Before teaming up for their latest podcast venture with iHeartRadio, And That's What You REALLY Missed, McHale, 34, and Ushkowitz, 36, had co-hosted Showmance. The project initially began as a way for the pair to discuss how their working relationship transformed into a real-life friendship off-screen, but it eventually transitioned into a Glee recap podcast.
But the two actors put Showmance on "hiatus," causing fans to wonder across Reddit why it ended. It turns out that the sudden passing of Naya Rivera, their former Glee costar and real-life friend, influenced their decision to leave the podcast behind them.
"Jenna and I initially had started a podcast that was just about co-workers who became best friends, and we met a lot of interesting people like that. But we quickly realized people just wanted to know about Glee," McHale, who played Artie Abrams, exclusively tells PEOPLE.
"It was at the very beginning of the [rise of] rewatch podcasts," he continues. "We started doing it, but it wasn't necessarily a well-thought-out, well-intentioned, well-researched take on it. We were just like, 'Let's just do it.' And then after Naya's passing, we decided we don't want to do this anymore."
David Livingston/Getty Images Naya Rivera
Rivera was pronounced dead in July 2020 after being reported missing amid her boating trip with son Josey at Lake Piru in Ventura County, California. Her body was recovered days later, and the Ventura County Medical Examiner later ruled her cause of death as an accidental drowning. She was 33.
"I think once Naya passed," says Ushkowitz, "there was a reckoning of sorts for all of us in many, many ways."
Nearly one month later, McHale shared on Twitter that Showmance would release episodes "that were pre-recorded" in June 2020. He also indicated that they'd be taking a break thereafter. The last episode premiered on Aug. 6, 2020.
But iHeartRadio eventually approached McHale and Ushkowitz about doing an all-new podcast. According to McHale, the two former costars "had long conversations about it."
"I think maybe we sort of found each other at a perfect time," he adds. "It just seemed to work out."
Ushkowitz, who played Tina Cohen-Chang, adds: "We were in a different place with [co-creator] Ryan [Murphy], different place with the show. iHeart came and it was like, 'Yes, absolutely.' So I feel like the stars aligned in a way, and we were like, 'We're going to do it right this time.' We're really, really excited about this one."
FOX Image Collection via Getty Glee cast
On And That's What You REALLY Missed, fans can expect the pair to do things "differently" this time around.
"The thing that we want to do differently this time is really kind of dig into what was going on in the world as well, in pop culture, in politics, in the ways that I think the writers were probably inspired and impacted to write for the show," Ushkowitz explains. "Gay marriage was just being legalized. We had the first Black president. It was a really inspiring time in many ways."
She continues, "We're definitely going to have a lot of Glee alums. We're going to have some behind-the-scenes crew people as well."
But there are some topics the duo isn't looking forward to discussing, particularly the highly-emotional October 2013 episode, "The Quarterback." The episode was a tribute to series alum Cory Monteith, who died in July 2013 from an accidental drug overdose. He was 31.
"I don't know how we're going to handle that one, honestly. We're going to have to just see what happens," says Ushkowitz. "But there's also a lot of cringe numbers that I am looking forward to kind of talking about."
Adds McHale, "I second all of that. I feel like I'm just going to ignore that 'The Quarterback,' at some point, will be coming. We'll figure that out on the day. And then, it was actually really therapeutic to be able to talk about [the] 'What the Fox Say' [cover]. I was just like, 'Ryan [Murphy], why?'"
John Medina/WireImage Naya Rivera and Cory Monteith
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iHeartRadio is dropping new episodes of And That's What You REALLY Missed weekly across multiple podcast platforms.
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