Melissa Benoist's life has changed forever: The Littleton native has been cast on "Glee" — and she already has been Slushied. That's when a bully throws a Slurpee-like frozen beverage in your face. And, yes, it hurts.

"Oh, it's awful," Benoist said during a break from taping her initial episodes, which begin airing at 8 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 13) on Fox. "It was like a permanent brain freeze for two minutes straight. That cold stuff is just sitting right on your bare forehead and scalp, permeating your brain."

But at least they got it done in one take. Kevin McHale, who plays Artie, told Benoist he once had to do it 19 times. "I can't even imagine," she said.

Melissa Benoist starred with Denver actor Patric Case in the Town Hall Arts Center’s production of "Footloose, the Musical" in 2007.
Melissa Benoist starred with Denver actor Patric Case in the Town Hall Arts Center's production of "Footloose, the Musical" in 2007. Here's a photo gallery of Benoist's stage work in Denver metro-area theater productions. ( Provided by Town Hall Arts Center )

Reading about herself on perezhilton.com "was kind of the weirdest thing ever," Benoist said. She has been named one of zimbio.com's Fresh Faces of Fall TV — and she hasn't even been on the air yet. But if life as she knew it ended in late July, when she survived several grueling rounds of cross-country "Glee" auditions, Benoist seriously can't even begin to imagine what will happen once America meets her as Marley Rose, a squeaky-clean, 16-year-old sophomore ... with a secret.

Just how much are series creators banking on her? Thursday's season-opening episode is titled "The New Rachel." And the new Rachel is ... well, Marley.


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The episode opens with series star Lea Michele (Rachel) singing Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" from the Big Apple, while Marley sings of her own Gotham aspirations from the Ohio hallways of McKinley High School.

"It's really crazy, definitely. I haven't really had much time to process it," said Benoist, a graduate of Arapahoe High School in Littleton. "I am bracing myself for the realness that everyone is telling me is going to hit once it starts to air. Right now, I am working 12 to 16 hours a day, so it feels like a job ... a really awesome job."

Publicity photo with Jane Lynch announcing the arrival of Colorado’s Melissa Benoist on "Glee."
Publicity photo with Jane Lynch announcing the arrival of Colorado's Melissa Benoist on "Glee." (Provided by FOX)

The new Finn-and-Rachel will be Jake-and-Marley. Jake is Puckerman's bad-boy half-brother, played by Jacob Artist. You know it's a big deal when series co-creator Ryan Murphy tweets out: "GLEE's amazingly adorable new choir-room additions (are) Jacob Artist and Melissa Benoist ... soon to be known as JARLEY."

Yes, things are about to change for Melissa Benoist, who has made guest spots on "Homeland," "The Good Wife" and "Law & Order: SVU."

"All of the other people in the cast have been telling me, 'You need to go and do as many public things as you can right now,' " she said. "Go to Disneyland and enjoy your anonymity while it lasts."

Littleton’s Melissa Benoist: Slushied on the Season 4 premiere of "Glee!"
Littleton's Melissa Benoist: Slushied on the Season 4 premiere of "Glee!" (Provided by FOX)

Funny: As a teen, Benoist performed anonymously at Disneyland for three summers with the Academy of Theatre Arts run by Paul Dwyer and Alann Worley in Littleton. Local theater audiences watched Benoist grow up on area stages starring in productions like "Cinderella" and "Bye Bye Birdie" at Town Hall Arts Center, and as Peron's young mistress the Country Dinner Playhouse's final production, "Evita." In 2006, The Denver Post named Benoist one of Colorado's five "Can't Miss Kids."

She didn't.

Benoist points to two turning-point productions: As Bebe in "A Chorus Line," directed by Michael Gorman at Town Hall in 2006, and, more recently, starring in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" as a senior at Marymount Manhattan College in New York.

"When I did 'A Chorus Line,' that changed my life," Benoist said, "I think that was totally a precursor to this experience, because it was singing and acting and dancing — and having to be honest doing them all at once. We moved at a really fast pace, and it didn't stop. It was a really grueling and challenging experience, and I learned so much." Playing Millie, she added, was her first time having to do all that as the star.

Fast-forward to her first day on the "Glee" set, when was reduced to fangirl sitting 10 feet away from Matthew Morrison, who plays teacher Will Schuester. "I just kept staring at him, saying to myself, 'Is this my life?' " she said. "I saw him on Broadway in 'A Light in the Piazza.' Seeing him right there in front of me was surreal."

The 23-year-old Benoist is very comfortable with how 16-year-old Benoist has turned out. "Oh my gosh, every day I just thank the universe that I am as lucky as I am," she said. After going long stretches without work, she's plunging herself into "Glee" knowing full well that even though the ride hasn't really started yet, it will inevitably one day stop.

"So when you get this kind of opportunity," she said, "you can't do anything but run with it and live each day fully immersed."





More on Melissa Benoist: Read the entire interview

Read what Melissa Benoist had to say about the grueling audition process she had to pass to land her new role on "Glee," how she feels about the overt sexual nature of the show, and who among the cast of series regulars have been particularly welcoming. Click here for the full transcript of John Moore's interview with Melissa Benoist.


"Glee": Season 4

Episodes begin airing at 8 p.m. Thursday on Fox-31 (Note new day)


"Glee" fans: Meet Melissa Benoist in photos

Melissa Benoist of Littleton is a new series regular on "Glee." Here's a look back at her theatrical roots in Denver metro-area theater productions.


A look back: Our 2006 Colorado "Can't Miss Kids"

In 2006, we profiled five young actors who were demonstrating real potential to one day perform professionally - and new "Glee" cast member Melissa Benoist was one of them.