The Irish flag is flying high over Hollywood this week as Northern Irish teenager Damian McGinty, 18, came joint first in Oxygen’s The Glee Project, scoring him a seven episode appearance on the massive hit FOX musical series Glee.
McGinty, better known to most Irish Voice readers as the sweet teenage boy wonder in Celtic Thunder, was chosen from 40,000 hopefuls through an online MySpace audition. It is expected he will be written into this coming season of Glee as a foreign exchange student from Ireland.
The finale of The Glee Project aired on Sunday night, August 21. Nearing the end of the show Glee creator, Ryan Murphy, announced that fellow contestant Samuel Larsen was the outright winner of the prestigious contest. Damian, who was in the final two with Larsen, expressed his gratitude to the judges for the opportunity to appear on the show and said “I had the time of my life.”
However, to McGinty’s utter surprise, Murphy announced to the Derry born teenager that he too was a winner and a character would be written for him for seven episodes of the show.
Fresh off the win and beyond elated, McGinty took time out of his hectic schedule on Monday to talk to the Irish Voice about the exciting turn his life is about to take.
“I still can’t believe it, I really can’t,” McGinty said over the phone from L.A. on Monday.
“This doesn’t happen to people from Ireland, especially from Derry, it just doesn’t happen. To get to be on the biggest TV show in America is just a dream come true.”
What went through his mind at that winning moment? “Wow, what goes through your mind in a moment like that, I was thinking what should I think. You lose all feeling in your body, all recognition of where you are. It literally took me hours to think about it and say to myself, ‘wait a minute, I’m going to be on Glee.
The show finished taping in L.A. in April and McGinty was bound by contract not to reveal to anyone the results, making “it a long summer back home.”
The show began airing in the U.S. at the start of June and reached Irish shores three weeks later.
“Ya, they are a few weeks behind in Ireland but I guess with all the media hype today they now know the final result,” laughed McGinty.
The 18-year-old couldn’t wait for Sunday night’s finale to air so he could finally share his elation with the world.
“My mom and dad, brother and sister are so proud. They are my biggest supporters and have always supported me since I was four years of age,” he said.
According to McGinty cameras and reporters were lining up outside his home in Derry to interview his family on Monday morning when word traveled to Ireland of his win.
“They just can’t believe it, they are thrilled for me,” he said.
McGinty is also grateful to his Irish fans, both in the U.S. and Ireland.
“They have supported me all the way and it’s been amazing, so touching. I won this for Ireland and I’m going to do Ireland proud on the show,” he added.
While back in Derry studying for school exams in 2010 McGinty saw an ad online explaining that one could audition for a new show called The Glee Project by submitting a music video through MySpace.
“I said ‘okay then’ so I recorded right there on my computer a video and sent it off,” shared McGinty.
The clip received thousands of hits on the Internet giving the Irishman a positive feeling. That feeling soon turned sour when he didn’t hear anything back from the right people. However a few months later he got a call to fly out to L.A. for an audition. And there during a mild L.A. winters day McGinty was chosen to appear on the show.
Hailed the underdog by those who watched the show and even the judges, McGinty said he had a few lucky escapes but feels it was meant to be. He had been in the bottom three several times.
“I definitely think it was faith that got me here no doubt about it,” he said.
During the summer while lying low in Ireland the new Glee star took some acting classes at The Gaiety Theater in Dublin. However, he promised that he will still maintain his Irish accent on Glee.
“No one may be able to understand me but that will be all part of it,” he joked.
Describing his experience on the reality show as “incredible,” McGinty said that although it changed his life and matured him so much as a performer he “wouldn’t do it again for love nor money.”
“It literally took me weeks when I got home to get back to normality. It takes its toll all that work so back home when I had free time I used to say to myself ‘There must be something I have to do today’.”
McGinty, who won the judges over on Sunday’s show with his rendition of “Somewhere Beyond The Sea,” was very young when he got into performing. At the age of six he won his first music competition and continued winning the hearts and souls of those he came into contact with. A CD he recorded in 2007 fell into the hands of Celtic Thunder producer Sharon Browne and music director Phil Coulter.
“I can’t say enough about Sharon and Phil. They really catapulted me to where I am today. Celtic Thunder took me under their wing, thought me experience and groomed me for who I am today,” said the young heartthrob.
Since he was cast onto the show McGinty has performed in front of 400,000 people and appeared on public television on several occasions, mainly in the U.S.
The wonder boy has recently had to resign from Celtic Thunder due to the enormous commitment he is about to undergo in Hollywood.
“It’s so bittersweet for me to leave Celtic Thunder,” said McGinty.
“It has been an incredible experience in life and I’m so grateful for it but it’s just one of those situations now.”
Although The Glee Project wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young man – “I just about got my O2 visa sorted at the last second,” – he won over the judges on the show, week after week and no doubt Glee fans all over the world will fall head over heels for this Derry boy, who said “no comment” when asked if he had a girlfriend.
McGinty and Larson are scheduled to meet with Ryan Murphy this week to find out when they are due to appear on the show.
“We know nothing yet but we are very excited,” said McGinty.
“I will be cast for seven episodes but all going well the aim is to end up with a full time role on the show.”
Glee starts back on FOX on September 20. Watch out for this young Irishman.