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10 Years After Glee, Dianna Agron Is Ready to Return to Her First Love

After Glee ended in 2015, the actor says she needed a break from musical theater. But now, fresh off a recent cabaret residency at Café Carlyle, Agron has a new outlook on her career.

April 8, 2022

Dianna Agron

Julian Ungano and Tommy Agriodimas

Dianna Agron is ready to let people in…on her own terms. The Glee star best known for her portrayal of pregnant Christian cheerleader Quinn Fabray is back in a new film by The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik. In As They Made Us, Agron plays a recently divorced Jewish mother of two desperately trying to care for her dying father (Dustin Hoffman) and toxic mother (Candice Bergen) while grappling with the truth of her tumultuous upbringing. Despite the millions of millennials who will forever associate Agron with that cunning member of New Directions, she has a lot more in common with Abigail.

“I responded immediately to the emotionality of the film, the central theme of a family struggling to handle that end of life,” the 35-year-old actor tells Glamour over Zoom. Her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Agron was just 15 years old, and in 2020, Agron separated from her husband, Mumford & Sons guitarist Winston Marshall, after three years of marriage. “I have a lot of personal truths that sit in the film. I’ve had a father who’s been sick for a very long time, and it’s a very stressful thing to contend with.”

Dianna Agron and Dustin Hoffman in As They Made Us.

“I was finally ready to engage in storytelling that felt similar to my own circumstances,” she says of her decision to sign on to Bialik’s directorial debut. Still, it’s clear when speaking to Agron that she has managed to build walls between herself and the consequences of fame that come with starring in an ultrapopular teen drama that premiered in 2009 and gained popularity alongside the rise of social media. There’s the Dianna we think we know, who speaks in a comforting transatlantic accent with a slightly British lilt, despite her mostly Southern upbringing, and a Dianna that’s just for her. But with this film and the conclusion of her third cabaret residency at Café Carlyle in New York City, she is finding new ways to balance the two.

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Below, Dianna Agron opens up about As They Made Us, Glee, therapy, and her hope to return to her first love: musicals.

Glamour: Along with everything else your character is dealing with, Abigail is going through a recent divorce. Was that a difficult experience for you to film or a cathartic one?

Dianna Agron: That aspect of the storytelling in this piece feels so dissimilar to what I’ve gone through in my life. It really was the father-daughter relationship that was the piece that felt so personal to me. And what was interesting about exploring that with Dustin was that it always felt like something shared between him and me. It really did not feel anything like my relationship with my father in the end, which I was a bit surprised about.

He was so engaging from the get-go. In our first rehearsal, he was crying during one of the scenes that was very emotional. I really quickly realized how he was going to bring everything—so I absolutely wanted to bring everything to the table. There’s this scene, this very tender scene, between us toward the end of the film, where the tears I am shedding are fully because I am grieving his loss, his character’s loss, and what we have shared in the piece. That was very interesting because I really did think more of my experiences would be present.

With the pandemic and everything that you’ve been working on and going through, what have you learned about yourself in the past two years?

How resilient I am and, collectively, how resilient so many people are. But also how necessary it is to ask for help when you need it. My biggest takeaway was that I’m really happy to set aside more time for myself, the people that are so important to me in my life, and really carve out the time to have a more balanced lifestyle. Being busy and blowing past things that you should be doing for yourself is something that we can all subscribe to. I really made a conscious effort to subscribe to just healthier living in a more full way.

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Mental health and generational trauma are huge themes in As They Made Us. Is therapy something that has helped you?

Absolutely! It’s something I’m participating in again because I had taken a long break. I thought it would be healthy, especially after what’s happened in the last couple of years, to reengage. I think mental health is something that should be taken very seriously, and there shouldn’t be shame surrounding getting help, wherever that is coming from. But it is still stigmatized, and I don’t think there’s enough encouragement around it, especially depending on who you’re speaking to. In my family, that was not something that was ever thought of or encouraged at all. Not to throw any shade toward them, but it’s just about what you grew up with and what your community kind of encourages. If that’s not something that’s brought up, you might not even think about that as an option.

Dianna Agron and Simon Helberg in As They Made Us