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RIP, Cory Monteith of Glee, Dead at 31

In Glee, Monteith's Finn was often the heart and emotional anchor of a show that could take dizzying plot twists and roller coaster shifts in tone.

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GLEE: Finn (Cory Monteith) leads the glee club in the "Naked" episode of GLEE airing Thursday, Jan. 31 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2013 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Eddy Chen/FOX
Eddy Chen / FOX

Cory Monteith, who played high-school-quarterback-turned-singer Finn Hudson in Fox’s Glee, has died, way too young, at age 31. Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room; at this writing, investigators have not determined the cause of death. And in a way, I’m glad that I’m writing this before we know the cause—before the focus turns to why and how Monteith died, rather who and what we lost.

Monteith will leave a big hole in Glee, and not just because he had such a large role in its sprawling ensemble cast. As Monteith played him, Finn was also often the heart and emotional anchor of a show that could take dizzying plot twists and roller coaster shifts in tone. At its best, however zany Glee could become, it was rooted in something real: the struggles of small-town kids to become better than they’ve been led to expect, and their fear that their reality may not match their dreams.

Finn, the son of a single mom and a dad killed in Iraq, encapsulated this; the only thing he worried about more than his teammates’ ridicule for joining glee club was the potential of ending up a “Lima loser” who peaked in high school. That’s part of what made the pilot’s climactic duet, “Don’t Stop Believin’”–which Monteith performed with costar Lea Michele, who he would eventually date in real-life—such a fitting emotional anthem for Glee: the show, and Monteith, sold both the optimism and the suggestion that merely believin’ would not always be enough.

Monteith was 31 when he died, and Glee has aired for four seasons, which means that he was in the long tradition of stars of high-school dramas who played characters far younger than themselves. But one thing I always admired in Monteith’s performance was that, even if he looked older than a teenager, he was able to capture Finn’s decent, unformed, half-boy-half-man naiveté. His Finn began as a boy who found himself operating the controls of a grown-up body. (Monteith, who did a stint in rehab for substance abuse this year, said himself that he had his own “out of control” adolescence to draw on.) And as adulthood hurtled at him—graduation, a failed enlistment, and his return to help run New Directions–his adjustment to his scaled-back expectations was one of the most consistent and moving story lines in the series.

Glee,  preparing to go into production for season 5, will obviously have to adjust to the loss of its star and one of its most important characters. But beyond that, without Monteith’s vulnerable, empathetic performance, it will have lost a major voice in its emotional chorus. RIP.

13 comments
mimiscissions
mimiscissions like.author.displayName 1 Like

Being jaded much? Who was offering hope and idealism? You, CDS4493? I found Glee a happy island in TV land, better than religion. Cory Monteith was able to display a vulnerable heart and I grieve for his loss. If he had an addiction problem did that make him less? It takes a lot of character to overcome substance abuse that he was too young to understand the consequences of at 13. I think he was dieting too much. He probably developed a munchy habit  to asuage his habit. He gave everything great effort and the world will be without a tender heart, a rare thing.

CDS4493
CDS4493

So the "emotional anchor" was a guy who admittedly got into acting to escape addiction and just got out of rehab? Only in Hollywood

Erin77
Erin77

Heartbreaking news, thank you for the lovely, insightful tribute. I am surprisingly saddened by this death of someone I don't know, but we all know him as sweet, sensitive, loyal, and humble Finn. How the character compared to the actor we don't know but know one ever seem to have a bad word to say about him. There were probably a dozen points at which this could have gone a different direction, as there always is in any tragedy or accident. So wish one of those had turned and made this work out differently.

GabriellaBolchenko
GabriellaBolchenko

I can't even begin to process this, it feels like I'm in a nightmare. So sad to see this happen to someone this young and talented. He will forever be missed! What a beautiful man on the inside and out. :(

GuySteam
GuySteam

People rioting across the country because of the trayvon martin verdict, and this is the top story. LoL, silly americans. When will we ever stop being so obsessed with celebrities? 

lofsjim
lofsjim

@GuySteam  Cory Monteith was a young man trying to do the best in his life for himself and others, the people rioting need to get a life. Who would you rather read about? Your answer will define you.

CindyDoty
CindyDoty

So sad, RIP Mr Monteith, you will be missed

ShowThemWhat
ShowThemWhat like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 6 Like

Thank you, Mr. Poniewozik, for this beautiful remembrance.  Cory's character was, in fact, the heart and emotional anchor of Glee, and an immense amount of what made Glee work can be attributed to Cory's empathetic and vulnerable acting.  My heart is broken for the loss of a young man -- a lifetime too young -- who was universally loved and respected by all who ever met him and wrote about the encounters.  The world of storytelling through acting is much poorer today for this loss, since we will now never see the characters he might have brought to life and the stories he might have told through a long career expertly practicing his craft.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones, friends, the Glee family, and all who knew and loved him best.