A few years ago, Cobb County native Becca Tobin was a high school student active in the performing arts. Today she’s on a hit show about high school students active in the performing arts. The 2004 Wheeler High School graduate plays caustic Kitty, the mean-girl cheerleader on “Glee.” We talked with Tobin, 26, by phone on New Year’s Eve to discuss her journey from metro Atlanta to the popular Fox show.
Q: Talk about preparing for the role of Kitty.
A: Playing the mean girl is one of the most fun jobs in show business. She’s pretty venomous. She’s very funny and quick which maybe makes the sting land a little more gently. I have an older sister. No one brings out the mean girl in me like she did when I was younger. We’re best of friends now but I kind of draw on those memories.
Q: Has your past experience as a performing-arts student helped you connect to “Glee?”
A: Musical theater was not the cool thing to do when I was in high school. Thanks to “Glee” it’s become very trendy. There was the resident group of mean girls who liked to talk trash about me. I experienced a little bit of alienation and it got to the point where I didn’t want to go.
Q: Did you feel bullied?
A: I got made fun of a lot. I was the girl who everyone knew did musicals and it was really dorky. I got told by a few girls I was never going to be a star, never going to be successful. I was some kind of poser actress. That was kind of hurtful.
Q: How did that experience affect you?
A: It helped me get a thick skin for the audition process. I’ve always been very ambitious and goal driven and goal oriented. I moved to New York when I was 18 and wanted to start working right away.
Q: Do you come from a singing/acting family?
A: My parents are both attorneys. My sister grew up to be an attorney. I was definitely different. They really embraced my differences and really cultivated the passion. They put me in classes, singing lessons, acting camp. They were so supportive. I didn’t love academics. I needed an outlet.
Q: Is “Glee” a demanding job?
A: It’s very time consuming. It takes so much energy. My biggest problem was figuring out how to balance my personal life once I started “Glee.” When I’m there I’m having the time of my life but then I get home and I crash and I want to see no one and talk to no one. I’m remembering how important it is to call my mom.
Q: Have you been able to return home since you started this job?
A: I got back to Atlanta for two separate trips for maybe 24 hours each. I have a little nephew and it’s important for me to make the effort.
Q: You made your on-screen debut in a scene with Jane Lynch (who plays cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester). What was that like?
A: It was very unexpected but exciting to say the least. If you had told me last year that I would be on a television show with Jane Lynch I would never have believed it!
Q: Do you sort of hope the mean girls who made fun of you in high school are watching? Is there anything you’d like to say to them now?
A: I hope we’ve all grown up at this point. I don’t have any ill will. Maybe that’s all the yoga I’ve done in the past few years.
Q: What’s your message to young people who are going through what you endured in high school?
A: If you really love what you’re doing, don’t care what anybody else thinks. If I had done what everyone else was doing when I graduated from high school I would be pretty unhappy. Once you’re out of high school it’s easy to find people who love doing what you love to do. There’s a big world out there. It’s pretty incredible once you have the courage to step out of the bubble.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I don’t really like to make plans. The goal is to continue to work. I don’t know where it’s going to lead me. I just like to think positively and do good work.
Here’s a video clip of Becca Tobin: