We talked with actress Jenna Ushkowitz, who stars as Tina Cohen-Chang on the Fox television show “Glee,” when she was at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City.
How do you compare yourself to your character?
I’m not really like Tina, obviously. I don’t have blue hair. Tina’s really quiet and really shy, and I definitely can pull from that because I was when I was in school. But she’s a little angrier than I was, and I’m a little more positive. I think the Glee Club is helping her come out of her box.
Did you want to be an actress when you were young?
Yeah. I started when I was 3. I did the “King and I” when I was 9 on Broadway. So I was going to school and doing Broadway. And I went to Holy Trinity , which was obviously a performing arts high school, and then it kind of just took off from there. I decided to go to college in the city.
Is it difficult to imitate a stutter when you act, because you have such clear speech?
Yeah, it was really hard at the beginning. At first, it was a little more manipulated, and I had to kind of really think about it, but sometimes now I’ll find myself stuttering off set, too, just because I do it so much. Or they’ll write in the script just the line they’ll let me stutter, whichever I feel, like how much I feel is fit for the line.
What are your plans for after “Glee”?
Oh my goodness. I’m really enjoying “Glee” right now. I don’t really know. I would love to go back to Broadway. Definitely perform on the stage again. I don’t really know because we’re so really involved right now. We’re really excited about the soundtrack. Maybe we’ll have solo albums.
What is your favorite scene?
It’s an episode based pretty much around Artie in the wheelchair and just understanding what it’s like for him, and we do an actual number in wheelchairs — all 12 of us in the Glee Club. We all sing and dance in wheelchairs. We dance with our arms.
What you do think of Tina’s image as this shy but funny girl who looks out for all her friends on the show?
I think it’s really important because I had a lot of friends like Tina in high school, and I think that she having that darker side — anger — is a little more serious. I think it’s important for kids to see the development in the arc of somebody, how they’re relating to her, how she finds more like where she fits in.
How would you compare Tina’s style to what we could be expecting of her later on in “Glee”?
Her wardrobe you mean? It gets a little crazier. She definitely goes out there. She’s got her tutus, her lace gloves. You might get some different color hair, nail polish and some crazier tights and boots. Lots of black, still. Lots and lots of black.
Who do you think is most like their character on the show?
That was Lea Michele (plays Rachel Berry) walking by. She puts it in a good way. I think that Rachel Berry is very close to her because they're both obviously very talented and I think they both really knew what they wanted at a very young age. They’re always very confident in their talent. I think Rachel Berry.
How long have you've been singing and acting?
When I was little I knew I wanted to act. I was always doing commercials though. I did Jell-O commercials, Hess truck commercials. But I started singing the “King and I” on Broadway and I think that’s when I fell in love with musical theater.
Do you get nervous when you’re acting?
Yeah I think everybody gets nervous especially when we were doing the national anthem the other day. That was really really scary because that's the most people we have ever performed live and then 20 million people watching on television. That's a lot of pressure there. But on set I think it's comfortable and everybody's so close and such good friends that we don't have to worry about that.
If you weren't an actress what would you be doing?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I always wanted to work with animals. I really love dogs and dolphins. I'd want to work in the water.
Which character are you close to?
I would say we're really close. I think Kevin and I have a lot of scenes together. So Artie and Tina kind of bond and I think that it has made us closer.