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Kevin McHale on Glee group chats, Ryan Murphy and coming out: ‘I should’ve done it sooner’

Exclusive: Ahead of a turn on MTV Cribs, Kevin talks life in the Hollywood Hills and the golden age of LGBTQ people on TV

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer

In April 2018, an Ariana Grande song prompted Glee’s Kevin McHale to tweet: “No Tears Left to Cry is gayer than me and I ACCEPT.”

It remains, probably, the cutest celebrity coming out story of recent years.

Catching up with Attitude over two years later, Kevin calls the moment “unpremeditated”, but adds the amazing response “only made me see I should have done it sooner.”  

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“It was shocking, beautiful and inspiring,” he says of the flood of messages from LGBTQs thanking him for the visibility. “I’d go out shopping and people would thank me. I was always taken aback by that.”

Given the timing of our interview, we have to ask: are Ari’s new single and album Positions inspiring any new revelations?

“This album is filthy, and it’s great!” laughs Kevin, speaking over the phone from his LA home. “It’s inspiring in other ways… But ways that probably stay in the bedroom!”

(He also recommends ‘Positions’ for fans voting in Tuesday’s US presidential election: “If it takes two hours, eight hours, bring a chair, some books, listen to Ariana’s album… Just be prepared to wait in line and do it!”

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My teams

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“My ex-boyfriend recently moved in”

Speaking of ‘homes’ and ‘bedrooms’, the 32-year-old will be giving a tour of his Hollywood pad on the recently-resurrected MTV Cribs on Monday night (2 November).

“There’s no way to say this and not sound douchey, but technically it’s the Hollywood Hills…” he says of the house’s location.

“There’s the really fancy part of the Hollywood Hills – this is not that. It’s nice, but it’s not one of those $30 million-dollar homes… It’s like maybe the garage of a Selling Sunset home!”

The star lives with “a roommate who’s been here the entire time; my childhood best friend, and my ex-boyfriend recently moved in, and my current boyfriend is here a lot of the time, but doesn’t live here…”

Wait, his ex moved in? Anyone’s who’s ever struggled to be friends with an ex would surely agree: this is impressive!

“A lot of people don’t understand it and think I’m crazy…” laughs the star. “Everyone’s nice here. My roommate is straight, and he and I are the anomalies in our friendship group. We’re both still friends with our exes – like, best friends. And everyone looks at us like we’re nuts.”

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“I can’t even tell you how many different variations of Glee group chats there are”

Kevin’s inner circle have no doubt been a source of support during a rough 2020: he’s not only seen out coronavirus-induced isolation, but his close friend and fellow Glee star Naya Rivera tragically passed away in July – a subject we don’t discuss during our interview.

He nevertheless explains he’s been in constant contact with the Glee cast throughout 2020. “We don’t really use Whatsapp in the States, but we do have mini group chats – lots of them. Different versions and factions of people. I can’t even tell you how many different variations. 

“Me, Amber [Riley], Chris [Colfer] and Jenna [Ushkowitz] are on one; there’s a big one with like 20 of us, that includes writers… and the first few months of quarantine, we had a weekly Glee Zoom every Friday!”

Kevin – who released his debut EP Boy last year – also remains close to his fellow Celebrity X Factor contestants (“a lot of us still talk”) and Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee plus queer-tastic Netflix hits like Ratched and Boys In the Band.

“I’m looking forward to The Prom,” enthuses Kevin. “We were talking about it a few weeks ago. He was like ‘Do you think people will like it?’ I was like, ‘Ryan, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman are in it!’ He was like ‘Yeah, they’re quite famous aren’t they…’ Only the most famous actors on the planet.

“But that shows, even with that level of success, he still worries about whether things will work, which is nice.”

Our conversation naturally turns to LGBTQ representation on TV, which – while still not without blowback – is at an all-time high. The new series of Cribs alone features LGBTQs like Tom Allen, Alyssa Edwards and last week, Caitlyn Jenner.

“The two biggest TV deals ever were for gay men: Greg Berlanti and Ryan,” Kevin points out. “That’s super inspiring, especially when they use their platform to change things. [As per Murphy’s Pose], making sure women are becoming directors, making a show with a trans cast, written by LGBT members…

“The only way systems change is when people who have the power, like him, make an effort to change them. It has to come from the top.” 

Truer words never spoken. That said, we’d wager a bet a throwaway tweet about Ariana Grande in 2018 moved the needle as well…

MTV Cribs continues every Monday night, 8pm on MTV.

The Attitude November issue is out now to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £3, or digitally for just £1.54 per issue.

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My teams

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