Damian McGinty may be only 19 but he is already famous to international audiences as Irish exchange student Rory Flanagan in Glee. Yet despite his exceptionally high profile television role, and the fact that he has more than a quarter of a million followers on Facebook and Twitter the Woodbrook man’s feet remain firmly on the ground and he has not lost his Mr Nice Guy exterior.
In fact despite the fact the last year has seen him rocket to success, and perform with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Mary J Blige and Lady Gaga, he remains very much an approachable, down to earth young man - proud of where he is from and determined to get to where he wants to be.
“I remember that conversation with my dad,” he said. “I remember saying to him that I thought it was going to be a good year. It turned out not half bad,” he laughed with the trademark twinkle in his eyes that has garnered a host of marriage proposals from teenagers the world over.
Although Damian is a seasoned performer, having toured with Celtic Thunder since the age of 15, he admits 2011 has seen him take his career to a “whole new level”.
“It’s mad to think about it,” he said. “I auditioned for The Glee Project, to win a role on Glee, in January. Then it was just a matter of taking things a step at a time. First it was being selected for the final 85 in the Project and then the final 12.
“Then it was a matter of going through it week by week and trying to stay in the competition.” While this was going on Damian was also trying to sort out the visa which would allow him to continue to work in the states - which he was able to secure just an hour before the deadline for the competition.
“It was strange the way it worked out, but it felt like it was meant to be. And in the end I won The Glee Project, which was just unbelievable.”
As a fan of the show, Damian admits his first day on set was “just a bit scary”. In fact the first time he got to meet his fellow cast members, including Broadway stars Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison was in the show’s famous choir room when he sang a solo on his first day’s filming.
“That was a little intimidating,” he laughed. “The cast have been together for three years. They all know each other really and have really bonded as a cast so coming into that and getting to know them - that was a bit scary.
“Even though I had experience with Celtic Thunder, this was on a whole different level. This is the very top of where you could be on American TV. It is just the most exciting thing.”
And Damian has already formed close bonds with his fellow cast members including Cory Monteith who plays Finn Hudson and Chord Overstreet who plays Sam Evans.
“I genuinely get on with all the cast. They are brilliant, talented people who have made me feel so welcome. Cory Monteith is just brilliant to work with and we have a laugh and Chord Overstreet, who has recently returned as Sam is great. They all are.
“And the girls...” he laughs, “They are so cute. I can tell you it makes it a lot easier to get up for work the early hours of the morning knowing that I going to hang out with Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray) and Lea Michele (Rachel Barry).”
To his credit he said that he has been told by Lea Michele that of all the show’s new characters - he has fitted in best - instantly making friends.
“Just as we finished filming Lea even came up to me and said she was finally beginning to understand what I was saying,” he laughed.
Indeed Damian has retained his Derry accent for his Glee appearance - something he believes has worked in his favour.
“When you think how hard people find it to get work or make it in America because of their accents I have been quite lucky. My accent has definitely worked in my favour.”
And Damian is determined never to let go of his Derry roots. “The people of Derry have been brilliant. They have been so supportive and it has been incredible for me to know the people of my home town are behind me. I can’t thank the people of Derry enough for putting their support behind me.”
While 2011 has been outstanding for Damian, who himself says he struggles to believe he is “still only 19” - he has plans to make 2012 even more memorable.
“I am focused on my career entirely. I don’t have time for anything else - no time for a girlfriend or anything like that. I know I have an amazing opportunity at my feet and I want to take things to an even higher level.”
Having already had his contract extended beyond the original seven episode story arc he was signed up for after winning The Glee Project he says his focus is now on securing a permanent role in the series.
“I think if I can get through this next year - if I can keep going and working as I have been working - then I will get where I want to go. I would love to stay with Glee, but I’m also thinking beyond that and into the future.
“The entire experience has been remarkable - I have been so incredibly lucky. I’m aware there are a lot of people who could have the same job as me out there.
“I think people tend to forget they are all stars. I’ve just been lucky, I’ve got the break and I’m not taking it for granted.”
For now however Damian is enjoying Christmas at home with his family.
“It’s brilliant to be home and spend some time with friends and family.”