Be careful what you wish for, Rachel Berry. A freshman at the New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts, McKinley High's star graduate will instantly encounter both a new villain to take the place of Sue and a love interest to fill in for enlisted man Finn.
On the evil side, Kate Hudson shimmies in for six episodes as dance teacher Cassandra July. "I'm having an absolute blast," reports Hudson, in her first series since appearing in Party of Five at age 16. "Cassandra is bitter, drinks, is highly negative and loves to pick on Rachel. My character ruined her [own] career on Broadway and sees a talent in Rachel that she envies."
Fortunately, charming upperclassman Brody Weston (Dean Geyer) steps in with some advice. "He teaches Rachel how to approach Cassandra," says Geyer, who placed third on Australian Idol in 2006 before getting cast on the Aussie soap Neighbors; he was last seen in Terra Nova. Geyer's already getting tweets from enraged "Finchel" supporters. "Some of them hate me. Cory [Monteith] is a hard act to follow," he says. "I hope they'll see Brody doesn't have bad intentions. He's a nice guy who is genuinely attracted to Rachel."
Back at McKinley High — with Rachel, Finn, Quinn, Kurt, Puck, Mercedes and Mike having graduated — there are many slots to fill if New Directions hopes to stay competitive. Mark Salling's Puck will be back in the second episode to introduce his half brother, Jake, played by Jacob Artist (Lifetime's Blue Lagoon). "Jake's the new resident badass heartbreaker," says Artist. "His attitude gets in the way of him joining glee club, so Will [Matthew Morrison] takes him under his wing."
Among those with an eye for Jake is shy transfer student Marley, "who doesn't realize her singing gift," says Melissa Benoist (Homeland). Marley, who has a solo in Episode 2's Britney Spears tribute, is struggling with a family secret, but she'll bond with another transfer student, cross-dressing Unique (Glee Project contestant Alex Newell; this season's winner, Blake Jenner, arrives in Episode 5).
On the other end of the spectrum is Sue's new Cheerios mean girl, 16-year-old Kitty, played by Becca Tobin, who's appeared in Broadway's Rock of Ages. "I was going through my yoga certification when my agent called with this insane opportunity," says Tobin, who describes Kitty as "cutting and ruthless," with a competitive eye focused on Brittany (Heather Morris) and Marley. "She's an opportunist, so we'll see if glee club is in her future." Sounds like another drama-filled year at McKinley High!
Glee premieres Thursday at 9/8c on Fox.