Darren Criss

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Darren Criss
DCriss.jpg
Criss in Chicago, August 2011
Background information
Birth name Darren Everett Criss
Born (1987-02-05) February 5, 1987 (age 27)
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Genres Pop, Contemporary, Musical theater
Occupations Actor, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, co-owner of StarKid Productions
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, drums, violin, mandolin, harmonica
Years active 1997–present
Labels Sony, Columbia
Associated acts Glee, StarKid Productions, Charlene Kaye
Website www.darrencriss.com

Darren Everett Criss (born February 5, 1987) is an American actor, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. One of the founding members and co-owners of StarKid Productions, a musical theater company based in Chicago, Illinois, Criss first garnered attention playing the lead role of Harry Potter in StarKid's musical production of A Very Potter Musical. The theater troupe made Billboard history when their original album, Me and My Dick, became the first charting student-produced musical recording, debuting at number eleven on the Top Cast Albums chart in 2010.

Criss is best known for his portrayal of Blaine Anderson (2010–present), an openly gay student, on the Fox musical comedy-drama series Glee. As the lead vocalist of Glee's Dalton Academy Warblers, Criss' first number, a cover version of "Teenage Dream", became the fastest-selling Glee single, reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified gold in the U.S. The Warblers have sold over 1.3 million tracks, and the soundtrack album, Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers (2011), peaked at number two on the US Billboard 200.

In January 2012, Criss made his Broadway debut, starring as J. Pierrepont Finch in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His stint there proved to be a success: apart from Daniel Radcliffe's final week, the musical had the three most lucrative weeks of its 11-month run with Criss in the lead role, grossing more than four million dollars. In September 2012, he made his feature film debut in the comedy Girl Most Likely.

Early life

Background

Criss was born in San Francisco, California, the youngest son of Cerina (née Bru) and Charles William Criss, a banker and a former director of the San Francisco Opera, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the Stern Grove Festival, and San Francisco Performances.[1] Criss is Eurasian – his mother, a native of Cebu, Philippines, is of Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino descent, while his father, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is of Irish descent.[2] He has an older brother named Charles "Chuck" Criss (born April 15, 1985), a musician and member of the indie rock band Freelance Whales. Criss and his brother were raised in San Francisco, except from 1988 to 1992, when the family resided in Honolulu, Hawaii, where their father started the EastWest Bank, serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.[1]

Education, and musical and theatrical training (1987–2009)

Criss' interest in music and the performing arts started in his early childhood. At the age of five he began taking violin lessons and was classically trained for the next fifteen years.[3][4] At ten, he was accepted into the American Conservatory Theater (Young Conservatory program) where he studied theater performance throughout his formative years; concurrently, he made his professional stage debut at the musical theater company 42nd Street Moon.[5][6] Pursuing his musical interests, Criss taught himself how to play various instruments until he mastered the violin, guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica, and drums.[7][8] By fifteen, he began delving into music composition and wrote his first song, which he later used as the title track of his first EP Human, released in 2009.[9]

Criss completed his elementary education at Stuart Hall for Boys, and later graduated from Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in 2005.[3] At Saint Ignatius he was a member of the performing arts program and acted in theater classics such as The Music Man, The Diary of Anne Frank,[10] and Fiddler on the Roof.[11] He also immersed himself in the school music scene – he held the position of concertmaster in the school orchestra, he fronted his own band, and was voted "most likely to win a Grammy" by his peers.[12][13] Criss went on to attend the University of Michigan, majoring in theater performance and minoring in musicology and Italian.[3][14] He was active as both an actor and director in the university's student-run theater organization Basement Arts.[15] In the spring of 2008, he spent a semester abroad studying Italian theater at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy.[16] In 2009, he obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts.[14]

Theater

Criss made his professional stage debut at the age of ten as Cesario in 42nd Street Moon's production of Fanny (1997), then played Mauro in the Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim musical Do I Hear a Waltz? (1998), and Beauregard Calhoun in Babes in Arms (1999).[17][18][19] Throughout his adolescence, Criss appeared in a number of the American Conservatory Theater's plays, notably A Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Voysey Inheritance.[6] At the University of Michigan, he performed in stage productions such as Pride and Prejudice, A Few Good Men, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.[3]

Upon receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2009, Criss, along with his friends and classmates from the University of Michigan, founded StarKid Productions, a musical theater company. His most prominent acting role with StarKid has been that of Harry Potter in the musical comedies A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel, and A Very Potter Senior Year (based on the Harry Potter series of novels by J.K. Rowling).[20][21]

In January 2012, Criss made his Broadway debut, replacing Daniel Radcliffe in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying for a three-week engagement at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.[22] His stint there proved to be a success: apart from Daniel Radcliffe's final week, the musical had the three most lucrative weeks of its 11-month run with Criss in the lead role, grossing more than four million dollars.[23]

Television

Criss as Blaine Anderson with The Dalton Academy Warblers

Criss started his television career with a five-episode arc playing the character of Josh Burton on Eastwick in 2009. The following year, he appeared in an episode of the series Cold Case.[24]

Currently, Criss portrays Blaine Anderson, an openly gay student, on the Fox television series Glee.[25] Criss had auditioned for Glee several times for several roles before the character Blaine was created.[26] He originally auditioned to play Finn Hudson.[27] Criss made several audition videos for Glee, which he posted to the social networking website MySpace. Although the series writers have seen them, he considers them supplemental to his main audition, which was for series creator Ryan Murphy.[26][28] Murphy had not seen any of Criss' previous auditions, but knew he was the right actor for Blaine as soon as he saw this one.[29] The actor cut his long hair before auditioning, to suit the "serious and preppy" role.[28]

In September 2010, it was confirmed that Criss would join the show in a "much-talked-about new gay role".[30] Media speculation suggested that Blaine would be Kurt Hummel's new love interest.[31] His original character description was: "a cute and charismatic gay student from a rival Glee club named the Dalton Academy Warblers—will maintain a strictly platonic friendship with McKinley High's most out and proud pupil. But could that change as the season progresses? Yes, it could."[30] Murphy stated that Blaine's arc would be a significant one. He explained, "He sort of becomes Kurt's mentor and then maybe love [...] Kurt really admires him and respects him."[32]

He made his first appearance in season two in the episode "Never Been Kissed", which aired on November 9, 2010.[33] Blaine attended Dalton Academy and was lead singer of its glee club, The Dalton Academy Warblers. Blaine initially served as a friend and mentor for Kurt, the bullied gay member of the Warblers' rival glee club, New Directions. Chemistry between the two characters, combined with fan support for the potential couple, led series co-creator Ryan Murphy to pair them romantically onscreen. At the beginning of the third season, Blaine transfers to McKinley High and joins New Directions; concurrently, Criss was promoted from recurring guest star to the show's main cast.[34] Discussing public response to his character, Criss stated that he particularly enjoyed comments from "people from parts of the world who are maybe not as exposed to certain ideologies", but had reconsidered their stance on relationships and human rights as a result of the Blaine and Kurt storyline. He called this response "phenomenal" and said, "I was a straight kid growing up in a very gay community and it's something that I've had to watch so many friends have to struggle with and have no place to go to identify in kind of a grander media culture. To be a small piece of that machine is incredibly wonderful."[35]

Film debut

On September 7, 2012, Criss made his feature film debut in the comedy Girl Most Likely. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was released nationwide on July 19, 2013. Previously titled Imogene, the film co-stars Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, and Matt Dillon.[36][37]

Music

Solo artist (2005–present)

Criss began his solo music career while attending the University of Michigan. Playing in small venues, he developed his own musical repertoire which today consists of standards from the Great American Songbook, contemporary songs, Disney classics, and his own compositions.[38][39] Criss occasionally collaborates and performs with fellow musicians, in particular University of Michigan alumni singer-songwriters Charlene Kaye and Theo Katzman, as well as various members of StarKid and the Glee cast.[40][41][42][43]

On July 20, 2010, Criss released an independently-produced EP called Human.[44] Describing his album as "soul-folk" to Entertainment Weekly, it peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums chart.[45][46] On December 10, 2010, Criss became the 400,000th member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).[47] In April 2011, he signed with Sony Music Entertainment.[48] He is in the process of recording a full-length studio album, with a release date yet to be determined.[49]

In January 2013, Criss performed for U.S. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden at the inaugural balls of the 57th Presidential Inauguration.[50][51]

During a benefit concert for public school arts on April 14, 2013, Criss was made an honorary member of Yale University's a cappella singing group The Whiffenpoofs.[52][53]

Criss' first solo music tour visited 17 cities in the United States, Canada, and France from May 29, 2013 - June 30, 2013, and included songs from Glee, StarKid, his Human EP, and new material from his upcoming solo album.[54][55]

StarKid Productions (2009–present)

Criss is credited as one of the primary songwriters and composers for StarKid Productions. He has contributed songs to A Very Potter Musical, Me and My Dick (which became the first-ever student-produced college musical to reach Billboard, debuting at No. 11 on the Top Cast Albums chart), Little White Lie, and A Very Potter Senior Year. Subsequently, Criss solely composed all the songs and music for A Very Potter Sequel, its companion album A Very StarKid Album, and Starship, which landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Cast Albums chart, and at No. 134 on the Billboard 200 chart.[56][57][58]

In November 2011, Criss participated in StarKid's first national concert tour, The SPACE Tour, for the New York and Boston shows, and, in the summer of 2012, he joined them again for their second national tour, Apocalyptour, for the Los Angeles and New York shows.[59][60]

Glee (2010–present)

As Blaine, Criss features in many musical performances on Glee, which have been released as singles, available for download. His first performance, "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry, was featured on the soundtrack album Glee: The Music, Volume 4.[61] It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week ending November 27, 2010,[62] and number one on the Billboard Digital Songs chart.[63] It was the best-selling song in the U.S. that week, selling 214,000 copies, the largest figure for a Glee title.[64] It was only the second U.S.-certified gold single in the show's history.[65] Both Billboard's Jillian Mapes and Erica Futterman of Rolling Stone deemed "Teenage Dream" the best song of "Never Been Kissed", the episode in which it featured.[66][67] The Daily News's Anthony Benigno gave the song an "A", and noted that it was "flawless" and improved on Perry's original.[68] The performance was nominated for the Best Gay Moment of the Year and Favorite Music Video awards at the 2010 AfterElton.com Visibility Awards.[69] A Billboard cover-feature on Criss noted that the performance "arguably ushered in the trend of more current pop hits being reworked by the [Glee] cast."[70]

Later songs performed by Blaine and the Warblers became popular enough to warrant a Warbler soundtrack album, Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers.[71] It debuted at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200 and No. 1 on Billboard's Soundtracks chart, selling 86,000 copies in its first week.[72][73] The Warbler tracks had sold over 1.3 million copies as singles by the time the album was released.[74] Blaine performed the lead vocal on covers of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister", which peaked at number 32 in Canada,[75][76] "Bills, Bills, Bills" by Destiny's Child, which reached number 44 in the U.S.,[77][78] and Robin Thicke's "When I Get You Alone", which got to number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100.[78][79] Criss downplayed his performance of "Bills, Bills, Bills", and jested that he ought to issue the group's lead singer, Beyoncé Knowles, an apology for his cover.[80] Blaine also led on "Silly Love Songs" by Wings,[81] and Maroon 5's "Misery",[82] which reached 45 and 52 respectively in the U.S.,[78][83] and Pink's "Raise Your Glass", which peaked at number 30 in Australia.[82][84]

Blaine duetted with Kurt on Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which was included on Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album and reached number 53 in Canada.[85][86] It was reportedly the most downloaded track of the album, with Murphy expressing his pride in the number for "push[ing] the envelope a bit."[87] Jessica Ronayne of Zap2it called the duet one of the Christmas episode's few saving graces.[88] Blaine and Kurt also duetted on Neon Trees' "Animal" and Hey Monday's "Candles",[89][90] which peaked at 62 and 71 in the U.S. respectively.[83][91] In an April 2011 interview, Criss stated that he did not feel established enough within the cast to make song suggestions, but had mentioned liking "Animal" to Murphy, who included it in a script soon thereafter.[70] Blaine shared a duet of "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League with Rachel, which Amy Reiter of the Los Angeles Times deemed a musical highlight of the episode "Blame It on the Alcohol".[92] It was included on Glee: The Music, Volume 5, and peaked at number 44 in Australia.[84][93]

From May 21 to July 3, 2011, Criss and the cast of Glee performed in Glee Live! In Concert!, touring the U.S.A., Canada, England, and Ireland. According to Billboard Magazine, it was the 16th most successful concert tour of 2011, grossing more than $40 million, with total attendance topping 485,000. All 40 dates sold out, including shows at Staples Center, Nassau Coliseum, and The O2 Arenas in London and Dublin.[94][95]

Advocacy and charity work

Criss is an advocate for LGBT rights, and is an active supporter of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Criss is the recipient of Variety's Power of Youth Philanthropy award for his contributions to The Trevor Project.[96][97][98]

Criss is a spokesperson for the Rock the Vote organization and its Democracy Day campaign. On March 23, 2011, he helped launch Democracy Class, a "national high school civics program ... that uses pop culture, video, a classroom discussion and a mock election to teach young people the skills to navigate the elections process and engage as active citizens".[99][100]

Criss recorded the Bob Dylan song "New Morning", featuring his brother Chuck Criss, for Amnesty International. It was part of the compilation album Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International, released on January 24, 2012.[101]

On March 8, 2012, Criss was chosen by UNICEF Philippines to represent their organization and accept a $25,000 donation from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the disaster relief of Tropical Storm Washi[102]

On September 20, 2013, in Toronto, Canada, Criss hosted We Day, an annual "youth empowerment" event organized by the Free the Children charity.[103]

Criss has performed at various charity benefits including American Conservatory Theater, AIDS Project Los Angeles, New Conservatory Theatre Center, Toys for Tots, City of Hope National Medical Center, Motion Picture & Television Fund, Public School Arts, MusiCares Foundation, The Old Vic, UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Young Storytellers Foundation, and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.[104]

Media appearances

Criss has appeared on the magazine covers of Billboard,[105] Out,[106] Playbill,[107] TV Guide,[108] Da Man,[109] GT,[110] Prestige,[111] Essential Homme,[112] and Entertainment Weekly.[113] Criss is featured in the fall ad campaign (2011) for Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing line.[114] Criss was named one of People's Sexiest Men Alive (2011),[115] and was ranked No. 1 on AfterElton's "Hot 100" list (2011 & 2012),[116][117] and No. 1 on GQ Magazine's "30 Under 30: The Most Stylish Young Men In Hollywood" list (2012).[118]

Other projects

Criss is an investor and partner of The Motley, a California-based men’s grooming e-tailer.[119]

In 2012, Criss became the spokesperson for the Festival of New American Musicals. The organization's mission is "to foster the creators, to train and showcase the performers and in the process also to help build the next generation of musical theater audience and support." Its honorary co-chairs are Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jerry Herman, Angela Lansbury, and Jason Alexander.[120]

Professional credits

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2005 I Adora You[121] Josh Short film, minor role
2009 Walker Phillips[122] Elliott Short film
2010 The Chicago 8[123] Yippee Man Minor role
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Blaine Anderson Concert documentary
2012 Girl Most Likely Lee Feature film debut
2014 Stan Lee's Mighty 7 Micro Voice-over role
2014 The Wind Rises Katayama Voice-over role

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2009 Eastwick Josh Burton Recurring role, 5 episodes
2010 Cold Case Ruben Harris Episode: "Free Love"
2010–present Glee Blaine Anderson Recurring role (Season 2) 14 episodes
Series regular (Seasons 3, 4 & 5)[124]
2011 Archer Mikey and Tommy Episode: "Placebo Effect" (voice role)
2011, 2012 The Glee Project Himself Episodes: "Individuality", "Pairability", and "Glee-ality" (Season 1), "Romanticality" (Season 2)
2012 Glee: Don't Stop Believing Himself Documentary on Glee
2012 The Cleveland Show[125] Hunter Episode: "Jesus Walks" (voice role)
2013 Web Therapy Augie Sayles Episodes: "Long Distance Lovers", "Losing Followers", "Closer When We're Apart" (Season 3)
2013 Teen Choice Awards Co-host Co-hosted with Lucy Hale
2013 Six by Sondheim Franklin Shepard HBO documentary about the life of legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, interwoven with 6 of his most iconic songs.
2014 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Himself Various roles of improvisational comedy
2015 Transformers TBA Voice-over role for animated TV series.[126]

Theater

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Fanny[127] Cesario 42nd Street Moon production – Stage debut
1998 Do I Hear a Waltz?[128] Mauro 42nd Street Moon production
1999 Babes in Arms[129] Beauregard Calhoun 42nd Street Moon production
2005 Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor[130][131] Singer and Musician American Conservatory Theater
2006 Paper Canoes[132][133] Salmon Zeitgeist Artworks production
2009 A Very Potter Musical[134] Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Co-songwriter and composer[135]
2009 Me and My Dick[136] Italian restaurant owner StarKid Productions – Cameo (voice only), Co-songwriter and composer, guitarist[137]
2010 A Very Potter Sequel[138] Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Sole songwriter and composer, Co-producer[139]
2012 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying[22] J. Pierrepont Finch Broadway debut – Lead role
2012 A Very Potter Senior Year Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Co-songwriter and composer

Internet

Year Title Role Notes
2008 That Media Show[140] Presenter 3 episodes (No. 1, No. 2, No. 5)
Series about Hollywood, filmmaking, and visual effects.[140]
2009 Little White Lie[141] Toby Phillips StarKid Productions – Web series, Main role, Co-songwriter and musical producer
2011 Life of Leopold[142] Leopold Bonar Funny or Die – Web series, Lead, Voice role
2012 Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards[143] Host

Musical performances

Year Event Location Notes
2010–2013 Trevor Live Los Angeles Benefit for The Trevor Project. In 2010, Criss sang "Not Alone" and "Teenage Dream" with Glee's Dalton Academy Warblers and Katy Perry, in 2011, he sang Tom Jones' hit, "It's Not Unusual", in 2012 he sang an acoustic version of Katy Perry's "Part of Me", and in 2013, he co-sang lead, with the cast of Glee, the Charlie Chaplin song '"Smile".[144][145]
2011 MusiCares Person of the Year Los Angeles Criss and Glee's Dalton Academy Warblers performed for Barbra Streisand, in honor of her being named MusiCares Person of the Year by the MusiCares Foundation.[146]
2011 Glee Live! In Concert! U.S.A., Canada, England, Ireland The 16th most successful concert tour of 2011, grossing more than $40 million, with total attendance topping 485,000. All 40 dates sold out, including shows at Staples Center, Nassau Coliseum, and The O2 Arenas in London and Dublin.[94][95]
2011 ASCAP Pop Music Awards Los Angeles Criss paid tribute to Rod Stewart by singing a ballad version of Stewart's classic song "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?", while accompanying himself on piano.[147][148]
2011 Billboard / Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference Los Angeles Criss honored composer Alan Menken with a medley of his own Disney songs, singing alongside Broadway star Lea Salonga.[149]
2011 The SPACE Tour New York & Boston StarKid Productions' first national concert tour. Majority of songs performed were written and composed by Criss.[150]
2011 Sing Out, Raise Hope, Benefit Concert New York Criss performed at Lincoln Center with the a capella singing groups of Harvard University's Krokodiloes, Princeton University's Nassoons, and Yale University's The Whiffenpoofs, at a benefit concert for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and The Trevor Project.[151]
2012 E! Entertainment pre-Oscar Show Los Angeles Criss sang "The Rainbow Connection" with Kermit the Frog for the pre-show of the 84th Academy Awards.[152]
2012 Apocalyptour New York & Los Angeles StarKid Productions' second national concert tour.[153]
2012 Fundraiser for Barack Obama Los Angeles Criss performed for the President of the United States at an LGBT-sponsored campaign fundraising gala.[154]
2013 57th Presidential Inauguration Washington, D.C.
2013 Listen Up Tour U.S.A., Canada & France Criss headlined his first solo music tour, which visited 18 cities from May 29 - June 30. The set included songs from Glee, StarKid, his Human EP, and new material from his upcoming solo album.[54][55]
2013 A Capitol Fourth Washington, D.C. Criss co-headlined the 4th of July celebration concert on the National Mall.[159]
* Note: This is a selection of Criss' musical performances, not a complete list.

Discography

Solo EP
Glee albums

StarKid Productions albums

Independent songs

Music videos

Awards

Year Award Category Work Result
2002 National Latin Exam Maxima Cum Laude (Silver Medal) Latin language and culture. Won
2003 National Latin Exam Magna Cum Laude Won
2011 Variety Magazine Power of Youth Philanthropy[98] The Trevor Project Won
Dorian Award We're Wilde About You Rising Star Award[160] Glee Won
Teen Choice Award Choice TV: Breakout Star[161] Won
NewNowNext Award Brink of Fame: Actor[162] Won
Broadway World – Chicago Awards Best New Work / New Adaptation[163] Starship Won
2012 Broadway World – Chicago Awards Best Special Theatrical Event[164] A Very Potter Senior Year Won
Broadway.com Award Favorite Replacement[143] How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Won
Grammy Award Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media[165] Glee: The Music, Volume 4 Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[166] Glee Nominated
2013 Dorian Award TV Musical Performance of the Year[167] Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[168] Nominated
Shorty Award Best Producers of Short Content on Social Media[169] Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedic TV Actor[170] Glee Nominated
Favorite TV Bromance (with Chord Overstreet)[170] Nominated
Favorite On-Screen Chemistry (with Chris Colfer)[170] Nominated

References

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