Cory Monteith, best known for playing Finn Hudson on Glee, died Saturday in his hotel room at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel. He was 31. No cause of death was given. Monteith had been out with friends Friday night, and hotel security cameras recorded him coming back to his room early Saturday morning. He had been scheduled to check out today and was discovered by hotel staff when he didn’t.
A native of Calgary, Alberta, Monteith had several roles in low-budget films and guest spots on TV shows shot in Vancouver prior to breaking through on Glee. These included Final Destination 3, Smallville, Supernatural, and Kyle XY. Monteith’s big break came on Fox’s musical dramedy, and he ended up playing the show’s teenage male lead, the focal point of a love triangle with two other characters, including female lead Rachel, played by Lea Michele. The Finn and Rachel relationship was one of the few bedrocks of Glee, and whether the two were on or off again, it was always somewhere in the program’s ether, providing the sort of teenage romantic yearning that the show could seemingly summon up at will, even in its very worst seasons. (Indeed, the episode where the two broke up early in season four proved to be that season’s highlight, grounded by terrific work from Monteith, as Finn realized his girlfriend had moved past him when she moved to New York.)
According to Canada’s Maclean’s magazine, Monteith landed his job on Glee when his agent submitted a video of him playing drums with Tupperware containers and pencils. Asked to submit a video where he was singing, he performed REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” an appropriate choice for the cheesily earnest Finn, and he eventually won the part. Glee became a television sensation, going from a critically acclaimed pilot that lost a substantial amount of its American Idol lead-in to one of the most talked about and, finally, one of the most-watched shows on TV. Particularly in that first season, when Glee was on every magazine cover and winning show business awards, Monteith was at the center of the conversation over the show’s success. The role of Finn almost certainly wouldn’t have worked without Monteith, who could play both the character’s doltish jock side and his swooningly romantic, love ballad-singing side.
Monteith had struggled with substance abuse issues since his adolescence, checking into rehab once at 19 and then again in March. He left the 28-day program without incident. Police had not yet said whether drugs were a factor in Monteith’s death.
His passing leaves a substantial hole in Glee, where he was still a regular, even though Finn had graduated in the show’s third season.
Said the producers in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic news. Cory was an exceptional talent and an even more exceptional person. He was a true joy to work with and we will all miss him tremendously. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.” Two of his castmates offered their condolences on Twitter. Numerous TV press members also offered their memories of a young man who achieved mega-fame but still allowed for plenty of time for interviews and interactions with members of the media and fans.
Though Glee is no longer what it was, it’s the kind of show that will inevitably prompt warm memories of what it was in the decades to come, the kind of series that viewers will look back on kindly and will have its moments of pure pleasure gradually come to supersede the way the series eventually fell off a cliff. And when that day comes, it seems almost certain that when Glee comes up in montages of once-beloved TV shows, the clip played will be of Finn and Rachel singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” from the pilot, and everything Monteith brought to the program will come back again, reminding viewers of all his talent and how he died too soon.