time to take for yourself to put yourself first and step away from all of that.
I love that this book is about making a better "you." Tell me more about you as a writer. After a year of such highs and such lows, was it therapeutic for you to write?
LM: Well, I mean, I've been writing this book for a really long time, and for me, journaling is a really positive thing. I think that everyone can make this book what they want and what they need it for… I would write down that I wanted to move to L.A. or that I wanted to work on television when a lot of people were telling me that I was too ethnic and bringing a lot of roadblocks in my way, so that was always my safe place to write down my dreams despite what people were saying, and it really helped me.
You were just talking about Jonathan Groff… Have you been listening nonstop to his performance in Hamilton now that we finally have it available?
LM: Of course! [Laughs.] I texted him yesterday and told him that I'm so happy that it was finally out, and I've been listening to it nonstop. I listened to it on the plane today. It's the greatest. I haven't listened to a theatre — a musical record — front to back since Once, I think.
Another amazing show! Speaking of the theatre — your roots are so based there — what's going to get you back to Broadway?!
LM: [Laughs.] We wanted to come back with Funny Girl, and I still really would. I just think that coming out of "Glee" and getting to perform so many of the songs… Even in the second-to-last season, I was performing Funny Girl on Broadway in the show, so I wanted to make sure that I'm doing things that are creatively satisfying and feel fresh for me, but I want to come back to Broadway as soon as I can. I'm just waiting for the right time and the right thing… if they'll have me back.
Well, we miss you, girl! We want you back on Broadway!
TV, movies, books, Broadway. What's next for you? You're such a positive force for young girls. To see you keep on dreaming and succeeding, it's very inspiring…
LM: Thank you! Well, I'm recording my second record right now. I'm very excited about that. It's going to be very different from the first one. I've been working really hard on it, and just really trying to make sure that this one is really sonically much more Lea Michele. I learned a lot from the first record, and I think that this one is going to really embrace who I am so much more. But, I can't wait for everyone to hear that and hopefully get a chance to start performing [and] doing some live shows.
(Playbill.com features manager Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)