|August 17, 1982|
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Mark Wayne Salling was born on Aug. 17, 1982 in Dallas, TX. The future star graduated from Lake Highlands High School in 2001 before moving west armed only with a suitcase and his guitar to attend the Los Angeles Music Academy in Pasadena, CA. Salling began his acting career in the 1996 film "Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering," in which he played one of several children in a small town who is possessed by the ghost of a wrongfully murdered preacher. The movie also starred then-unknown actress Naomi Watts, who went on to star in blockbusters such as "The Ring" (2002). A financially strapped Salling then took a few years off from acting to earn a living by teaching guitar lessons and working on a burgeoning music career. The singer, songwriter, and musician - he played guitar, piano, bass, and drums - occasionally performed under the stage name Jericho, and released his debut album Smoke Signals (2008) on an independent label. He described his music then as a combination of indie and alternative rock, influenced by bands such as Radiohead and Coldplay. Having given his music career a shot, Salling returned to acting in 2006, landing a role in the independent horror film "The Graveyard."
Struggling to find bigger projects in Hollywood, Salling considered packing up and moving back to Texas. However, his manager convinced him to stay long enough to audition for a new series titled "Glee" from writer and producer Ryan Murphy, who created the provocative medical drama "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-10). Determined to stand out from other actors, Salling cut his hair into a mohawk for his "Glee" audition and was immediately cast as self-centered football player Noah "Puck" Puckerman who discovers a kinder, gentler side of himself when singing in the glee club. When it premiered in 2009, "Glee" was unlike anything on television at the time. The musical comedy series followed a group of students - all from different social statuses - who join their high school glee club despite being ostracized by the rest of the school. Even though "Glee" featured Broadway stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele, and improv comedy veteran Jane Lynch, the cast consisted mostly of newcomers.
Salling's "Puck" was introduced on the pilot episode as an egotistical jock who torments the glee club members, including Lea Michele's overachieving singer Rachel, by throwing Slushie drinks in their faces. He eventually joins the club as a favor to his best friend and fellow footballer Finn (Cory Monteith) and to get closer to Quinn (Dianna Agron), the head cheerleader - and Finn's girlfriend - who happens to be carrying his child, unbeknownst to Finn. Viewers began to see the softer side of Salling's character throughout the first season while his mohawk, muscles and moody good looks earned him a spot on People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue in 2009. The series was both a commercial and critical success, winning a 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy, and a 2010 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
While the plot for "Glee" had its fair share of drama and sight gags, the show's heart truly came from the music. Each episode featured the cast's memorable renditions of Broadway show tunes, rock power ballads, and Top 40 hits. Salling covered Neil Diamond's 1969 classic "Sweet Caroline" on the episode "Mash-Up," which was then released on iTunes that same week. The single reached No. 34 on Billboard's digital downloads chart and was included on the album compilation, Glee: The Music, Volume 1 (2009). In May 2010, Salling joined his "Glee" co-stars on a four-city concert tour, where they performed the show's spectacular musical numbers.