A ruthless brunette with a killer set of pipes who bulldozes through high school with starry ambitions? Takes one to play one. Lea Michele, who launched her Broadway career at 8, seems to feel nothing but warm kinship for Rachel Berry, the alter ego she plays on Fox's new show "Glee" (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.).

A singing, dancing glee club member with a pair of stage dads and an eye on stardom, Rachel at one point announces, "There is nothing ironic about show choir." A Manhattan native, Michele has lived in her own apartment since she graduated from high school (she's putting college on permanent hold) and was most recently spotted on Broadway in "Spring Awakening" (Michele freely admits she can't read music, but it looks as if that hasn't hurt). Freshly returned to her new Los Angeles digs from a "Glee" publicity tour, Michele spoke with The Washington Post's Ruth McCann on the eve of her 23rd birthday.

You've done a lot of theater. Are you learning to act on camera?

I was kind of just thrown into this - this is one of the first television jobs I've ever had. Of course, being able to sing helps bring a sense of comfort. The character I'm playing is really outgoing - she performs in her everyday life as though she's performing in front of a huge audience.