The Untold Truth Of Matthew Morrison

For fans of TV phenomenon "Glee," Matthew Morrison will always be best remembered as singing, dancing McKinley High teacher Will Schuester. And while playing Mr. Schue for the entirety of the show's 2009-2015 run was indeed Morrison's biggest screen role at the time, by no means was he a newcomer to showbiz. 

As loyal New York theatregoers will attest, Morrison had previously been a fixture on Broadway; he made his debut on the Great White Way, according to Playbill, as a member of the ensemble in a 1998 production of "Footloose," the musical adapted from the 1984 movie. Then came a small role in "The Rocky Horror Show" before he landed his big break, playing Link Larkin in "Hairspray." More — and bigger — roles followed in other Broadway shows, leading to a Tony Award for his role in "The Light in the Piazza," and a Drama Desk outstanding actor nomination for his role in "10 Million Miles" (via his Grammy Museum bio). 

In May 2022, Morrison started a new television gig, and immediately found himself caught up in controversy that propelled him back into the headlines. Read on for the inside scoop. This is the untold truth of Matthew Morrison. 

Matthew Morrison's true love will always be Broadway

Matthew Morrison stumbled upon performing at the age of 10, when his parents sent him to spend a summer with his cousins in Arizona and his aunt enrolled all the kids in a theater camp. "I still remember the name of the show we did to this day: 'The Herdsmen Go to Camp.' It was a made-up show and I played all of the herdsmen!" Morrison recounted to the Toronto Star. "I still remember the energy I felt doing that. It was unreal. Unlike anything I had ever felt in my life."

When he returned home to California, Morrison recalled, "[I] told my parents that I wanted to do children's theatre." That set him on the path that changed his life, taking him from New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts to Broadway to starring in "Glee." Despite his TV fame, nothing will ever replace the experience of performing in front of a live audience. "Every night right before the curtain opens, I have this incredible feeling of excitement at having the opportunity to do this," he gushed.

As Morrison told NPR, he's never lost the passion for live theater that he discovered as a child. "It was that moment that the lights hit me, and I felt so comfortable standing in front of a room full of strangers," he said. "And ever since then, that feeling has never gone away, and I never want to let go of that."

He went to high school with a Full House star

Growing up in Orange County, California, reported the Toronto Star, Matthew Morrison pursued his theatrical ambitions by attending the Orange County High School of the Arts. Attending the school at the same time was Jodie Sweetin, who had already tasted television fame via her role as Stephanie Tanner on beloved sitcom "Full House." 

As Sweetin told "Access" in 2011, she and Morrison were students in the school's musical theater program. In the early 2010s, Morrison was still starring on "Glee," and Sweetin was certainly aware of her former classmate's success. "It's great to see him doing so well with 'Glee' and it's really fun to see people that you knew way back when," she said. 

Over the years, Morrison has stayed in touch with the teachers at his alma mater. In fact, in 2016 he returned to perform in celebration of the school's 30th anniversary. "I would be nothing if I hadn't come to this school," Morrison told The Orange County Register. "I always tell these kids, 'I was you.' The training here (at OCSA) was incomparable. It's the cornerstone of my career."

He was a musical jock who chose between singing and soccer

On "Glee," Matthew Morrison's character — teacher Will "Mr. Schue" Schuester — encouraged high school football star Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) to exercise his latent singing talent by joining the glee club. Interviewed by The Canadian Press (via the Winnipeg Free Press), Morrison recalled that his own high school experience was markedly similar to the depiction of Finn's. 

"I kind of rode the line between arts and athletics," Morrison explained. "I was a huge soccer player, and my junior year of high school I had to choose between playing soccer and being in the arts." Passionate about both sports and theater, Morrison was fortunate enough to have his own Mr. Schue, who offered some encouragement that tipped the scale and sent him on the path to stardom. "And one teacher, especially, his name is Dr. Ralph Opacic, he said: 'I've been at this awhile, and you have something really special, and I think you just need to continue down this road,'" Morrison recalled. 

The influence of Morrison's high school teachers didn't just encourage him to pursue a career in the arts, but also inspired what is arguably his most famous role. "I've kind of based this character on a couple of teachers that I've had in the past," Morrison told NPR of his "Glee" character.

Matthew Morrison was once a member of a boy band

Before finding fame on Broadway and then television, Matthew Morrison made a brief — if ultimately ill-fated — detour into the world of music as part of boy band LMNT (pronounced "element"). As he explained in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he'd since come to look back on his brief tenure with the group as "a bad story," insisting that had he continued with LMNT, "[We] would be defunct."

Discussing his time as a boy band member with Mr. Porter (via RTE), Morrison said he did not have fond memories of the experience. "It's one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life," he told the outlet. "It was at the height of *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, so I really thought I was going to make a lot of money being in a boy band." However, he quickly discovered that while he may have had the talent to be in a boy band, his inclination was lacking. "Singing and dancing to stupid, ridiculous songs didn't feed my soul," he confessed.

Nevertheless, Morrison didn't let his antipathy for being in a boy band prevent him from joining a 2011 tour featuring the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block. As he told Parade, "This is the opportunity to play 15,000 to 20,000 seats a night, and to people who don't really know me as a musician, so I can really gain more fans." He couldn't pass that up.

As an entrepreneur, he launched a line for dads

Asked by Us Weekly to point out 25 things that the average fan may not know about him, Matthew Morrison revealed that he has a knack for business. "I'm an entrepreneur!" Morrison declared. "I started a lifestyle and clothing line for fathers called Sherpapa." 

Co-founded with photographer Zach McDuffie, Sherpapa offered unique stuff for cool dads, ranging from t-shirts to diaper bags. (The brand's website and Instagram appear inactive at the time of this writing.) As Morrison told Mr., he and McDuffie met through their wives, and immediately connected. With McDuffie an expectant father, they focused on a specific issue: "There was nothing on the market for cool and stylish dads... So we had this conversation about creating great bags for guys that could also be diaper bags," Morrison recalled.

The end result of those conversations was the Sherpapa James bag, constructed of manly canvas with leather handles and brass hardware. As McDuffie explained, the Sherpapa James was designed so that it could have a second life when a dad passes through the stage when carrying diapers is a necessity. "The ordinary diaper bag is a single use bag that only lasts a year," he said of the item, which was designed to be durable enough to last far longer than that. "We both wanted something with classic style and that could be used as a day bag or a carry-on."

As a recording artist, he's worked with Sting and Elton John

Like many Broadway performers, Matthew Morrison is a triple threat, adept at acting, dancing and singing. The latter is something he takes particularly seriously, given that he's released four albums: 2011's "Matthew Morrison," "Where It All Began" and "A Classic Christmas" (both released in 2013), and the 2020 album "Disney Dreamin'."

His self-titled debut, in fact, featured collaborations with some A-list talent and emphasized that he wasn't just some dilettante actor dabbling in music. These collabs included a ukulele-propelled duet of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as collabs with Sting and Elton John, the latter singing on Morrison's medley of his classic hits "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" and "Rocket Man." "That was a dream come true, but I didn't even think I could dream that big to have them on the album," Morrison told Parade of bringing those two music legends onto his debut album. He added, "It was such an honor, such a learning experience — especially in the studio with Elton John just watching this living legend do what he does ... I will never forget that experience."

Speaking with Windy City Times, Morrison gushed about the memory of being in the studio alongside Sir Elton John. "He was just so game for anything and such a pleasure to work with," said Morrison, who added, "He knows what he's doing, and it was just cool to be in [the studio] with him."

He's a longtime LGBTQ ally with a huge gay following

As a performer in Broadway musicals, Matthew Morrison has long contended with assumptions that he's gay (he's not). "I've been singing and dancing since I've been in fifth grade," he told Windy City Times, "so I've gotten that quite a bit in my life."

Beyond assumptions, Morrison's background in musical theater has also provided him with a substantial gay following, along with many gay friends and colleagues. That, he told Pride Source, was a big part of why he became active with the Human Rights Campaign, an organization fighting for LGBTQ rights. "I have so many friends who are involved with HRC — my friends from the theater community — and it's a cause that I absolutely support," he said. 

According to Morrison, the world would be a better place if more straight people — particularly his fellow actors and other celebrities who have large platforms — followed his lead by advocating for LGBTQ rights. "The case is more impactful when it comes from a straight person because the people you're trying to persuade may not buy into it when they see a gay person talking," he explained in an interview with The Independent.

He's learned some tough lessons about the dark side of fame

As a Broadway star, Matthew Morrison attained a certain degree of fame — including, as a CBS News profile reminded, a 2005 Tony nomination for his role in "The Light in the Piazza." Starring in "Glee," however, propelled him to an entirely new level of stardom, something he addressed in a 2011 interview with Parade.

"That's a side of celebrity that no one teaches you anything about, so you really have to learn on your own how to deal with it," he explained, admitting he felt fortunate not to experience such visibility until he had a few miles on him, unlike the younger "Glee" co-stars who played his students. Morrison said the instant fame they experienced due to the show's meteoric success presented something of a learning curve. "Some of us made mistakes and I think we've all learned from those and we really just stand up for each other," he explained.

The actor also recounted his own experience with the tabloids, complaining, "They literally just make stuff up. When that first started happening, I was in a rage." Beyond those first bogus tabloid stories about himself, he's since learned to take it in stride. "I got over that and I know my own truth," he insisted. 

Matthew Morrison was engaged to Chrishell Stause

While Matthew Morrison has been happily married to Renee Puente Morrison since October 2014, Us Weekly noted that back in 2006, he was engaged to Chrishell Stause, who went on to become a reality-show realtor in Netflix's "Selling Sunset." 

"When I was 27, I proposed to my then-girlfriend, but I didn't do it for the right reasons," Morrison told Cosmopolitan U.K. (via Young Hollywood). "We'd been going out for a year or so and I felt under pressure from society. I was thinking, 'This is the age when I should probably start having kids, so this is what I should do...' But after I [proposed], I immediately felt in my heart it wasn't right. My instant thought was 'What did you just do?'" Morrison eventually decided to end the engagement and break things off with Stause, which he admitted was "messed up." 

While Morrison grew from the experience, Stause did not see things precisely the same way. As she said during a 2019 episode of "Selling Sunset" (as recounted by PopSugar), "I didn't know who I was at 25. And I didn't know what I wanted because actually, if I ended up with the person I was with when I was 25, I would want to kill myself." Seemingly addressing Morrison directly (without naming him), she added, "You were a d**k! Sorry!" However, Stause wrote about Morrison in her "Under Construction" memoir (via ET), "...we've run into each other a few times over the years and even though I sounded a little angry on 'Selling Sunset,' it's always cordial."

He's become a villain on TikTok

In addition to his fame on stage and television, Matthew Morrison found himself becoming popular in a whole other medium: as a meme. It all began, detailed Bustle, when a TikTok user began posting videos slamming Morrison. More people began piling on, unleashing a tsunami of mock hatred toward the actor on the social media platform, transforming Morrison from beloved TV actor to TikTok villain

The meme-making went into overdrive in 2020, reported Bustle, when Morrison appeared in NBC's live musical production of "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Musical Live!" As The Washington Post's review pointed out, Morrison's Grinch was "unsettling." During the broadcast, viewers took to social media to mock Morrison in such numbers that he felt compelled to respond. "To all the haters," Morrison wrote in a tweet, accompanied by a trio of kissy-face emojis and a GIF of Cindy Lou Who blowing a kiss to the camera. 

He appeared on a TV dance competition show before SYTYCD

In May 2018, the Fox network announced that its TV dance competition, "So You Think You Can Dance," was returning. New to the judging table were former Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa, ex-"SYTYCD" contestant and "Ellen DeGeneres Show" DJ Stephen "tWitch" Boss, and Matthew Morrison. While Morrison may have seemed an odd choice to those who only knew him from playing Mr. Schue on "Glee," he actually has a high degree of dance training thanks to his background in musical theater.

In fact, "SYTYCD" wasn't the first TV dance competition to hire Morrison as judge. Unbeknownst to most American TV viewers, he had previously served in a similar role in the U.K., as "Dance Captain" for BBC One series "The Greatest Dancer." 

"It's wonderful to continue bringing music and dance into peoples' lives like we did on 'Glee,'" Morrison said in a statement about his role on "The Greatest Dancer," as reported by Deadline. "Dance is a safe haven that allows us to communicate where words cannot. ... As a Dance Captain, my sincere hope is that I can uplift and encourage all the dancers here [to] reach their greatness."

He cleared the air about why he exited SYTYCD

Shortly after the 2022 season premiere of "So You Think You Can Dance," Matthew Morrison announced he was exiting the show. In a statement to Us Weekly, he explained that after filming of the auditions had been completed, "...I did not follow competition production protocols, preventing me from being able to judge the competition fairly." He was subsequently replaced by former "King of Queens" star Leah Remini. 

A subsequent report from People, however, added a bit more excruciating detail involving an unidentified female dance contestant. A source claimed, "He reached out to her through flirty direct messages on social media." When she complained to producers, the source alleged, Fox undertook an internal investigation that led to Morrison's firing. 

Morrison, however, fired back to call BS on those claims. In a video he shared on Instagram, Morrison opened his statement with, "It's really unfortunate that I have to sit here and defend myself and my family against blatantly untrue statements made anonymously. But I have nothing to hide, so in the interest of transparency, I will read to you the one message that I wrote to a dancer on the show. 'Hey, it's Matthew. If you don't mind, would love to get your number and talk you through some things," he read, punctuating, "The end." According to Morrison, he sent the message to the aspiring dancer in reference to a working opportunity with a choreographer they both mutually respected. He concluded by denigrating People's report: "Gossip is toxic and it is destroying our society."

Matthew Morrison and Renee Puente had a whirlwind romance

Matthew Morrison was attending a 2011 Grammys party when he spied a woman across the room and overheard her speaking Hawaiian pidgin slang. Having spent a few summers in Hawaii when he was a teenager as a backup singer for "Tiny Bubbles" singer Don Ho, Morrison decided to respond accordingly. "I said, 'How is it, sistah?' and she laughed. The rest is history," he told the New York Post of how he met Renee Puente.

As he recalled for Us Weekly, "Renee and I fell in love quickly, and three months later she was living on a tour bus with me." In 2014, Morrison tweeted that they had tied the knot in Hawaii, even sharing a photo of the newlyweds. Puente, Morrison told the Post, isn't bothered by his romantic past from before they met. "Honestly, she loves the fact that I went through all that — a lot of relationships, some one-night stands. I learned a lot about who I was and, more importantly, the person I wanted to be with," he explained. "My wife came into my life at such a great time." 

When Morrison parted ways with "So You Think You Can Dance," Puente proved to have his back when she reposted his Instagram video along with a message of her own. She wrote, in part, "My husband has finally been given an opportunity to speak his truth. He has done so with such grace and integrity in a situation that is complex and incredibly complicated."

Matthew Morrison has built up an enviable net worth

Matthew Morrison has been a professional entertainer since his teens. Starting off in high school as an Italian restaurant's musical busboy, he told Us Weekly, he then worked as a backup singer for singer Don Ho before nabbing his first Broadway role as part of the ensemble in "Footloose" in 1998.

Since then, he's managed to build up a tidy little nest egg over the years. In fact, Celebrity Net Worth estimates his fortune is at $10 million, claiming that he was raking in $80,000 per episode on "Glee" during its heyday. 

While his "Glee" earnings no doubt contributed significantly to his wealth, Morrison has also made money in real estate. According to The Dirt, in March 2022 he and wife Renee Puente sold their Hollywood Hills home for just under $4.3 million — turning a hefty profit, considering he paid just $1.2 million for the place when he purchased it in 2010 (although, he told the Wall Street Journal, they did sink a cool million into renovations).