At the time, Idina was 39, while her character was in her early 40s. Meanwhile, Lea was 22 when the show first aired, while her character, Rachel, was a 16-year-old high school student.
For context, Idina’s character, Shelby, was notably hired as a surrogate by Rachel’s dads when she was just starting out her career in New York City, meaning that she very likely would’ve been young when she gave birth to her.
However, given that IRL, Idina had just welcomed her first baby, Walker, when she was cast as the mother of a teenager, she’s long been open about feeling that she would have been better off playing her “older sister” instead.
“I probably should've been her older sister,” she told InStyle in 2021. “I don't have a chip on my shoulder about that.”
Now discussing the subject again during a recent interview with Stellar Magazine, Idina noted that the casting “wasn’t great” for her ego.
“You’re worried you’re not going to work again, and then people hire you to be someone’s mother when you probably should be their older sister,” she told Stellar, via the New York Post.
“It just wasn’t great for the ego,” she said.
Reacting to Idina's comments on Twitter, several fans agreed that while they understood where she was coming from, the casting was still “perfect” because of the context of Shelby’s storyline — not to mention the striking similarities between Idina and Lea in real life.
“Ok, but she was 39 on the show and playing the biological mother/surrogate of an 18yo. It’s not that far fetched. lol I get what she’s saying, but it was actually perfect casting and I’m sorry it was weird for her—but worked out fine,” one person wrote.
“the whole basis of this plot line in glee was that she gave birth to rachel when she was still a teenager and had to give her up to focus on her career,” said another.
“Usually I would agree with her cause Hollywood does like to act as of 40 means grandma but the plot point of ‘Rachel was given up by her teenage mom’ kinda fits perfectly within a 15 year age gap don’t you think?” someone else wrote.
Well, despite her feelings about the casting, Idina went on to tell Stellar that she “sucked it up” because she was so “excited to work with Ryan Murphy and be a part of that hit show.”
Idina explained that she feared opportunities like her Glee role would become rare after she became a mom. “I had my son, Walker, and then three months later, I got the call,” she recalled. “And so I said yes.”
Elsewhere, Idina touched on the reality of joining the Glee cast so soon after giving birth, revealing that she was “still breastfeeding” and “couldn't fit into any of the costumes.”
“I was still breastfeeding and storing breast milk in refrigerators and little frozen lunch boxes, and I couldn't fit into any of the costumes,” she shared.