During Glee‘s prom episode last week, there was lots of drama, but the night’s most emotional moment may have gone to former bully and closeted teen Dave Karofsky (Max Adler), who teared up while apologizing to Kurt (Chris Colfer) for everything he’s put him through and admitted he’s tired of living a lie.
“I felt like that was the first time ever that you’ve seen Karofsky be the true Karofsky,” Adler, 25, told PEOPLE. “He just let his guard down for that 10 seconds, and it kind of just came out, like a big dam rushing against a big wall. He exploded at the moment, and then he tried to seal it back up.”
Playing Karofsky is a “dream” for Adler, who believes his character’s struggle with his sexuality is an important element of adolescence that viewers don’t often get to see.
“I actually think it’s more important for people that are struggling and that are in the closet to see that on TV as opposed to the Blaines of the world,” he said, referring to Darren Criss’s character, who is openly gay and comfortable with himself. “I feel like people look to Karofsky to kind of see how he’s going to deal with it.”
After being voted prom king, Karofsky had a chance to come clean about his sexuality during the traditional prom king and queen dance, but stormed out of the auditorium when he realized it would have meant a dance with Kurt, who was named prom queen as a prank, but decided to wear the title proudly.
“The guy wins prom king, he runs off the dance floor, and nobody goes to console him, and they don’t know why [he’s upset],” Adler said. “They probably just assume he’s a homophobe and didn’t want to dance with a guy, but that’s why it’s so important for Karofsky to eventually deal with [his sexuality] – because you see how it’s affecting his life.”
His role on Glee has also turned Adler into a role model, and the actor is honored to be in a position to help others.
“Since [the prom] episode, I’ve gotten so many Tweets from people saying they’ve come out to their parents, or they’ve been inspired to come out to their friends, or tonight they’re going to sit around the dinner table and make the announcement,” he said. “I can’t believe that this episode of television is seriously changing some lives. It’s an incredible experience.”