LOS ANGELES -- Twelve young performers are trying to leap from obscurity to instant stardom on the Oxygen competition series "The Glee Project."
Winning the grand prize means a multi-episode role on season three of "Glee."
It was easy for casting director Robert Ulrich to spot potential "Glee" material. He was the key player in casting the original series, which includes Clovis East graduate Chris Colfer, and he used the same format to pick the players for the competition.
He saw 34,000 people on MySpace, then conducted industry auditions in Los Angeles and also casting calls in Chicago and Fort Worth. He watched industry people from all over the United States on tape. A total of 40,000 potential "Glee-ks" were narrowed to 85 and then cut to 12.
"Like the 'Glee' show, 'The Glee Project' has been open the same way to professionals, to people who have never sung but in their shower," Ulrich says. "We had Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison starring on Broadway, and we had Chris Colfer who had never had a professional job. This show gives the kids the same opportunity."
Hopefuls come in a variety of shapes and from many places around the globe. The only restriction was the winner had to look like a high school student.
A girl who was born with one arm much shorter than the other arm was part of the Fort Worth audition. The reaction from the casting crew was that it was amazing to be involved with a show where people's differences are seen as a strength. The goal isn't to cast a specific type of actor or actress.
Ulrich and "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy went against traditional casting to select the "Glee" cast.
"When Chris Colfer was driven from Central California right after graduating from high school and auditioned in my office, there was no role for him. He was so unique and obviously amazing," Ulrich says. "So when I took him to Ryan, I said, 'Ryan, there's no part for this kid, but would you see him?' Ryan obviously saw him.
"So we're working with somebody like Ryan Murphy who is so open to writing for people. As a casting director, that's just a blessing, to somebody who thinks so out of the box."