- In 2011, Cameron Mitchell & Lindsay Pearce were involved in a kiss that changed "The Glee Project."
- Pearce told Insider she was instructed by a director to kiss Mitchell without his consent.
- Mitchell, who left the show at the end of episode seven, called the incident "traumatic."
One orchestrated kiss on "The Glee Project" has had "traumatic" effects, even 11 years later.
The kiss — between Cameron Mitchell and Lindsay Pearce — took place during a music-video shoot on the Oxygen reality competition. In part, it led to Mitchell's decision to quit the show and Pearce receiving hateful backlash after the episode aired.
Speaking to Insider ahead of the 10th anniversary of "The Glee Project" ending, the two stars break down what happened 11 years ago.
Pearce said the music-video director asked her to kiss Mitchell, who wasn't expecting it
During "Pairability" week, Mitchell and Pearce were matched up for a romantic duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." On set, Mitchell said, the pair practiced a number of takes that ended with him putting his arm around Pearce.
But Pearce told Insider that, before the last take, music-video director Erik White told her to kiss Mitchell.
"He said something like, 'In this next take, at the end, kiss Cameron. It's what we need,'" Pearce recalled. "I asked if Cameron knew and was giggling nervously because I had a boyfriend and Cameron had a girlfriend."
Pearce, who was 19 at the time, kissed Mitchell, who was 21, in the next take but said the minute she pulled away she said she realized she'd "been played."
"I was super caught off-guard," Mitchell said, speaking about the kiss. "That was not something that I was prepared for, and I was a little bit blindsided by it." He said it "bugged" him that he "was never asked about it."
A few nights after the kiss, Pearce said she snuck into the boys' dorm to talk to Mitchell. She recalled apologizing, saying she thought she was just "listening to my director." She said Mitchell assured her it wasn't her fault.
That week, Mitchell and Pearce were in the bottom as a pair and were asked to perform together for "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy and the "Glee Project" mentors to fight for their spots on the show.
Afterward, Murphy said to Mitchell, "As I understand it, you got a smacker on the mouth that you weren't expecting and you cried and you called your mother."
In a call that was recorded and aired on the show, Mitchell had called his mom for advice, saying he felt like he had "cheated" on his girlfriend back home.
Mitchell explained that the kiss morally didn't feel right. He and Pearce weren't sent home that week.
Another related incident finalized Mitchell's decision to quit the show 2 weeks later
Mitchell said he told the producers and other members of the staff he wasn't comfortable kissing other contestants, but added "that's where the strings of producers started to twist," as they realized this was a "hot topic" for him.
Two episodes later, during the show's "Sexuality" week, Mitchell said he was approached and pressured, off-camera, to kiss fellow contestant Hannah McIalwain. He added that even though he said no to this, he still received pushback.
Since the "Glee Project" was a long audition to be on "Glee," Shauna Minoprio, an executive producer of the competition, told Insider there were concerns backstage that if Mitchell wasn't willing to perform stage kisses now, then he might not be on the actual show either.
"Glee" is "quite a sexual show, and there's a lot of romances," she explained. "There was a little bit of, 'These are the kinds of roles we write and these are the kinds of scenarios that happen on this show. Can you get comfortable with that? Or is this not for you?'"
Still, Mitchell said he "didn't wanna be an actor" and that he was "fed up" after what felt like a line had been crossed.
"I was in a very weird position where I didn't wanna be a quitter," he said. "But at the same time, I was upset about what was happening."
After performing in the bottom three once again, Mitchell tearfully quit the show.
Pearce and Mitchell received different reactions from viewers but both said the incident was 'traumatic'
Even though the aired episode featured a brief clip of White directing the pair, it didn't show White instructing Pearce to kiss Mitchell or her apology to him. After the episode premiered, Pearce said she began receiving a lot of hateful messages online.
"I've never been so hated in my life," she said. "It's not easy for a 20-year-old to be called a sexual assailant, a sexual predator, an abuser — all because of the music-video kiss."
She said that, 11 years later, she still gets "hate mail sent to the theaters I work at and DMs telling me to kill myself."
Mitchell, however, won Bing's "fan favorite" award, which came with a $10,000 prize. Though, he said the final edit — which painted his decision to leave as faith-based — didn't accurately portray the situation.
"It wasn't necessarily like, 'Oh, I'm a Christian, so this is terrible. I'm getting outta here,'" Mitchell said. "It was definitely spun more toward the faith side of it, rather than this incident that happened, and I was upset about it."
Still, Mitchell and Pearce said they haven't watched a single episode of "The Glee Project" since the show aired, though neither of them holds resentment towards the cast or crew.
Mitchell said he doesn't regret going on or leaving "The Glee Project" and quitting was a moment that "altered the course" of his life.
"I was forced to stand up for myself," Mitchell said. "I was forced to confront what it is I really wanted, who it is I really wanted to be. You don't have a lot of moments like that in life."
He said he "wouldn't do anything differently," just that he wishes "people wouldn't have blamed" Pearce for it all. He told Insider, "I hated that she took flack for that, but it was not her at all. It was very traumatic."
Pearce said she takes accountability for her "own side of things," but added, "I was 19 and being manipulated."
"I wish I had the language that we have today surrounding consent and awareness and respecting people's boundaries," she said.
Although Pearce still ended up winning a two-episode arc on "Glee," she told Insider that, considering the backlash she received, "you couldn't pay me enough" to experience something like "The Glee Project" ever again.
Oxygen declined to comment. Murphy, White, and production company Embassy Row did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
Read Insider's full oral history for the 10-year anniversary of the final episode of "The Glee Project" here.