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Darren Criss

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Darren Criss
Darren Criss Trevor Live.jpg
Criss at Trevor Live, December 2012
Born Darren Everett Criss
(1987-02-05) February 5, 1987 (age 28)
San Francisco, California, United States
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation Actor, singer, songwriter, co-owner of StarKid Productions
Years active 1997 – present
Musical career
Genres Pop, Contemporary, Musical theater
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar, drums, violin, mandolin, harmonica
Years active 2005 – present
Labels Sony, Columbia
Associated acts Glee, StarKid Productions, Charlene Kaye

Darren Everett Criss (born February 5, 1987)[1] is an American actor, singer, and songwriter. 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 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. Criss was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2015 for writing the song "This Time" for the Glee finale.

Criss has starred on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In September 2012, he made his feature film debut in the comedy Girl Most Likely.

Early life (1987–2009)

Childhood and education

Criss was born in San Francisco, California, the youngest of two sons of Cerina and Charles William Criss, an investment banker and a patron of the arts.[1][2][3][4] His older brother, Charles "Chuck" Criss, is a member of the band Freelance Whales.[2] Criss is Eurasian – his mother, a native of Cebu, Philippines, is also of Chinese and Spanish descent, while his father, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is of English, German, and Northern Irish descent.[5][6] Criss was raised primarily in San Francisco, apart 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.[4]

Criss completed his elementary education at Stuart Hall for Boys, and later graduated from Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in 2005.[7] In 2009, Criss obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, majoring in Theater Performance and minoring in Musicology and Italian.[7][8]

Musical and theatrical training

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.[7][9] Criss also taught himself how to play various other instruments, including the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica, and drums.[10][11] Criss 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] 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.[14]

At the age of ten, Criss was accepted into the American Conservatory Theater (Young Conservatory program) where he studied theater performance throughout his formative years.[15] 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,[16] and Fiddler on the Roof.[17] He was active as both an actor and director in the University of Michigan's student-run theater organization Basement Arts.[18] In the spring of 2008, he spent a semester abroad studying Italian theater at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy.[19]



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).[20][21][22] 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.[23] At the University of Michigan, he performed in stage productions such as Pride and Prejudice, A Few Good Men, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.[7]

StarKid Productions

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).[24][25]


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.[26] 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.[27]

Criss took on the role of Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch from April 29, 2015 to July 19, 2015, at the Belasco Theater.[28]


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.[29]

Glee (2010–2015)

Criss portrayed Blaine Anderson, on the Fox television series Glee.[30] He made his first appearance in season two in the episode "Never Been Kissed", which aired on November 9, 2010.[31] 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.[32] In the subsequent seasons, Blaine goes off to college and later returns to Dalton to become the vocal director of the Warblers. In the final season, he marries his long-time love, Kurt. 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."[33]

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.[34][35]


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.[36][37] 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.[38][39][40][41]

On July 20, 2010, Criss released an independently-produced EP called Human.[42] Describing his album as "soul-folk" to Entertainment Weekly, it peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums chart.[43][44] On December 10, 2010, Criss became the 400,000th member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).[45] In April 2011, he signed with Sony Music Entertainment.[46] He is in the process of recording a full-length studio album, with a release date yet to be determined.[47]

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.[48][49]

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.[50][51]

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.[52][53]

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.[54][55][56]

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.[57][58]

Glee (2010–2015)

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.[59] It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week ending November 27, 2010,[60] and number one on the Billboard Digital Songs chart.[61] It was the best-selling song in the U.S. that week, selling 214,000 copies, the largest figure for a Glee title.[62] It was only the second U.S.-certified gold single in the show's history.[63] 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.[64][65] The Daily News‍‍ '​‍s Anthony Benigno gave the song an "A", and noted that it was "flawless" and improved on Perry's original.[66] The performance was nominated for the Best Gay Moment of the Year and Favorite Music Video awards at the 2010 Visibility Awards.[67] 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."[68]

Later songs performed by Blaine and the Warblers became popular enough to warrant a Warbler soundtrack album, Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers.[69] 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.[70][71] The Warbler tracks had sold over 1.3 million copies as singles by the time the album was released.[72]

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.[73][74]

For Season 6 of Glee, Criss composed "Rise" for the episode "The Rise and Fall of Sue Sylvester" and "This Time" for the series finale.[75][76] Criss was nominated for an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for writing "This Time."

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.[77][78][79]

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".[80][81]

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.[82]

Criss was the spokesperson for the 2012 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.[83][84]

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[85]

On September 20, 2013, in Toronto, Canada, Criss hosted We Day, an annual "youth empowerment" event organized by the Free the Children charity.[86]

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.[87]

Media appearances

Criss has appeared on the magazine covers of Billboard,[88] Entertainment Weekly,[89] Out,[90] Playbill,[91] TV Guide,[92] Da Man,[93] GT,[94] Prestige,[95] and Essential Homme.[96] Criss is featured in the fall ad campaign (2011) for Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing line.[97] Criss was named one of People‍ '​s Sexiest Men Alive (2011),[98] and was ranked No. 1 on AfterElton's "Hot 100" list (2011 & 2012),[99][100] and No. 1 on GQ Magazine's "30 Under 30: The Most Stylish Young Men In Hollywood" list (2012).[101]

Other projects

Criss is an investor and partner of The Motley, a California-based men’s grooming e-tailer.[102]

Criss is a co-founder and co-producer of Elsie Fest, a music festival which features Broadway and pop music acts. The first annual show was held on September 27, 2015, in New York City.[103]

Professional credits


Year Title Role Notes
2005 I Adora You[104] Josh Short film, minor role
2009 Walker Phillips[105] Elliott Short film
2010 The Chicago 8[106] Yippee Man Minor role
2011 Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Blaine Anderson Concert documentary
2012 Girl Most Likely Lee Feature film debut
2013 The Wind Rises Katayama Voice-over role
2013 The Tale of Princess Kaguya Sutemaru Voice-over role
2014 Stan Lee's Mighty 7 Micro Voice-over role


Year Title Role Notes
2009 Eastwick Josh Burton Recurring role, 5 episodes
2010 Cold Case Ruben Harris Episode: "Free Love"
2010–2015 Glee Blaine Anderson Recurring role (Season 2) 14 episodes
Main Role (Seasons 3, 4 & 5)[107]
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[108] 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: Robots in Disguise Sideswipe[109] Voice-over role for animated TV series.[110]
2015 American Horror Story: Hotel Justin Recurring role


Year Title Role Notes
1997 Fanny[111] Cesario 42nd Street Moon production – Stage debut
1998 Do I Hear a Waltz?[112] Mauro 42nd Street Moon production
1999 Babes in Arms[113] Beauregard Calhoun 42nd Street Moon production
2005 Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor[114][115] Singer and Musician American Conservatory Theater
2006 Paper Canoes[116][117] Salmon Zeitgeist Artworks production
2009 A Very Potter Musical[118] Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Co-songwriter and composer[119]
2009 Me and My Dick[120] Italian restaurant owner StarKid Productions – Cameo (voice only), Co-songwriter and composer, guitarist[121]
2010 A Very Potter Sequel[122] Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Sole songwriter and composer, Co-producer[123]
2012 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying[26] J. Pierrepont Finch Broadway debut – Lead role
2012 A Very Potter Senior Year Harry Potter StarKid Productions – Lead role, Co-songwriter and composer
2015 Hedwig and the Angry Inch Hedwig Robinson Broadway – Lead role

Social media

Year Title Role Notes
2008 That Media Show[124] Presenter 3 episodes (No. 1, No. 2, No. 5)
Series about Hollywood, filmmaking, and visual effects.[124]
2009 Little White Lie[125] Toby Phillips StarKid Productions – Web series, Main role, Co-songwriter and musical producer
2011 Life of Leopold[126] Leopold Bonar Funny or Die – Web series, Lead, Voice role
2012 Audience Choice Awards[127] Host 13th annual award.
2015 Tony Awards Red Carpet[128] Co-host Co-hosted with Laura Osnes and Sierra Boggess.

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".[129][130]
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.[131]
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.[73][74]
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.[132][133]
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.[134]
2011 The SPACE Tour New York & Boston StarKid Productions' first national concert tour. Majority of songs performed were written and composed by Criss.[135]
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.[136]
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.[137]
2012 Apocalyptour New York & Los Angeles StarKid Productions' second national concert tour.[138]
2012 Fundraiser for Barack Obama Los Angeles Criss performed for the President of the United States at an LGBT-sponsored campaign fundraising gala.[139]
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.[52][53]
2013 A Capitol Fourth Washington, D.C. Criss co-headlined the 4th of July celebration concert on the National Mall.[144]
2014 Michael Feinstein's New Year's Eve at the Raibow Room New York Criss co-sang with Michael Feinstein a medley of Frank Sinatra songs.
* Note: This is a selection of Criss' musical performances, not a complete list.


Solo EP
Glee albums
Main article: Glee discography

StarKid Productions albums

Independent songs

Music videos


Year Award Category Work Result
2011 Variety Magazine Power of Youth Philanthropy[79] The Trevor Project Won
Dorian Award We're Wilde About You Rising Star Award[145] Glee Won
Teen Choice Award Choice TV: Breakout Star[146] Won
NewNowNext Award Brink of Fame: Actor[147] Won
Broadway World – Chicago Awards Best New Work / New Adaptation[148] Starship Won
2012 Broadway World – Chicago Awards Best Special Theatrical Event[149] A Very Potter Senior Year Won Award Favorite Replacement[127] How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying Won
Grammy Award Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media[150] Glee: The Music, Volume 4 Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[151] Glee Nominated
2013 Dorian Award TV Musical Performance of the Year[152] Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series[153] Nominated
Shorty Award Best Producers of Short Content on Social Media[154] Nominated
People's Choice Award Favorite Comedic TV Actor[155] Glee Nominated
Favorite TV Bromance (with Chord Overstreet)[155] Nominated
Favorite On-Screen Chemistry (with Chris Colfer)[155] Nominated
2015 Award Favorite Replacement[156] Hedwig and the Angry Inch Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics[157] "This Time" - Glee Nominated
Giffoni Film Festival Experience Award[158] Overall work Won


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