He wasn't a singer. He wasn't a dancer. And yet, despite a childhood involving drugs, petty crime and a dozen high schools Cory Monteith rose from being a taxi driver to Glee's all-American football star.
On camera, he was the show-tune crooning quarterback who had heart. Off camera, he was a self-made entertainer who struggled with substance addiction. And in his work and in real life, he was associated with overcoming obstacles.
Cory Monteith, the Canadian-born actor who was best known for playing the straight-laced, lovable American football star on the musical-comedy TV hit Glee, died Saturday. He was 31.
Reactions of shock, disbelief and condolence poured in Sunday from castmates, former co-stars and fans after Monteith was found dead in his 21st-floor room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver, BC, after missing his scheduled checkout time on Sunday.
Authorities confirmed that there was no indication of foul play and that they think the actor was alone when he died. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
“I have no words! My heart is broken,” said Dot-Marie Jones, who plays coach Shannon Beiste on Glee. Cory was not only a hell of a friend... he was one amazing [man] that I will hold close to my heart forever.”
Castmate Stephen Tobolowsky, who played choir director Sandy Ryerson, described Monteith as “tireless as a performer.”
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic news,” Fox said in a statement in its Glee Twitterfeed on behalf of the network, the show's producers and 20th Century Fox Television. “Cory was an exceptional talent and an even more exceptional person.”
Despite a lack of formal musical training, Monteith got his big break when he landed the role of heartthrob Finn Hudson — an upbeat, sometimes aloof jock-turned-geek.
Glee, which debuted in 2009, was an instant hit and spawned a series of young adult novels, cast albums, a clothing line, national concert tours, a reality-show spinoff and more than 200 chart-toppers on Billboard's Hot 100.
Glee's first season featured Finn's fear of risking his social standing and budding sporting career by joining the school's unpopular show choir — but the character grew to be a ringleader of the choir's band of misfits, as well as righthand man to the group's director. In the show's most recent season, Monteith's character returned to his alma mater to help coach his former club.
“I realise that this happens to an actor about once every 10 lifetimes,” Monteith told the Canadian newsmagazine Maclean's in 2010 about being cast on Glee. “To be on a show that's this good, it's rarefied air.”
The actor said he drove to Los Angeles from Vancouver in 20 hours to audition for the part. “I slept on the side of the road in Oregon and learned all the songs to Rent and Billy Joel's greatest hits so I'd have something to audition with,” he told the Canadian Times Colonist.
Early on, Glee “auto-tuned” Monteith's performances; in later seasons, thanks to his diligent improvement, he didn't require such electronic manipulation. His first performance before a live audience was at the White House in 2010.
“If I were to give... a 'most improved,' it would go to Cory,” Glee co-star and singer Matthew Morrison told the Associated Press in 2010. “He wasn't a singer. Definitely wasn't a dancer. To see where he's come, I feel like such a proud teacher ... or almost like a proud parent. It's crazy.”
Both on screen and off, Monteith dated Lea Michele, who plays the ambitious, somewhat neurotic performer Rachel Berry on Glee.
A Fox press representative told the New York Times on Sunday that “production on the new season of Glee was not scheduled to begin production until later this month or early August” and that “no decision had yet been made about how the show might address Mr Monteith's death.”
The actor had been candid about his drug abuse, which he said began in his early teenage years, and his troubled past. He entered a treatment facility for alcohol addiction at 19, and most recently completed voluntary treatment for unspecified substance addiction at a rehab facility in April.
“I was done fighting myself,” he told Parade Magazine about getting help more than a decade ago. “I finally said, 'I'm gonna start looking at my life and figure out why I'm doing this.'”
“I don't want kids to think it's okay to drop out of school and get high, and they'll be famous actors, too,” he later said. “But for those people who might give up: Get real about what you want and go after it.”
Cory Allan Michael Monteith was born May 11, 1982, in Calgary, Alberta, and grew up in Victoria, BC, after his parents divorced when he was 7. He said that the split affected him deeply and that he soon began dabbling in petty crime, alcohol and drugs.
“I didn't have an easy run,” he told Maclean's. “There were a lot of negative things going on. It sort of multiplied in school.” He attended about a dozen high schools before dropping out at 16.
Before becoming an actor, he worked a series of odd jobs, including as a Wal-Mart people greeter, school bus driver, roofer and taxi driver.
“If you're an aspiring actor and you want a good character study, you should be a taxi driver for a while — you see a lot of characters,” he joked to US Weekly magazine in 2010.
Prior to Glee, he repeatedly guest-starred on the series Kyle XY and had a lead role in the MTV series Kaya. His other film credits include Monte Carlo, Final Destination 3, The Invisible, Deck the Halls and Whisper.
According to news reports, survivors include his mother, Ann McGregor; his father, Joe Monteith; and a brother, Shaun Monteith.
“I've learned as I went along. I didn't come out of some school knowing how to act,” he told the Boston Herald in 2009. “I put this all together as time has gone along."