Singer-actor Matthew Morrison, known to millions of “Gleeks” around the world as Mr. Schuester on the Fox hit show “Glee,” has long been an advocate for gay rights, but even he was “blown away” to find out that Hawaii has yet to legalize marriage for same-sex couples.
Morrison, 34, a Golden Globe, Emmy and Tony nominee, was the guest of honor at the 2013 Equality Gala on Saturday, Sept. 21, presented by the Sheraton Waikiki at Aloha Tower Marketplace. The event was a fundraiser for the Equality Hawaii Foundation, dedicated to securing equality for Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and a leader in the campaign to change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
“This is a fight that I’m so passionate about,” Morrison told the crowd. “I come from the theater world, and so many of my friends are gay, are lesbian, that I had to be a straight ally and a voice for my friends.
“I thought that one of the 13 states to have marriage equality had to have been Hawaii, and I was so blown away to hear that you guys were still fighting the fight, and that made my trip over here more important.”
Morrison got a boost early in his musical career when he was tapped for the spotlight by no less than Don Ho. While visiting Hawaii in the mid-1990s with a group from
Orange County (Calif.) High School of the Arts, “he kind of picked me out of this whole singing group I was in,” Morrison told the Star-Advertiser.
For several summers after that, Morrison returned to the isles to sing backup for the legendary isle entertainer.
Another local connection is the ukulele. Morrison started playing the iconic instrument about three years ago. “It’s one of those things that’s in my trailer all the time, so on my downtime I try to play around with it,” he said.
Looking ahead to the new season of “Glee,” which premieres 8 p.m. Thursday featuring the music of The Beatles, Morrison said he has no idea what challenges await his character.
“The show is gearing more toward the kids, rightfully so, and a lot of my stuff has been, ‘This is the lesson for the week, kids.’ I get the scripts about a week in advance, and we’ve done three episodes so far,” Morrison said.
The third episode is a tribute to cast member Corey Monteith, who died of a drug overdose in July. Shooting the tribute was “incredibly hard. We mourned Corey in our own way, and now we have to mourn Finn, the character. We don’t say how he died; it’s just a memorial episode and it’s beautifully written.”
Looking back over the story lines that have made “Glee” must-see viewing for millions since it debuted in 2009, Morrison appreciates the show’s focus on social issues.
“I’m just so proud of what the show has done for bullying, for marriage equality, for teen pregnancy,” he said. “Just opening the door and opening the conversation up to households.”
Morrison, who co-starred in the Lincoln Center production of “South Pacific” with Hawaii’s Loretta Ables Sayre, put a Broadway standard in a fresh perspective when he serenaded the crowd Saturday with “We Kiss in a Shadow” from another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The King and I.” The song is a duet sung by a man and woman who are very much in love but whose love must remain hidden. Morrison suggested the lyrics about a secret and forbidden love could refer to closeted same-sex relationships as well.