You know you’ve made it as an actor when Bill O’Reilly freaks out about the influence your character’s “alternative” lifestyle might have on the country’s youth.
Consider Alex Newell’s career made.
Newell plays Wade “Unique” Adams, the first transgender teen character on American television on the popular musical series Glee.
And O’Reilly doesn’t like it.
“If you make it glamorous in a program like Glee, which is undeniably a good program…a lot of these dopey kids are confused about who they are.” he said last year after Newell’s character was introduced.
Newell has a very straightforward response.
“It’s wrong to call people dopey,” he told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez on Thursday. “When it’s something this poignant and such a big part of the society, you can’t call kids dopey because this is something that they’re actually going through, this is what they feel on the inside, there’s nothing dopey about it.”
While the 21-year-old actor enjoys playing with fashion, wearing heels and painting his nails because, he said, “it’s fun,” he added that the biggest misconception is that he is transgender and in the process of transitioning.
He takes the confusion as a compliment.
“Some people don’t understand that I do play a character,” he said. “I must be doing it well if they really think that I’m living my character’s life.”
That character has struck a chord with people for its realistic and respectful portrayal of a transgender teen. The show has touched on Unique’s family’s concerns about gender presentation and tackled school policies about which bathrooms transgender teens are allowed to use at school, a negotiation many real-life transgender kids experience on a daily basis.
“It’s just been a blessing,” Newell said of playing the character.
While people like O’Reilly haven’t been positive, those close to Newell support him.
“You’re my son, you’re my only son,” he recalled his mother saying. “It’s just me and you in this world and I will love you regardless of what you choose in your life.”
The actor also addressed what it’s been like to return to the Glee set after the death of Cory Monteith, who portrayed the popular character Finn Hudson on the show.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “We lost such a giant part of us, a giant part of the show, a giant part of everything that we do everyday. But we try to do it in honor of him. It’s his show. It still is his show.”