Image Source: Everett Collection
Idina Menzel wasn’t prepared to be an onscreen mom. In an Aug. 12 interview with Stellar magazine, published in the New York Post, the Broadway star recalled how it felt to take on the role of Lea Michele‘s mom on “Glee” when she was only 38 years old. “You know, you’re worried you’re not going to work again, and then people hire you to be someone’s mother when you probably should be their older sister,” she said of her iconic character, Shelby Corcoran. In actuality, Menzel is only 15 years older than Michele and had only just given birth to her first child when she accepted the job.
“I had my son Walker, and then three months later, I got the call and so I said ‘yes,'” she said, adding that she had trouble fitting into her costumes because she was still breastfeeding. “It just wasn’t great for the ego,” she admitted. “But I sucked it up and sucked myself into my clothes, and was excited to work with [‘Glee’ creator] Ryan Murphy and be a part of that hit show.” Menzel’s initial wariness about playing Michele’s mother despite their proximity in age stems from a larger, ongoing ageism issue for actors in Hollywood — a kind of occupational discrimination faced primarily by women actors over 30.
Menzel’s character made her debut in the season one episode, “Hell-o,” where she was introduced as the director of a rival glee club called Vocal Adrenaline. Once her true identity as Rachel Berry’s mother was revealed, the two characters shared a handful of unforgettable performances together, including an inspired “Les Miserables” duet and an emotional rendition of “West Side Story”‘s “Somewhere.” While she was hesitant to accept the role as Rachel Berry’s mother, Menzel and Michele undoubtedly make an excellent team, and a legendary mother-daughter duo.