STA­MOS GETS HIS ‘GLEE’ ON

Los Angeles Times - - Calendar - Yvonne Vil­lar­real

It’s just an­other day on the set of “Glee” and Lea Michele, who plays spir­ited songstress Rachel Berry, is in her school­girl at­tire, roam­ing around with a salad in hand and a fe­male com­pan­ion by her side.

Then John Sta­mos walks by. Michele plays it cool, greet­ing him ca­su­ally. But as Sta­mos passes, the re­ac­tion that has shad­owed him through­out his ca­reer re­veals it­self:

“Oh, my God. That’s Un­cle Jesse,” Michele’s friend says in a muf­fled voice.

Ac­tu­ally, it’s John Sta­mos. But the char­ac­ter he’s best known for is never too far be­hind.

The dark-haired star achieved heart­throb sta­tus while de­vel­op­ing his com­edy chops on the de­cid­edly low­brow “Full House,” a hit sit­comthat ran for eight sea­sons in the late ’80s and early ’90s — and con­tin­ues its whole­some in­flu­ence in syn­di­ca­tion. Sta­mos has been try­ing to shake this al­ter ego ever since.

a den­tist who sparks a re­la­tion­ship with his ger­mo­pho­bic pa­tient Emma.

“I love John be­cause I think he’s a mix­ture of dark­ness and great sweet­ness, and that’s the role we are writ­ing for him on ‘Glee,’ ” Mur­phy said. “I have al­ways been knocked out by his Broad­way side — he’s a great singer — so I wanted to show­case that, in­tro­duce peo­ple to that who haven’t seen it.... As an added ben­e­fit, it’s al­ways fun to see the fe­male crew mem­bers swoon when he walks on set. In fact, some of the men as well. I mean, he’s Sta­mos.”

The awestruck frenzy that sur­rounds him is minis­cule, Sta­mos said, com­pared to the hys­te­ria sur­round­ing the plucky young ac­tors of “Glee,” now part of the overzeal­ous pub­lic­ity ma­chine that comes with star­ring in a hit se­ries. He ru­mi­nated about the days when he was just start­ing out, days be­fore 24-7 tabloid scru­tiny was syn­ony­mous with fame.

“Things were so dif­fer­ent back then,” he said. “We could go any­where, and we could do any­thing. There were scream­ing girls and that kind of stuff, but there weren’t a mil­lion cam­eras. We didn’t even know what the word ‘pa­parazzi’ meant. These kids now can’t live their life.”

In re­cent years, the ac­tor has been strug­gling to free him­self from dwelling too heav­ily on his youth.

“Look, I’ve gone into adult­hood kick­ing and scream­ing,” he said. “It’s tak­ing me years to get fo­cused. Learn­ing doesn’t come easy.”

And the lessons for the ac­tor, who was raised in Cy­press, keep com­ing.

Ear­lier this sum­mer, a Michi­gan cou­ple were con­victed of try­ing to ex­tort $680,000 from Sta­mos by threat­en­ing to sell old pho­tos of him with strip­pers and co­caine to the tabloids un­less he paid up.

“The ex­tor­tion thing… it was hor­rific,” he said. “I was made to feel feel­ings that I’ve never felt. I knew it wasn’t gonna be pretty, but I didn’t know it was go­ing to be that ugly. There was just some­thing shady go­ing on. It’s so mad­den­ing ’cause you’re sit­ting in the court­room and you’re go­ing, ‘Come on, where are you get­ting that from?’ It was like I woke in the mid­dle of a night­mare.”

Sta­mos said the ex­pe­ri­ence has led him to be more in­tro­spec­tive … and more care­ful in how he poses in pho­tos with friends and fans.

“I know ev­ery ac­tor says this, but I re­ally do just want to do good work,” Sta­mos said. “I want to work with good peo­ple. And that’s what I’m work­ing to­ward these days. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing thing to be in the mid­dle.”

Along the way, there have been sev­eral high­lights in his wide-rang­ing ca­reer: per­form­ing with the Beach Boys; stints on Broad­way; a role as a doc­tor on “ER”; and a self­dep­re­cat­ing turn on the just-com­pleted sea­son of “En­tourage.”

But there have been more than a few low points in his work and per­sonal life: Sev­eral se­ries de­vel­oped around him that came and went quickly; a high-pro­file divorce from Re­becca Romijn; an em­bar­rass­ing, slurred TV ap­pear­ance in Aus­tralia; and an ex­tor­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing peo­ple who said they had in­crim­i­nat­ing pic­tures that never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

The highs and lows have po­si­tioned Sta­mos, 47, in what he calls “the mid­dle.”

“For all in­tents and pur­poses I should have been long gone by now; a lot of my con­tem­po­raries are,” he said days be­fore at his Bev­erly Hills home, where the ac­tor spo­rad­i­cally wa­vered from his an­swers to ask his own ques­tions — “Do you cook?” “Where did you grow up?” “Do you love Face­book?” “How old are you?” — while also keep­ing watch over a boil­ing pot of wa­ter. (He was mak­ing ravi­oli.)

“I’ve been com­fort­ably at the low part of the mid­dle for a long time. I’d like to say that it’s strat­egy, but … it’s just good tim­ing.”

The clock is on his side these days.

His heart­throb per­sona was tweaked in the lat­est sea­son of “En­tourage,” where he played a styl­ized ver­sion of him­self — a self-in­dul­gent ping­pong en­thu­si­ast (he trained for weeks, only to have the ball dig­i­tally in­serted) cast to play Johnny Drama’s brother in a TV se­ries. “You spend your ca­reer play­ing a nice guy and one spot on ‘En­tourage’ can to­tally burst the bub­ble. Peo­ple see it and go, ‘ I knew he was a jerk.’”

He’s fol­low­ing that up with a stint on “Glee” — a “golden ticket” for any ac­tor, he said.

“It’s the time of the dis­pos­able celebrity, al­most,” Sta­mos said. “There are so many celebri­ties and ac­tors out there. Peo­ple are beg­ging to get into tele­vi­sion; movie stars who used to cringe at the thought of do­ing TV are all about it now. So to still be in the game … I guess I’m a sur­vivor.”

His en­try into the glossy, up­beat world of Fox’s crit­i­cal dar­ling has a cer­tain irony, con­sid­er­ing that last sea­son, McKin­ley High guid­ance coun­selor Emma Pills­bury (Jayma Mays) said of Sta­mos: “They say it takes cer­tainty more than tal­ent to make a star. I mean, look at John Sta­mos.”

“I was like, ‘Those bas­tards!,’” Sta­mos re­called. “I re­mem­ber I called the head of the stu­dio. I was so mad. And I boy­cotted the show … yeah, I was the only one in the world that boy­cotted ‘Glee.’ Me, the guy who’s on the show now.”

“Glee” cre­ator Ryan Mur­phy had, 10 years prior, pitched Sta­mos a se­ries about a male hooker — “which, in my opin­ion, is a role Amer­ica wants to see him play,” Mur­phy teased. Sta­mos “po­litely de­clined,” but the two have stayed in touch ever since.

Now, Sta­mos says he is set to ap­pear in 10 episodes as Carl How­ell,

yvonne.vil­lar­real@latimes.com

TIME WARP:

Kirk McKoy

John Sta­mos plays a “Rocky Horror”-fu­eled scene with Jayma Mays.

ON BREAK:

Kirk McKoy

Be­tween takes on the set, Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) checks her mes­sages while Matthew Mor­ri­son (Will Schuester) takes a moment to do a lit­tle read­ing.

AND THEN YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?

John Sta­mos, left, chats with the episode’s di­rec­tor, Adam Shankman, on the set of “Glee.” That’s Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) in the back­ground.

IN CHAR­AC­TER:

Mem­bers of the glee club gather in the choir room, in a scene for the hit show. Sta­mos is guest-star­ring on sev­eral episodes of “Glee” — a “golden ticket” for any ac­tor, he said.

TAKE FIVE:

Dianna Agron (Quinn) gets a re­touch, while Kevin McHale (Ar­tie) does a lit­tle skit in his free mo­ments be­tween scenes.

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