Rock Anthony, a 2004 Presque Isle High School graduate, has earned his first big break in Hollywood. He joins the cast of “ Glee,” the prime time FOX television series, in the upcoming season premiere, “The Purple Piano Project,” 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20.
The music comedy-drama “Glee” quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon since its 2009 pilot. Last season, the show earned two Grammy Award nominations, 19 Emmy nominations and 11 Golden Globe nominations — earning the distinction of being the most-nominated series of the year — and won four Emmy Awards.
Set in the fictional McKinley High, the show focuses on a high school glee club, “New Directions,” which brings teens from the school’s many cliques together through an array of show tunes and chart hits.
In the premiere, Anthony — whose full name is Rock Anthony Boynton II — plays the angry leader of the hockey team. “Glee” wardrobe artists transformed Anthony’s signature mop of red hair into a drastic mullet and dressed him in a red McKinley High jersey, before sending him on set to dump a slushie over the head of Cory Monteith, who plays main character Finn Hudson, star quarterback of the football team.
“Taste the rainbow, Glee-otch,” says Anthony as he pours the frozen drink over his fellow actor.
“In the first episode, you get a quick look at my character and wonder, ‘Who the heck is this guy?’” Anthony said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
“I only signed on for one episode because I’m getting close to signing on to a very huge movie,” Anthony said. “I can’t tell you what it is right now. But ‘Glee’ called a couple weeks ago and asked if I could come back, so I’ll be in the back on set on Tuesday, strapping the mullet back on. You’ll see me episode one and episode five.”
Anthony’s first “Glee” scene was an unusual experience. Not only did he douse the face of Monteith ( 2010 co-host of the Teen Choice Awards) with a slushie, he had to perform his lines in just one take. Otherwise, Monteith would have to shower and get dressed all over again.
“Me, Cory and my director, Eric Stoltz, (also director of shows such as ‘Nip/Tuck,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Law & Order’), we were talking about how we wanted the scene to look and ran through it without a slushie,” said Anthony.
In an effort to help him practice, the cast got creative and pulled out a dummy to toss water on. By the time they were ready for the big take, Anthony remembers how slippery the floor was as he walked down the high school hall in tread-free Converse sneakers. The cup was so heavy that after he splashed Monteith with the blue, frozen mess, viewers can see the cup crumple in his hand, he was holding it so tight. He manages not to slip as he turns to deliver his biting line, and he even pulls off a maniacal laugh as he continues down the hall.
“Apparently someone thought my craziness was funny, because they put it in the promo,” said Anthony, who has been tirelessly working for a role in a big TV show or film since he moved to West Hollywood six years ago.
His acting career began at age five, when he performed in his first play. In high school, he participated in all of the musicals and plays at Presque Isle High School and was also cast for performances at the University of Maine in Presque Isle.
“It’s been a long, long journey,” said Anthony. “When I moved here, I worked my butt off, saved every penny I could, used my savings and took out little personal loans to get my feet wet in L.A. Six years is a long time, but I’ve been training nonstop and have had little bits in movies … The first two years we (Anthony and his best friend Nicole Dickinson) slept on the floor. We had an air mattress, and it popped in a week and couldn’t afford another one.”
After years of nonspeaking roles and close calls — often being told that at 6 foot 3 inches, he was too tall to play a supporting or minor role — Anthony started to feel self doubt and plain frustration at not fitting the mold of a stereotypical redhead. But he wouldn’t consider giving up. He didn’t have a backup plan.
He was at the movie theaters with friends when he was bombarded with voicemails and text messages from his manager about the “Glee” audition across town. Without any time to prepare, he raced to the April Orchard’s studio.
“Everybody in there looked like they worked for ‘ GQ Magazine,’ since it was a jock part,” Anthony said. “So I went in to do my awkward comedy I do, and sure enough, a few days later, they’re saying how funny they thought I was and wanted me for the role.”
“Getting on a show with people who’ve won Golden Globes, and when the show averages 12 million viewers a week, it’s super intimidating, so I was definitely nervous,” said Anthony.
The “Glee” cast has performed for the president and first lady at the White House, appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and sang the national anthem at the World Series.
And on the first filming day of the third season, Glee’s star cast took notice of the new guy. They were determined to calm his nerves.
“They were nicest people I’ve ever worked with,” said Anthony. “Right when I got there in the makeup trailer, Cory Monteith came up and said, ‘Hi.’ Diana Agron was also very nice. Everyone came up on a separate basis and said, ‘Hi, welcome to Glee. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll be back.’”
When asked if McKinley High is anything like Presque Isle High School, Anthony said: “Oh God no, not at all. Presque Isle is very small. Everybody knows each other, and there are no cliques and only a few sports teams. I was on the baseball team and the wrestling team, and I was [in] theater. I was ‘the jock’ and in key club. So there was no division in Presque Isle High School, which is what I love about Maine, period.”
Unfortunately for Glee’s loyal fan base, commonly known as “Gleeks,” Anthony can’t reveal much about the third season, except for that “everything is going back to the basics.”
Anthony credits his recent success to the support of his best friend Nicole Dickinson, his mother, Laura Boynton, sister, Malissa Boynton, and father, Rock Anthony Boynton I, who died in May.
“He was one of my biggest supporters, and it’s my first big break, and he doesn’t get to see it, unfortunately. All kinds of great stuff has been happening, and I dedicate that all to him,” said Anthony, who also recently played minor role in “ Neighbors,” a comedy web series aiming to be picked up by television. “And a shout out to everybody in Maine, period, who have been supporting me. Every day, when I get done filming or auditions, I get on and check my phone and have messages on Facebook and Twitter saying ‘congrats.’”
Follow Anthony on Twitter at “ TheRockAnthony.” For information about “Glee,” created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, visit fox.com/glee.