There was a time when an actor landed one key role that would become their legacy. Today, that rule no longer applies. Despite ending a little over a year ago, several cast members of the worldwide phenomenon Glee have already found new projects - Lea Michele stars on Scream Queens, Darren Criss took Broadway by storm with Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Chris Colfer is a New York Times best selling author. But perhaps the two actors who have had most recognisable success are Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist. Both played characters that were not necessarily considered main Glee characters, but left a lasting impression on viewers of the hit show.
Gustin first appeared on Glee during the third season, and recurred from 2012-2014. Playing gay Warbler Sebastian Smythe, Gustin initially received death threats from fans of the beloved couple Klaine (Kurt and Blaine) as it was suggested that he may try to break them up. It wasn't long though before fans warmed to Gustin, and Smythe inevitably became TV's most love to hate character. Personally, Smythe was one of my favourite Glee characters, and despite only appearing in a total of seven episodes - Gustin made a huge impact on the series. His initial third season arc is one of my favourite storylines, and Gustin received praise for his remarkable covers of hit songs - most notably "Smooth Criminal", a duet he performed in character with Naya Rivera's Santana. The Glee version of this track peaked at #1 on iTunes. Perhaps little known to Flash fans, but Gustin performed on stage prior to his TV career, which is perhaps why he is so musically gifted. Check out this clip below - I remember being rather annoyed that this performance was cut from the episode, as it is still one of my favourite Glee songs.
After getting cast as Barry Allen in Arrow, Gustin made his final appearance in the season 5 premiere of Glee. You should also check out TV movie, A Mother's Nightmare which Gustin filmed during his stint on Glee. Gustin became a household name with his role on The Flash, which has received critical and commercial acclaim. Allen couldn't be more different to Smythe, highlighting just how versatile Gustin is as an actor. Gustin's portrayal of The Flash is widely regarded as the best (lets just say: Ezra Miller has some pretty large shoes to fill). Arguably the best of the current wave of superhero shows, The Flash never fails to deliver astounding episode, one after another and the series has been a ratings success for The CW, becoming the most viewed series in the network's history. On a personal note, I cannot put into words how overjoyed I am for Gustin, who I often thought should have been a series regular on Glee. It's a pleasure to watch him embody a role that had been missing such a portrayal. Gustin did for The Flash what Lynda Carter did for Wonder Woman, and just like Carter's Wonder Woman, I doubt Gustin's Flash will ever be topped.
Benoist had previously appeared in several episodes of Homeland and other major series before landing her breakthrough role on Glee. Benoist, along with a host of other actors, were cast as part of the revamp as several of the most recognisable characters had graduated in the previous season. Benoist played Marley Rose - a down-to-earth, relatable character who became one of the faces of New Directions 2.0. Viewers and critics took time to warm to the newbies, with many long-time fans noting how they wished the series would move to New York to follow the graduates instead of the new characters. Eventually the fans connected, and Marley was arguably the most positively received new character. Benoist, like Gustin, has remarkable singing talent, and fronted many of the group performances for the series. After recurring for a full year, Benoist was promoted to a series regular for the fifth season. Benoist also met her future husband, Blake Jenner, who played fellow glee club member and one of Marley Rose's love interests. Eventually, Benoist and all of the season four characters were axed in an attempt to improve viewing figures, and the series moved to New York full time to follow the original characters. Coincidentally, one storyline involved Ryder (Jenner) and fellow club member Jake Puckerman fighting over Marley's affections, both dressed in a Superman outfit while singing "Superman". Benoist's final scenes involved her hugging her fellow newbies with Jenner's character asking them if they "Remember Superman?"
Since her casting on Glee Benoist has appeared in several big films, most notably Whiplash. In 2015, Benoist was cast as Kara Danvers/Supergirl in a new CBS series entitled Supergirl. Although not directly linked to the Arrow/Flash universe, there have been several hints. Like Gustin, Benoist has received critical acclaim for her performance as Supergirl. Only in it's first season, the series has received incredibly high viewing figures and there is enough speculation to suggest that it will be renewed for a second season. I was thrilled to hear of Benoist's being cast as Supergirl - Obviously her hair colour needed to change, but Benoist is the perfect Supergirl. Benoist captures the innocence of Kara in her early days - something that a lot of previous adaptations of the character have neglected.
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Jenner had previously guest-starred in Melissa and Joey before winning The Glee Project, landing a multi-arc storyline on Glee. Playing Ryder Lynn, one of Marley Rose's love interests, Jenner was promoted to a series regular for the fifth season, before his character was axed along with the rest of the newbies. Jenner returned to the series for the final episode, taking part in the closing performance. You may recognise Jenner as Adam Foster on Supergirl, Cat Grant's estranged son and one of Kara's potential love interests.
Nolan Gerard Funk
Nolan Gerard Funk has appeared in several TV series, but perhaps his most known role was as Glee's Hunter Clarington, the lead Warbler taking over from Gustin's Sebastian Smythe. He appeared in four episodes. Funk has also joined the Arrowverse and can be seen in the Arrow episode "The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak" where he played Cooper Seldon.
Interestingly, check out this clip from Glee that features all of the above. I think it's safe to say: on this occasion - The Flash wins.
So, regardless of whether you were a fan or not, you owe Glee some gratitude for helping to discover Gustin and Benoist. I haven't seen the highly anticipated crossover yet, but I look forward to it - both Supergirl and The Flash have never failed to deliver, so together they will be unstoppable. Both Gustin and Benoist have long careers ahead of them and I look forward to watching them both take off (pun very much intended!).