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Kevin McHale was a living testament to the sentiment, "When one door shuts, another one opens." The actor and singer had initially launched his showbiz career with the boy band NLT, which scored two hits in 2007 with the sugarcoated singles "That Girl" and "She Said, I Said (Time We Let Go)." Yet before the group reached its full pop music potential, lukewarm record label support and differing career interests between band members ultimately led to NLT's 2009 split. McHale used this misfortune to switch gears toward acting and immediately landed a featured role on "Glee" (Fox, 2009-15), a musical comedy series about a high school glee club who are bullied for their social status rather than praised for their talent and school spirit. McHale played Artie Abrams, a wheelchair-bound teen who plays guitar like Jimi Hendrix and sings like Paul Simon. The producers of "Glee" received mild criticism for casting the non-handicapped actor in the part, yet it did not take long for audiences to fall in love with McHale. His genuine portrayal of the soft-spoken and charismatic Artie was arguably the show's most courageous performance and proved there were no limits to natural born talent.
Kevin Michael McHale was born on June 14, 1988 in Plano, TX. He began singing and acting in local commercials before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a fulltime career in the entertainment industry. In 2003, McHale joined the pop group NLT (Not Like Them). Music mogul Chris Stokes - who had previously worked with R&B group B2K - discovered NLT, which included Hale, Travis Garland, Justin Joseph "JJ" Thorne, and Vahe Sevani. NLT's musical style blended bubblegum pop made famous by late '90s boy bands such as 'NSync and the Backstreet Boys, with hip-hop and urban influences. The band released its debut single "That Girl" in March 2007, followed by the Timbaland-produced ballad "She Said, I Said" in August of that year. "She Said, I Said (Time We Let Go)" became the group's biggest hit, reaching No. 65 on the Billboard Hip-Hop 100 chart. With just two singles and no album to promote, NLT was booked as the opening act for the Pussycat Dolls' 2007 tour before co-headlining 2008's Bandemonium tour along with fellow boy bands Menudo, V Factory, and Glowb.
McHale stretched his acting muscles with minor roles on the teen-centric series "Zoey 101" (Nickelodeon, 2005-08) with Jamie Lynn Spears, and "All That" (Nickelodeon, 1994-2005), the comedy variety show that launched the careers of Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, and Kenan Thompson. He made a cameo in the feature film "Bratz: The Movie" (2007) along with the other members of NLT. In 2007, McHale appeared on NBC's blue-collar comedy "The Office" (NBC, 2005-13) as a pizza delivery boy held hostage by Steve Carell's character Michael Scott. The hardworking star even had a recurring role on HBO's cult hit "True Blood" as Neil Jones, a coroner's assistant. With his acting resume gaining full speed, McHale's musical career began slowing down. NLT's record label TUG Entertainment and Geffen/Interscope kept pushing the release date for the group's debut album, while their third single "Karma" was only released as a digital download. On April 30, 2009, NLT's front man Garland announced via a MySpace blog that the group had split up. Speculations as to why NLT parted ways included their label's lack of promotion and McHale's foray into acting.
Less than a month after NLT disbanded, McHale appeared on the pilot episode of "Glee," which aired on May 19, 2009. The Ryan Murphy-created musical comedy series followed a motley crew of high school outsiders who form a glee club called "New Directions!" McHale played Artie Abrams, a bespectacled glee club vocalist and guitarist who also happens to be a paraplegic. The show became an instant hit, thanks to its talented cast, brilliant writing, and the musical performances - ranging from Top 40 hits to classic show tunes - that peppered every spectacular episode. There was minor controversy surrounding the "Glee" producers' decision to cast a non-paraplegic actor to play Artie. While casting did not specifically call for a wheelchair-bound actor, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy found McHale's natural talent and onscreen charisma fit the character perfectly, explaining that it did not matter that the actor was not handicapped. McHale dedicated himself to the role and learned not only the basic movements of being in a wheelchair, but also singing and dancing along with his co-stars. McHale often revealed during interviews that he found it challenging not to move his legs to the beat of the music whenever the cast filmed a musical sequence.
The November 2009 episode titled "Wheels" focused on Artie's struggles as a wheelchair-bound teen and his infatuation with fellow glee member Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). Comedy and drama seamlessly blended throughout the show's off-beat dialogue, such as when McHale uttered the memorable quote, "But I still have full use of my penis" during a serious conversation between Artie and Tina about his disability. The "Wheels" episode also saw McHale's solo performance debut with a cover of Billy Idol's hit "Dancing with Myself" (1981), as well as the cast's wheelchair-based choreography to "Proud Mary" (1969). Not surprisingly, the music of "Glee" did just as well as the show itself. The soundtrack, Glee: The Music, Volume 1 (2009) went platinum weeks after its release, thanks to the cast's joyful renditions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (1981), Queen's "Somebody to Love" (1976), and McHale's "Dancing with Myself" solo. Glee: The Music, Volume 2 was released in December 2009 and contained tracks from the second half of the show's debut season, including the finale episode's "My Life Would Suck Without You." That same month, "Glee" received four 2010 Golden Globe nominations, including Best Comedy Series.
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