Glee newcomer Darren Criss flaunts his impressive six-pack abs inside Out Magazine's annual Hollywood Issue (on stands February 22) -- but that's not all the 24-year-old actor is revealing.
The March cover boy -- whose cover of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" shot to the top of the iTunes charts last year -- also opens up about why he came out as straight after landing the role of Blaine Anderson, an openly gay high school student, during Glee's second season.
"I think it's more empowering to everybody, including myself, if I'm articulate about identifying myself as a straight male playing a gay character," the San Francisco native reasons. "Ultimately, that's more powerful for both communities."
Not that his fans should be too surprised -- the University of Michigan alum grew up surrounded by members of the gay community. As a child actor, Criss performed in local musicals (including Les Miserables), where he befriended cast members in their 20s and 30s.
"I was staying out much later than most kids after shows, going to restaurants," Criss tells the mag. "It's not like I was doing body shots off beautiful Castro boys. I was friends with older guys -- they were who I looked up to. It wasn't until later that I put together that they were gay."
And as a straight man and an ally to the LGBT community, portraying a gay character on TV has its perks.
"The coolest part is not that it's a hit show -- that's a bonus," Criss says. "But the real cool thing is I was inadvertently raised by the gay community."
Just don't expect to see Criss' character fall for Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) anytime soon. According to show creator Ryan Murphy, "it's my job as showrunner to keep them apart as long as possible."
Will their characters ever get together? "When that moment comes -- if it comes -- I want to treat that relationship like we treat all the other relationships on the show," Murphy, 44, asserts. "I want it to be as flawed and as exposed as everyone else's."