On Wednesday night, Darren Criss debuted one of his most high-profile roles yet as Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. It's also his most intense role to date — an unhinged serial killer — that's expertly delivered by someone who, up until now, has kept things pretty lighthearted. For many people, however, this might be the first time you're seeing the 30-year-old actor. His role in ACS is garnering much more press than any of his other work, and to those finally getting on board: welcome! The Darren Criss fan club has been waiting for you.
While the actor's role on Glee has been described as his breakout, I won't fault you for perhaps not knowing about Criss's first encounter with fame, because it wasn't movies, or TV, or even music. It was the internet.
Almost ten years ago, the lights went up on a young Criss in A Very Potter Musical, a fan made musical based on the Harry Potter books written and performed by StarKid productions, a theater company formed at the University of Michigan in 2009. It's not uncommon for universities to have their own theater companies, it is uncommon that a company's first ever production would rack up views in the millions, now sitting pretty at over 14 million on Act 1, Part 1 alone.
Naturally, this led to a sequel, and while StarKid has continued to produce musicals, Criss took a different path when he landed a spot on Glee in 2010. Imagine that you're a teenage Harry Potter nerd and your celebrity crush lives inside of a YouTube video. Then, you see this:
Watching Criss become a fan favorite on Glee for almost five seasons felt like a triumph for geeks everywhere, and the support of these day-one fans is something Criss told Refinery29 in an interview (brag) that he'd never take for granted.
Clearly, Criss has been doing well these past few years. He has a band with his brother called Computer Games. He had roles in American Horror Story, Supergirl, and the Transformers: Robots In Disguise animated TV show, but none of his work has managed to spark widespread interest the way ACS has. He just landed a profile in The New York Times, glowing write-ups in places like The Daily Beast and Newsweek, and appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and Good Morning America.
When I see stuff like this, as opposed to the knee-jerk I-knew-him-first reaction, I'm positively elated. Yes! Finally! Criss is great, and after watching just the first episode of ACS, I can tell he's going to surprise even long-time fans with just how talented and emotional his work can be. Until then, here are some flyers for the fan club. We meet every week. Bring snacks.
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