On July 13, 2013, actor Cory Monteith left behind the cast of Glee, his friends, his fans and an uncountable amount of loved ones when he gave into his personal demons and departed this Earth at the age of 31. On May 11, 2014, the world celebrated what would have been his 32nd birthday.
On the show that made him a household name, he played the bumbling, sometimes dense, but always loveable quarterback, Finn Hudson. He started off as a young man who tried to maintain a cool facade as the most popular boy in McKinley High School and turned into a young adult who realized that he would much rather have a compassionate heart than a claim to fame that he did not always feel he deserved.
The news of his passing hit like a shock wave over the internet on that late July night. The public was aware of his troubles and they knew that he had taken himself out of the spotlight in order to quell them. It was not the first time he had done this. In his teens, Cory attempted to turn his life around. At age 16, he struggled with an addiction that spiraled out of control. By age 19, he was ready to stop that spiral.
“I was done fighting myself,” he said of the moment he realized he needed help. “I finally said, ‘I’m gonna start looking at my life and figure out why I’m doing this.’”
Through dedication, hard work and with a lot of life ahead of him, Cory Monteith brought the glee he once left behind back to him. He found a roofing job to help him pay bills. A friend, who happened to be an acting coach, decided to give him a screen test. He knew there was something to live for, but he also knew his story could have turned a very different page.
“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 said to Parade Magazine back in 2011. “But for those people who might give up: Get real about what you want and go after it.”
Cory went after it. He nabbed some small roles, appearing in the movie, Final Destination 3 and the television series, Kyle XY. In 2009, his agent sent a video of him drumming on Tupperware to producer Ryan Murphy for a new show Murphy was putting together. Murphy was impressed, but told the agent that for anyone to be cast on the show, they had to be able to sing as well. A second tape was submitted of Cory singing along to the 80’s rock ballad, Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon. That song would become one of his most memorable as the first time the public saw Finn Hudson on-screen, it would be this song he was singing. He was in the shower, blaring his heart out, using a bar of soap as a microphone. A moment was created and a star was born. But Cory wanted to be more than that.
Following the storyline that portrayed Finn as becoming more accepting of the world around him, he filmed a PSA for Straight But Not Narrow, an organization that helps young people to better accept and understand the LGBTQ community. He was a part of Project Limelight, a Canadian performing arts program for at-risk youth. It was this very organization that first helped Cory out of his dark place when he was 19 years old. He also worked with non-profit organizations such as Crysalis and Virgin Unite. He had not just found the glee he once lost, but he was determined to give it back to others.
“If you focus on what you want and you persevere, chances are you succeed,” he once mentioned of his new-found fame. “It is all about focusing and being inspired.”
Cory Monteith did inspire many, but sometimes, the demons we battle come back stronger than before. In March of 2013, he took a step back at the highest point of his career and headed into battle once again. It seemed as if for a while, he was winning. He and his girlfriend, Glee co-star Lea Michele, were seen heading out for a vacation over a month later.
“Sending out big love to everyone,” he tweeted on April 26, 2013. “Thank you for the continued support! It means the world to me! :)”
Two months later, Cory Monteith was gone.
Cory was the underdog. He was the guy who had a bad hand thrown his way in life, but you wanted him to at least break even. Like his character, Finn Hudson, Cory Monteith was flawed in many ways, but you always root for the underdog. Even when life seems to twist the knife a little deeper, they keep the smile on their face. They are fighters and Cory, if nothing else, was a fighter. He seemed to know what he wanted out of life and did everything he could to achieve it.
“I don’t need to be wildly famous for my life to make sense,” he once said. “I guess I’m kind of happy where I’m at, and I take whatever comes and it is a good thing. So I think what I have already been given, as far as being able to do these shows, is such a blessing.”
On what would have been his 32nd birthday, his fans, friends, co-stars and everyone and anyone that crossed his path looked back at the very short life of Cory Monteith and the glee he left behind. The show that made him famous is set to end next year with an altered ending than originally planned. In the very last moments of what was to be the very last episode, Finn Hudson would have taken over the glee club that helped him find himself. He would have been teaching the younger ones all of the things that turned him into the man he was.
Just like the life of the actor that played him, Finn Hudson wanted to be more. He did not want to leave anything behind. He wanted to pass the glee along… Just like Cory Monteith did.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown