Love to hate or just hate? ‘Glee’ star Jessalyn Gilsig says tonight’s episode brings Terri’s moment of reckoning


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It’s not easy being Mrs. Schuester.

While “Glee” fans have already seen the softer sides of the show’s chief mischief-makers -- Quinn is mean but scared; Puck’s a slut but cares for Quinn; and Coach Sue’s got a soft spot for her sis (and had her heart broken! awww) -- few have been able to see past Will’s manipulative and shrill wife Terri. Especially not while well-pressed Emma is around with her hygienic spray and halo.

But tonight’s episode could be a turning point for Terri, says actress Jessalyn Gilsig, who calls it “a moment of reckoning” for the Schuesters. “Everything comes to a head,” Gilsig told Show Tracker. “Will and Terri have that big, horrible, middle-of-the-night assessment of their relationship. It was intense when we shot it.” Will viewers now take a little pity on Terri? Perhaps. “That’s what’s so great about [series creator] Ryan Murphy. He gives you someone like Quinn, who starts off as a bitchy cheerleader, and then you see everything that’s underneath. I think a kind of similar thing could happen tonight for Terri.” Maybe.


For now, Gilsig agrees to get into the hot seat:

How has it been to see the fan reaction to Terri?
Interesting? It’s sort of tough. To be totally candid, after “Wheels” aired, I went online and my homepage is I thought, ‘Oh, this episode is safe because I’m not in it.’ Yeah. I read the recap and said, ‘OK, I’m going back to bed and I’m not getting up for the rest of my life’ (laughs). It’s OK, I’ll live. It was just a bit of a burn in the morning.[An excerpt from said recap: ‘Wednesday night was sheer perfection. And I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t notice Mrs. Schuester wasn’t present.... Take the hint.’]

Did you expect this kind of backlash? At the summer Fox TCA party, Matthew Morrison, who plays Will, did say he was worried for you.
Creatively am I worried? No. I’ve been so lucky to have worked with [series creator] Ryan Murphy before and we’ve communicated about this. From the moment that I took the part, he was very candid about it being a really difficult part. How else can Will come off as sympathetic if he’s going to flirt so blatantly with this woman at school unless he has this really dysfunctional marriage at home? So in some ways I knew I was a sacrificial lamb. So we said, OK, let’s make it entertaining as possible…

Ryan also cast you as crazy Gina on “Nip/Tuck”…
But that’s why I like working with Ryan. You try to find what’s motivating this character to make these poor choices. Or really, really misguided choices. We had a SAG Talk Back session the other day and I heard the same anti-Terri stuff from the room and I was just like, ‘OK, can we talk about Balloon Boy’s parents?’ They’re real. And I would imagine that there are women who’ve lied about being pregnant -- but probably would have said they lost it at the point where Terri is -- but there are crazy people out there! What’s happening is not totally outside the realm of probability.

Have the writers talked to you about showing us different sides to Terri? She did just give him a car. And they’ve done it so successfully with Puck and Quinn and Sue…

By the end of this year [last episode Dec. 9; show returns April 13] I think Terri gets explained. Tonight’s episode is kind of a reckoning, as I like to say. What I hope is conveyed is that you see the child inside Terri. You see the fear. At the same time, she’s a crazy, wacky person (laughs). I don’t want to just reverse on her, either. I think the show is fun because we have these characters who do light the match in the room. I like playing those parts. I liked doing that with Gina and people hated her. I loved her! I know Gina -- don’t you have those friends that just keep driving the car into the wall over and over? I actually think those people are so much more typical in reality than someone who keeps coming up with the right things to say in the right moment. To me, Gina was completely relatable. And I’m not the kind of actor who will complain or get involved in the writing. I always think it is my job to make sense of what I’m given, especially when I have so much confidence in the writing talent.

Mr. Schu’s not exactly innocent either in my mind.
In ‘Vitamin D,’ there was this thing on set where everyone was like, ‘Oh, Emma and Terri are gonna have a showdown!’ But when we started doing the episode, it dawned on everyone like, ‘Hey, this is Terri’s husband!’


I had to give it to Terri in that scene where she lays down the law for Emma.
There was a great line that Terri says that went something like, ‘You think you’re special because you’re nice to the man a few hours a day.’ I mean, that’s really good writing. It is easy to flirt at work. You don’t have to deal with the realities of what it is to co-habitate and live together day to day.

I get what people are saying. But I think I understand her and some people have been generous tracking her in that way. At the same time, the show’s not about me -- so I have to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s been interesting. I mean some people are really mad. I kind of wish sometimes that the Internet didn’t exist.

I think Terri is funny, and that’s why I don’t have as big a problem with her as most others. Or I’m willing to be more patient. As a viewer, what do you think of her?
It’s hard to watch yourself, but I think she’s funny too. I think it’s been fun to work with Matt and I think they have found moments where they connect and the viewer can see why these people are together.

There are two facets to everybody. So for Ryan, his instructions to Matthew and I were to find the heart of this relationship. It’s tarnished and malnourished but it all started somewhere. If you ask anyone about the beginning of a relationship, they always get sentimental. Terri’s problem is that she keeps trying to go back to that moment in high school where it was like magic. I think she wants to live back in that place. Will’s obviously matured past that point and she just has no tools to communicate those insecurities. But she does love him.

That scene when Terri’s having her fake sonogram with Will in the room moved me -- even though she’s having a fake sonogram!
Yes, Ryan directed that scene! We talked a lot about it. Obviously it’s funny, but he was also really adamant that Terri and Will have this moment where they’re both speaking from the heart. You see that Terri knows that this is the next step their relationship needs if they’re going to make it.

People are totally entitled to their opinions, of course. I’m not going to launch a campaign to change minds about her. I would just like to keep my job (laughs). I’m not gonna lie either, though: If you join Team Terri, I might come over and wash your car.


Any ideas where Terri’s heading in the new year?
The writers have so many ideas that I’ve learned not to get married to anything I hear. But we have talked and I have a little bit of an idea what will happen to her and I’m excited about it. There could be a chance for Terri to gain her independence, to not be so co-dependent, to maybe figure out who she is without that panic she’s been operating off of. That’s what they’ve hinted at, but beyond that you never know.

Finally, will we ever hear Terri sing?
I think the thinking is, ‘Let’s let Lea Michele loose and hold back the great pipes.’ No, no, that is not what’s happening (laughs). It’s got to be appropriate, so maybe? I do feel like Terri’s got to sing if she’s got a chance. She’s so outside the realm of everything that everyone loves about the show.

-- Denise Martin