Criss at Trevor Live, December 2012
|Born||Darren Everett Criss
February 5, 1987
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Occupation||Actor, singer, songwriter, co-owner of StarKid Productions|
|Years active||1997 – present|
|Genres||Pop, Contemporary, Musical theater|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, guitar, drums, violin, mandolin, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Glee, StarKid Productions, Charlene Kaye|
Darren Everett Criss (born February 5, 1987) 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, 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. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2015 for writing the song "This Time" for the Glee finale.
- 1 Life and Career
- 2 Theater
- 3 Television
- 4 Film debut
- 5 Music
- 6 Advocacy and charity work
- 7 Media appearances
- 8 Other projects
- 9 Filmography
- 10 Discography
- 11 Awards and Nominations
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Life and Career
Childhood and education
Criss was born in San Francisco, California, the younger son of Cerina and Charles William Criss, an investment banker and a patron of the arts. His elder brother, Charles Criss, is a member of the band Freelance Whales.
Criss is Eurasian – his mother is a a native of Cebu, Philippines, while his father, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is of English, German, and Irish descent. Criss was raised primarily in San Francisco, apart from 1988-92, when the family resided in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Charles Criss started the EastWest Bank, serving as Chairman/CEO.
Criss attended Roman Catholic schools. He completed his elementary education at Stuart Hall for Boys, and later graduated from Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in 2005. In 2009, Criss obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, majoring in Theater Performance and minoring in Musicology and Italian.
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. Criss taught himself how to play other instruments, including the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica, and drums.
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. By age 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.
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. At St 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, and Fiddler on the Roof. He was active as both an actor and director in the University of Michigan's student-run theater organization Basement Arts. In 2008, he spent a semester abroad studying Italian theater at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy.
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).
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. At the University of Michigan, he performed in stage productions such as Pride and Prejudice, A Few Good Men, and The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Upon receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2009, Criss, along with some friends and classmates from the University of Michigan, co-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).
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. 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.
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.
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."
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 starred Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, and Matt Dillon.
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.
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.
On July 20, 2010, Criss released an independently-produced EP called Human. Describing his album as "soul-folk" to Entertainment Weekly, it peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Albums chart.
On December 10, 2010, Criss became the 400,000th member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Criss' first solo music tour visited 17 cities in the United States, Canada, and France from May 29–June 30, 2013, and included songs from Glee, StarKid, his Human EP, and new material from his upcoming solo album.
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.
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.
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. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week ending November 27, 2010, and number one on the Billboard Digital Songs chart.
It was the best-selling song in the U.S. that week, selling 214,000 copies, the largest figure for a Glee title. It was only the second U.S.-certified gold single in the show's history. 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.
The New York Daily News's Anthony Benigno gave the song an "A", and noted that it was "flawless" and improved on Perry's original. The performance was nominated for the Best Gay Moment of the Year and Favorite Music Video awards at the 2010 AfterElton.com Visibility Awards. 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."
Later songs performed by Blaine and the Warblers became popular enough to warrant a Warbler soundtrack album, Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers. 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. The Warbler tracks had sold over 1.3 million copies as singles by the time the album was released.
From May 21–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.
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. 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.
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".
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.
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.
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
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.
Criss has appeared on the magazine covers of Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Out, Playbill, TV Guide, Da Man, GT, Prestige, and Essential Homme. Criss is featured in the fall ad campaign (2011) for Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing line. Criss was named one of People's Sexiest Men Alive (2011), and was ranked No. 1 on AfterElton's "Hot 100" list (2011 & 2012), and No. 1 on GQ Magazine's "30 Under 30: The Most Stylish Young Men In Hollywood" list (2012).
|2005||I Adora You||Josh||Short film, minor role|
|2009||Walker Phillips||Elliott||Short film|
|2010||The Chicago 8||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|
|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)
|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||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||Voice-over role for animated TV series.|
|2015||American Horror Story: Hotel||Justin||Recurring role|
|1997||Fanny||Cesario||42nd Street Moon production – Stage debut|
|1998||Do I Hear a Waltz?||Mauro||42nd Street Moon production|
|1999||Babes in Arms||Beauregard Calhoun||42nd Street Moon production|
|2005||Shed a Little Light: The Music of James Taylor||Singer and Musician||American Conservatory Theater|
|2006||Paper Canoes||Salmon||Zeitgeist Artworks production|
|2009||A Very Potter Musical||Harry Potter||StarKid Productions – Lead role, Co-songwriter and composer
|2009||Me and My Dick||Italian restaurant owner||StarKid Productions – Cameo (voice only), Co-songwriter and composer, guitarist|
|2010||A Very Potter Sequel||Harry Potter||StarKid Productions – Lead role, Sole songwriter and composer, Co-producer|
|2012||How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying||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|
|2008||That Media Show||Presenter||3 episodes (No. 1, No. 2, No. 5)
Series about Hollywood, filmmaking, and visual effects.
|2009||Little White Lie||Toby Phillips||StarKid Productions – Web series, Main role, Co-songwriter and musical producer|
|2011||Life of Leopold||Leopold Bonar||Funny or Die – Web series, Lead, Voice role|
|2012||Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards||Host||13th annual award.|
|2015||Tony Awards Red Carpet||Co-host||Co-hosted with Laura Osnes and Sierra Boggess.|
|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".|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|2011||The SPACE Tour||New York & Boston||StarKid Productions' first national concert tour. Majority of songs performed were written and composed by Criss.|
|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.|
|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.|
|2012||Apocalyptour||New York & Los Angeles||StarKid Productions' second national concert tour.|
|2012||Fundraiser for Barack Obama||Los Angeles||Criss performed for the President of the United States at an LGBT-sponsored campaign fundraising gala.|
|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.|
|2013||A Capitol Fourth||Washington, D.C.||Criss co-headlined the 4th of July celebration concert on the National Mall.|
|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
- 2010: Human
- Glee albums
- 2010: Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
- 2010: Glee: The Music, Volume 4
- 2011: Glee: The Music, Volume 5
- 2011: Glee: The Music Presents the Warblers
- 2011: Glee: The Music, Volume 6
- 2011: Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
- 2011: Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2
- 2011: Glee: The Music, Volume 7
- 2012: Glee: The Music, The Graduation Album
- 2012: Glee: The Music, Season 4, Volume 1
- 2012: Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 3'
- 2013: Glee Sings the Beatles
- 2013: Glee: The Music - Celebrating 100 Episodes
StarKid Productions albums
- 2009: Little White Lie
- 2009: A Very Potter Musical
- 2010: Me and My Dick (A New Musical)
- 2010: A Very StarKid Album
- 2010: A Very Potter Sequel
- 2011: Starship
- 2012: The SPACE Tour
- 2012: Apocalyptour
- 2012: A Very StarKid Senior Year
- 2008: "Skin and Bones" – Duet with Charlene Kaye – Things I Will Need in the Past (album)
- 2011: "Dress and Tie" – Duet with Charlene Kaye
- 2012: '"New Morning" – Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International (album)
- 2009: "Skin and Bones" – Charlene Kaye
- 2009: "Magnolia Wine" – Charlene Kaye
- 2009: "Roll with Me" – Montgomery Gentry
- 2011: '"Dress and Tie" – Charlene Kaye
- 2011: "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" – Katy Perry
- 2012: '"New Morning" – Amnesty International
- 2012: "Dress You Up" – Vogue's "Fashion Night Out"
- 2013: "Kangaroo Court" – Capital Cities
- 2013: "Songify the News 3" — The Gregory Brothers
- 2014: "I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo" – Capital Cities
- 2014: "Already Home" — A Great Big World
Awards and Nominations
|2011||Variety Magazine||Power of Youth Philanthropy||The Trevor Project||Won|
|Dorian Award||We're Wilde About You Rising Star Award||Glee||Won|
|Teen Choice Award||Choice TV: Breakout Star||Won|
|NewNowNext Award||Brink of Fame: Actor||Won|
|Broadway World – Chicago Awards||Best New Work/New Adaptation||Starship||Won|
|2012||Broadway World – Chicago Awards||Best Special Theatrical Event||A Very Potter Senior Year||Won|
|Broadway.com Award||Favorite Replacement||How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying||Won|
|Grammy Award||Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media||Glee: The Music, Volume 4||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Glee||Nominated|
|2013||Dorian Award||TV Musical Performance of the Year||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Shorty Award||Best Producers of Short Content on Social Media||Nominated|
|People's Choice Award||Favorite Comedic TV Actor||Glee||Nominated|
|Favorite TV Bromance (with Chord Overstreet)||Nominated|
|Favorite On-Screen Chemistry (with Chris Colfer)||Nominated|
|2015||Broadway.com Award||Favorite Replacement||Hedwig and the Angry Inch||Won|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics||"This Time" - Glee||Nominated|
|Hollywood Music in Media Award||Song - TV Show / Digital Series||Won|
|Giffoni Film Festival||Experience Award||Overall work||Won|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Darren Criss.|
- Official website
- Darren Criss at the Internet Movie Database
- Darren Criss on Playbill Vault
- StarKid Productions Official Website
- StarKid Productions YouTube channel