HFPA in Conversation: Darren Criss, the Multitalented 'Piano Man"

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros May 30, 2018
Actor Darren Criss

phillip falcone/getty images

HFPA journalist Ruben Nepales met Darren Criss on a busy day at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Recently, Criss has been seen on FX's The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story playing a serial killer based on real-life criminal Andrew Cunanan. He is currently touring with his Glee co-star Lea Michele.

At the beginning of this interview, Criss looks back to his childhood and confesses he didn’t like performing if he was told to do so. “If it was on my own fruition to do a song and dance number, then I'd be happy to. I guess I always wanted to because I enjoyed it, but if you told me to do something, I was like, no way.”

He grew up in San Francisco and Honolulu in a family he describes as very musical. “I grew up in a household where a lot of singing and music was around.”

In high school he was given a choice: did he want to be an Oscar or Grammy winner in the yearbook. “It was polite way to say you did music or theatre. And because I did both I got to choose. And the only reason why I chose the Grammy was because I thought it'd be a fun picture with my friend Michelle because we both played a ton of instruments, so I brought all my instruments and we took like a fun yearbook photo.”

After college, he formed a musical theatre StarKid with his friends and played Harry Potter on stage. In an interesting overlap, later in his life, he'd replace Daniel Radcliffe in the play How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. “When we met, I didn't bring it up because I think it's the pink elephant in the room. But this was years ago when I met him right before I did the show. He's always been very friendly. We see each other around town every now and then and there are more interesting things to talk about than Harry Potter when we're together for the brief moments we are together.”

Listen to the podcast to learn what he thinks about his stage debut at ten years old, what being a younger brother means to him, why he likes to introduce people to each other, why being part of Glee was like a lottery ticket for him, why he is only a piano man in his and his fiancée's piano bar, Tramp Stamp Granny's, how playing Andrew Cunanan affected him and what he seeks from the future - amongst other things.

Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.