Matthew Morrison Gleeful To Be Back On Stage

Though there are many musical numbers in "Glee" that involve him — most memorably "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Singing in the Rain" — singing on stage live either in concert or during the "journey of a Broadway show" eight times a week is another experience entirely, one that he says he misses.

But the 16-hours-a day, 10-months a year schedule that "Glee" demands doesn't allow for any opportunities to return to a long-running stage show. Morrison is in the fourth year of his five-year contract with "Glee." He says he is committed to the show beyond the contract and does not know what he will be doing after next year.

This season the television show takes a different turn as some of the long-established characters move beyond high school to New York while a group of students arriving in their stead. "I call it 'Glee 2.0," says Morrison. It's a completely fresh look at the show with a new crop of kids in the choir room — which is great for me."

"In a way, it's my first look at what it means to be a real teacher with this transition [of students graduating and new ones replacing them]. You grow up so much with your kids and getting a new family is strange. It took a little bit of time to get used to. I felt like the original cast and I started the process together. We all got catapulted into this crazy realm of stardom. It was an instant hit and we were all there for each other."

He says he realized how big an impact the show was having when the entire cast appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," followed by a trip to Washington D.C. to meet President Obama. In a way, there's additional pressure for the new kids because they're already arriving in a hit show."

Does he have a teacher's pet in the new class?

"Melissa [Benoist] plays Marley," he says. "She's really great being touted as 'the new Rachel' and she's so sweet and so nice."

Though most of his stage roles are in "good guy" roles, he says he has turned to the dark side on guest roles in television.

"I played a Native American who scalped someone on 'CSI" and a cop who raped in 'Numb3rs.' I'm a nice guy in real life but I enjoy getting my hands dirty [in those roles]. And I love keeping an audience guessing. That's what I liked about doing 'Piazza.' [After 'Hairspray'] no one expected that performance from me.

"I loved the way my career has played out," he says. "I felt honored to be in the chorus and work my way up to lead roles. Now that I'm a bone fide TV star. I just want to keep growing and doing more challenging stuff."

He says his girlfriend Renee Puente and his family and friends — who live close by — help keep him grounded, unless he's sky diving, an activity that he's curtailed for a while.

"I never feel more alive than when I jump out of a plane. I'm not a deeply religious person but I do get spiritual when I'm sky diving. I've never felt closer to God when your life is in someone else's hands."

Does he feel that in his golden career he hasn't suffered enough?

"I've suffered in a different way," he laughs. "It's all been a learning experience. And it does take a little bit away from who you are and what you do. I couldn't imagine getting [the amount of fame] when I was 20."