As McKinley heads to Sectionals, will Marley's Kitty-induced skewed self-image bring the Wall Flower back or will her fierce alter-ego show up? Or worse: Might Kitty (Becca Tobin) strike back and cost New Directions its comeback on the biggest stage of the new group's young season? The Hollywood Reporter turned to Melissa Benoist to preview what's ahead for one of the glee club's biggest new voices as she navigates a love quadrangle, anorexia and the pressure of performing for Quinn, Santana and the current National Champions.
The Hollywood Reporter: Last week, Marley shifted from being a "Wall Flower" to what Kitty dubbed "Woman Fierce." How long can we expect that attitude to last?
Melissa Benoist: From this point on, it's going to be an uphill battle for Marley no matter what. We'll see glimpses of that strength that she's found through "Woman Fierce," but she's not finished battling her inner demons.
THR: Will her anorexia intensify?
Benoist: I don't think she's very healthy and it will intensify. It's not something that was just a thing she was trying out. Kitty really got into her head and she's definitely going to keep battling a lot.
THR: Ryder (Blake Jenner) and Jake (Jacob Artist) have both told Marley that she has a skewed vision of herself. What's it going to take for Marley to start listening to these people who are telling her how beautiful she is?
Benoist: At this point, she's so far gone -- she has such a different view of herself than everyone else does. You could say she is a pretty and smart girl but she will never see that. At this point I think it's going to take something very drastic to happen for her to realize -- and it's going to be no one but herself -- that something is terribly wrong and she needs help.
THR: Kitty has really gotten into her head. How is Marley not suspect of Kitty's motives?
Benoist: Perhaps it's because of all the male attention Marley's gotten from Ryder and Jake and the friendship she found in Jake from the start -- they really see eye to eye on a lot of things because they come from the same background. With Kitty, Marley is excited to have a female friend and someone who is popular and someone who does fit in -- or seems like they fit in well and easily. Marley is in such an insecure state that it gives her a sense of belonging -- in the wrong way.
THR: How much does Marley trust Kitty at this point?
Benoist: I don't know if Marley really completely trusts Kitty. I don't know if she'll ever forget everything that happened with Jake, she got really stung. One of the things I really love about Marley is that she's good at seeing the bigger picture when it comes to people. She's very accepting of everyone, even with all their faults just because she has this inherent kindness. She sees some of Kitty's meanness, but when it deals with her body image and insecurities, she only hears what she wants to hear.
THR: Kitty's move to take a dig at Marley after Ryder cancels their date -- with Marley responding by asking Jake out -- winds up biting her in the ass. How can we expect Kitty to respond? Will she step things up with Marley as a result?
Benoist: I loved that! (Laughs) Definitely; it's like a chess game between the two of them. They're constantly making moves around each other and Kitty has to one-up Marley every time. She feels like she needs to be on top of things when it comes to Marley.
THR: Could that ultimately harm New Directions at Sectionals?
Benoist: Oh yeah, for sure. Sectionals is a really dramatic episode. How far Kitty has penetrated Marley's mind really affects everyone. It's such a negative thing and Marley is so affected by it that everyone can see and sense it and it's such an epic pinnacle.
THR: How will Marley handle the pressure of Sectionals with such skewed self-awareness?
Benoist: It's difficult for her because Sectionals is the first time she's performing for such a large goal and it's been a huge dream of hers since she was very little to perform in front of people this way and show what she's passionate about. In that respect, the pressure is mixed with an excitement and anxious will to do the best job she can.
THR: What will Marley's interaction with Quinn, Santana and the rest of the graduates be like?
Benoist: It brings a huge excitement and raises the bar and the pressure that everyone is under but at the same time all the new kids really look up to the graduates and can really be inspired by them.
THR: Marley and Finn (Cory Monteith) seem to be cut from the same cloth, could she wind up having more of a connection with him?
Benoist: They are cut from the same cloth: they're both loyal people and very determined and want to do what's right. They both care about this glee club like crazy and in that respect, they definitely see eye to eye. Marley and Finn do have a connection but I don't know if it's anything more than just their love for the glee club and their passion to do well.
THR: Now that Ryder and Jake have this bromance going, will Marley come between them?
Benoist: I think they overcame the roadblock that Marley was between them because of the issues they were both dealing with and what they shared during "Dynamic Duets," which was really personal for teenage boys to be sharing with each other. Marley, at this point, they both recognize that the other just wants her to be happy and to get everything she deserves because they both genuinely care about her and think she deserves really good things. She's definitely an obstacle for both of them but their friendship seems pretty solid at this point.
THR: Could we see Marley wind up dating both of them or could she eventually pick one -- or neither?
Benoist: Marley has her sights set on one (laughs). It's a tough competition; they're both such great guys for her.
THR: How is Marley's mother going to respond when she learns of her daughter's anorexia?
Benoist: What's great about Mrs. Rose is she's such a supportive and loving mother that obviously it's going to be a touchy subject between the two of them just because she didn't raise her to be weak; they're women who have had to fend for themselves and are a single-parent family with not a lot of means. Aside from being extremely painful to see your daughter go through something like that, there might be a little disappointment because you'd hope that your daughter would have the strength to overcome that, especially after everything Marley has been through in the past with people making fun of her.