It’s impossible to ignore the natural charisma of Melissa Benoist, whose dynamic performance as Marley Rose has made her the star to watch among the divas at Glee’s William McKinley High. Ironically, her first day on set was more like those she spent as a shy student in Denver. “It was a choir scene, and I don’t think I said a word,” she admits. “At school, when it came to being social, I had no idea how to do it.”
Fast-forward a year, and the 24-year-old has transformed into a confident leading lady, belting out showstopping performances of classics like “New York State of Mind” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Her charm is so infectious it won over the heart of costar Blake Jenner, the Danny to her Sandy, both on and off the screen.
We clicked on his first day, during a ‘Born to Hand Jive’ dance rehearsal,” Melissa gushes about her real-life romance with Jenner, who plays fellow New Directions member Ryder on the show. “I love talking about it. Blake is amazing!” Despite being all giggles at the mention of his name, she firmly asserts that this is more than just a crush. “The chemistry you see with Marley and Ryder is not acting.”
Glee creator Ryan Murphy envisioned Marley as a relatable girl next door who would face problems common to many teens. “My first week, he said Marley would struggle with an eating disorder,” she remembers. Though conquering such issues on screen is emotionally draining, she says it’s also rewarding. “I still get letters from girls telling me I’ve given them hope. It’s awesome.” She’s come a long way from her days spent watching Judy Garland films with her grandma, but she knows future success isn’t guaranteed. “It’s all extremely hard,” Melissa says of shooting up to seventeen hours at a time. “But if you work your butt off and never settle, nothing will stop you.”