For a while there, it seemed as though Quinn Fabray was set for life. The popular McKinley High senior had made peace with the adoption of her baby daughter, gotten accepted to Yale, returned to the cheerleading squad and serenaded all the schoolboys she'd loved before. "After all she'd persevered through, that validation was really great," recalls Dianna Agron, the 25-year-old actress who plays Quinn, while sipping tea on the Paramount lot where Glee shoots. "There had to be something good happen in Quinn's life."
But then, in the closing moments of the Fox musical's February 21 episode, everything changed. On her way to Rachel and Finn's wedding, Quinn made a fateful choice: answering a text message while at the wheel of her Volkswagen bug. Fans' jaws dropped as a truck slammed into Quinn's driver's side just before the screen went black.
Among the horrified viewers tuning in that night was Agron's unsuspecting mother in northern California, who instantly called her daughter in tears. "She said it seemed so real," remembers Agron. "She told me, 'I feel like you're dead and I haven't said my last words.'"
Though Agron clued her mom into Quinn's fate ("I couldn't make her wait — she's my mom!"), Glee's producers have forbidden the actress from revealing a peep to us about what happens when the show returns Tuesday. But exec producer Dante Di Loreto hints, "This is a really important year for all of the characters — thrilling and terrifying. This will be a life-changing experience for them all and an eye-opener that will change their perspectives forever."
Despite what appeared to be a fatal crash, we can't help but be encouraged by a few promising clues. Not long after the accident aired, paparazzi photos surfaced of Agron and costar Kevin McHale (Artie) — both in wheelchairs. (Some fans immediately began rooting for a Quinn/Artie or "Quartie" pairing.) That, coupled with the fact that Agron is meeting us during a lunch break on the Paramount lot where the series shoots, seems to suggest Quinn survived.
But the press-savvy actress says she may just be paying a friendly visit to set. "All my friends still work here," she offers with a devilish grin. While that seems pretty far-fetched, we'll play along considering there is an important lesson to learn, regardless of the outcome.
The story-line shocker, Agron explains, has been in the works ever since the cast appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where the actors were asked by Winfrey to sign a pledge promising they would not text and drive. Agron remembers "wondering if kids watching us sign these papers would really be impacted."
But Di Loreto says it was a topic they wanted to broach. "We deal with a lot of issues on the show, and texting while driving is a hugely important one," he says. "What's going to come out of this is unexpected and will take the story in a new direction."
And so, last November, Agron received a mysterious call saying that executive producer Ryan Murphy "wanted to inform me about something and see how I felt about it." When they spoke, Murphy dropped the bomb: Quinn was going to be his victim. Says Agron, "I told him, 'I think it's a great thing and we should do it.' We discussed the levels of the story: 'Should she die?' Ultimately, we weighed it and what we came up with is a story that might make some people fairly sad, but the takeaway is worth it."
The scene was filmed in secrecy several miles outside of Los Angeles. To get the shot, cameramen began shooting with both vehicles' bumpers touching. Then stunt drivers in both cars stepped on the gas and reversed their vehicles at 40-to-50 miles per hour. (The scene aired in reverse.)
As a result, Agron has now found herself the unofficial spokesperson for an increasingly lethal issue. "It's very smart of us to touch on this problem because there needs to be an awareness," says the actress, who remembers undergoing physical therapy during high school after being rear-ended by a woman Agron believes was texting. Well aware that it would be a scandal were she to be ticketed for texting at the wheel, she is being extra cautious on the road. She recently pulled over to make a phone call rather than use her hands-free device.
"It's the joke around set that if I'm even walking and texting I'll be in trouble," Agron says. "'Don't do that, Dianna!' they all say. 'What would Quinn think?!'"
Glee airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Fox.