“Absolutely no one is leaving the show just because they’re graduating,” "Glee" co-creator and executive producer Brad Fulchuk told a Hall H crowd at Comic-Con Sunday.
With "Glee" cast members and fans alike on pins and needles regarding the graduation status of each character, and by connection, their longevity on the show, Fulchuk used the show's panel Sunday to try to put everyone at ease.
He assured a packed San Diego Convention Center "Hall H" that leaving high school doesn’t mean career death, at least as far as the hit Fox TV series is concerned.
"If you have Lea Michele under contract, you don't just say, 'We're going to let you go,'" he added. "It was never our plan to let them go. They are not done with the show after this season."
But the intrigue remains, especially after actor Chord Overstreet tweeted two weeks ago that he won't be returning for season three as a regular cast member because his character has graduated high school. Can't be in glee club if you're not in high school anymore.
Other key cast members, including Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, and Chris Colfer have been identified by series producers as "seniors" for season three, putting them off the regular cast for season four ... or so it would seem.
The actors themselves have been out of the loop. Jenna Ushkowitz (who plays Tina) erupted with a “Cool!” at Sunday's panel discussion upon finding out that she will be a high school junior in the fall.
Dot Marie Jones, who received an Emmy nomination for her work as Coach Beiste, admitted she found out Saturday night she would be written into more episodes, too.
“Brad’s like, ‘Of course you’re coming back! You got nominated for an Emmy. We can’t get rid of you now!’” The actress is also guest-starring alongside Chelsea Handler on NBC’s “Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.”
With 15 series regulars, ‘Glee’ writers have a lot to write for.
“Right now our plan is to have them around,” Fulchuk told TheWrap at a post-panel press roundtable.
Fulchuk and co-creator and executive producer Ian Brennan promise a more character-driven third season, at least in its first semester episodes.
That means a bit of a hold-off for guest starring roles, the likes of which have included Kristin Chenoweth and Britney Spears.
As for relationships, Fulchuk and Brennan promise that at least for now, favorite couples Tina and Mike (Harry Shum Jr.), and Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) are going to be fine.
Both Shum Jr. and Criss were recently granted contracts as series regulars, a result of their character's huge fan followings.
The upcoming season also promises a boyfriend for the perpetually-single Mercedes (Amber Riley).
Think “Cuba Gooding Jr. and his wife in ‘Jerry McGuire’,” Fulchuk told the crowd. “A man who lifts her up, a big bubba kind of guy who encourages her to want more for herself, which will drive her arc for the first half of the season.”
Fulchuk also shared that cantankerous cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) will be running for congress. "She has taken destroying Will and the glee club to a national level -- running on a 'no-arts' platform," he said.
As for the recently-dropped Chord Overstreet (Sam), Fulchuk admits that the actor, who secretly held hands with Mercedes in the show’s season two finale, declined the offer to come back as a regular in the second half of the season.
“He decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Fulchuk said. “I told him to go with god.”
"Glee's" third-season premeire is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 21 on Fox.