From Woodbrook to the White House to McKinley High

Damian, second from left, during his time with Celtic Thunder
Damian, second from left, during his time with Celtic Thunder

He’s the 18 year old from Derry who has sold hundreds of thousands of records, played to packed theatres across the US and who has sung for a certain Mr and Mrs Obama. Now he’s about to become a household name with a starring role in Glee - one of the biggest television shows of the decade. But his feet are firmly on the ground. Journal reporter CLAIRE ALLAN spoke to Damian McGinty.

Okay, I’m a Gleek. I’ll put my hand up and admit it. Glee has become a worldwide phenomenon and I just can’t enough of the showtunes and cheesy takes on pop classics.

Damian alongside fellow winner Samuel Larsen during the results show of The Glee Project.

Damian alongside fellow winner Samuel Larsen during the results show of The Glee Project.

So, it was a little surreal to talk to a wee boy from Derry who has won an America-wide competition to take up a place at McKinley High alongside Finn, Rachel, Puck and, my personal favourite, Mr Schuester.

And the whole experience is all a little surreal for Damian McGinty from Woodbrook too. “It’s unbelievable, mental. I’m still buzzing,” Damian told the ‘Journal’ from his hotel room in Los Angeles.

“It’s hard to put into words, but it is amazing and I’ve just been overwhelmed by the competition and the response to it.”

Like millions of other people, Damian became a fan of Glee after it hit our screens two years ago. “It’s just such a feel-good show,” he said, “And I could really relate to it. It’s essentially about being proud of who you are and about the underdog coming out on top.”

Damian McGinty

Damian McGinty

Therefore when Damian heard that the show were running a reality TV competition to find a new star for a seven episode story arc in series three - he wasted no time in sending in an audition tape. But the odds were tough.

Just short of 40,000 people applied for a chance to win The Glee Project and Damian said he was “blown away” when he attended the selection bootcamp after securing a place in the last 85.

“I cannot explain how amazing these people were. There was just so much talent in that room - I was sure I was in the wrong place. I was astounded and delighted to make it through to the final 12.”

And that, Damian said, is where the real hard work began. Filming for The Glee Project required him to be hidden away in a house with his fellow contestants for 10 weeks - their only contact with the outside world being a once a week 15 minute phonecall.

“It was pretty intense,” Damian said. “Every episode of The Glee Project was filmed over a four day period which was pretty mad. It was non-stop.

“At times it got very tough, especially when I had to sing for Ryan Murphy four times. That was hard - to find myself in the bottom three those times.”

Ryan Murphy is the producer and creator of the Glee phenomenon - and cuts an imposing figure in the The Glee Project. But according to Damian, he is actually a “very nice and approachable man” even if singing for him in the sing off could be daunting.

“Over the weeks I got to meet Ryan and got to know him. He’s very tough, but very fair. I didn’t disagree with anything he said. When he said my performance of ‘Oh Danny Boy’ (seen in last week’s Glee Project on Sky One) was rubbish, he was right.

“At the same time, when he said he saw me as a possible new Cory Monteith, who plays Finn in the show, that was amazing. You can’t beat a compliment like that!”.

Fans of The Glee Project have watched the young Derry singer through the weeks - through some very memorable moments and he has emerged as a firm favourite with viewers on both side of the Atlantic.

“I try to just be myself. In my mind there is no room for cheekiness, or bitchiness. What I do, I do from the heart and I just want to make a good job out of it. Yes, I’m like any other 18 year old and at times I’m just a lazy get who want wants to stay in my bed, but when it comes to an opportunity such as this I want to give it my all and br true to myself.”

It is clear Damian has benefitted from a sound upbringing from his proud parents Joanne and Damian senior. It is them, and his brother and sister, that he credits with keeping his feet on the ground.

“I couldn’t do it without them. They have given me amazing opportunities and have encouraged me in everything I’ve done. From day one, I have had their support but they’ll never let me get above my station! Not a chance,” he laughed.

Supporting Damian has led to some tough decisions for his parents, most notably letting him leave home for months at a time from the age of 14 to tour with Celtic Thunder - the brainchild of Derry man Phil Coulter and his business partner Sharon Browne.

“Celtic Thunder has been amazing. At times it was very tough - to be away from home and to grow up away from home - but it has been an unforgettable experience which I am so very grateful for.

“I learned so much from the experience and from the other singers and performers. They really helped me grow up - but now is time is move on, or graduate as Sharon said. I’m moving onto other things.”

Damian does not know yet when he will be filming for Glee, or any details of his character. Although he expects to be on set in the next few weeks. He said he simply “can’t wait”.

“I just can’t wait to get in and do it. And I can’t wait to meet the cast - I mean they are amazing. So talented. To meet the likes of Matthew Morrison (Mr Schu) or Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester) - who have done everything. I can’t wait to pick their brains.

“This is what I want to do and I will give it my everything. And this is an amazing opportunity. I just can’t wait to do myself, my family and everyone proud.”

The Glee Project is currently screening on Sky One on Wednesday nights at 8pm.