It’s no secret that the fictional character Rachel Berry is modeled after Lea Michele, the actress who portrayed her for six seasons of Glee. In fact, Lea Michele inadvertently created Rachel Berry during her audition for the show.
In the video embedded below Lea speaks about her first Glee audition, which happened in August 2008. Lea was under the impression that the audition had gone horribly because of several mishaps. It was those very mishaps that helped get her the part, and helped write the character of Rachel Berry.
Everyone in the room exploded into laughter when she piano player made an error and she turned to him with a perfectionist’s intensity to say “We have to go back to the second verse.”
Laughter erupted again during a scene Rachel thought was very serious. “This isn’t supposed to be funny, that was my serious monologue,” Rachel said, which made them laugh even more. “And I gonna do it again and I want you to all cry.”
Sometimes people are humorous because they pretending to be, but in this case it was Lea’s natural reaction to things that triggered laughter in others. Looking back, Lea says that she didn’t realize at the time that she was “doing what was and became Rachel Berry.” Although she thought she had lost the part, Lea had actually brought Rachel Berry to life with her own personality.
This audition wasn’t the only one that helped seal the deal. Lea Michele got into a car accident right before one of her auditions, and instead of dealing with the aftermath of her car being totaled, she went straight into the audition.
“The crash was like an out-of-body experience. The only thing I remember is leaving my totaled car in the middle of the street and running up the lot and straight into my audition, where word of what just happened had already reached the casting director,” Rachel recalls in her memoir Brunette Ambition. (affiliate link)
“They told me to go home and that I could audition another day, but I said absolutely not, that I was there to audition for Rachel Berry, and audition I would,” she writes. “I asked for two minutes in the ladies’ room to pull myself together and ducked out the door.”
In bonus content for the Glee: Season 1 (affiliate link) DVD release, Lea said that she was pulling glass out of her hair during the audition, which must have made quite an impression.
Lea proved she was willing to go to extreme lengths to make her dreams come true. This raw ambition to pursue the role of Rachel Berry at any costs, even to her personal health and safety, again crystalized who Rachel Berry would be.
Although the new Investigation Discovery documentary series The Price of Glee claims that Lea got into a car accident on her way to the first audition, Lea actually had her crash right before her last audition.
Lea says she also made a lifelong friend in a woman who ran to help her after the accident. Stephanie was a complete stranger to Lea at the time, but she accompanied her to her audition and helped clean her up in the bathroom. Lea didn’t have any connections in L.A. and was about to embark on a life-changing experience with Glee. “That day, I got the job of my life and a new best friend,” Lea wrote in her memoir about that intense day.
The three-part series The Price of Glee airs Saturday and Sunday (1/21/23 and 1/22/23 on Investigation Discovery and is currently streaming on Discovery +)