The other morning, I couldn't sleep. I was tossing and turning, stressing out about work and I finally figured that it would be better to get up and get some of that work done. So, I went to my office and turned on my computer. As per usual, I went to Facebook. The first thing that came up in my newsfeed was a post about Cory Monteith. He had been found dead in a hotel room in Canada. He was 31.
"No," I quietly said. But, I knew it was true. And, sadly, it wasn't really that unusual. Promising young Hollywood star, history of drug abuse. I didn't know him personally. I didn't even know much about his personal life. But, it made me so sad.
Because he was Finn Hudson.
My now teenage daughter and I were Glee fans (or "gleeks") since the beginning. Not only did we follow the show religiously, but we bought all the music and went to see the cast perform live, twice — once at Radio City Music Hall and again at the Boston Garden (oh, sorry, the TD Bank North Garden, or whatever it's now called). Together, we cheered (and sometimes cringed) as McKinley High's "New Directions" show choir beat the odds to become national champions. They were a motley crew of misfits, enormously talented, embarrassingly adolescent. It was impossible not to root for them.
Monteith's character, Finn, was the star quarterback, handsome, cool, dating the head cheerleader. At the same time, he was a bit of a dim bulb (okay, a very dim bulb) and ... well, to be honest ... a big doofus. He wasn't perfect; he slipped up sometimes. In a couple of Glee's preachier scenes, he used the words "faggy" and "retarded." At one point, he thought he saw Christ's image on some toasted bread and spent the better part of an episode praying to "Grilled Cheesus."
But, flawed as he was, Finn was the moral compass of the group. He really tried to figure out the right thing to do and then do it. And, when he finally (barely) graduated from McKinley and chose to go into the army, it was one of the show's truest notes. This idealistic boy really would have done that. His decision was all the more poignant because the smarter, fairly liberal audience knew what real life in the military might do to him.
Monteith was older than the other actors playing high school students on Glee. He didn't have much professional experience when he was cast. And, he was arguably the weakest link in terms of vocal ability. But, he was pitch perfect as Finn. You really believed in this earnest young man. You really wanted the world to be a better place for him.
The only things I knew about the actor were that he was from Canada, that he was dating his co-star Lea Michele, and that he had struggled with drug addiction since he was thirteen.
After dropping out of high school, Monteith worked odd jobs and continued to have substance abuse issues until he finally ended up in Hollywood. Landing the role of Finn was a fluke — he didn't sing or dance, and for his audition tape, he did a drum solo on an odd lot of Tupperware containers. But, Glee's creative team saw something in him. And soon 7.5 million fans did as well.
In interviews, Monteith always stressed that he was not Finn. He was open about his past and last Spring, when he checked into rehab (not for the first time), he was very public about it.
"If I can, through my experience, shed light on the way out of a difficult situation, that I know many kids are experiencing, just like I did when I was a teenager, that's, that's huge."
I don't know ... he sounds a lot like Finn to me.
While my daughter and I are both sorry about Monteith's untimely death, I think I'm more so. My daughter has started to outgrow Glee. And maybe 31 doesn't seem so young to her. It seems awfully young to me.
Cory Monteith's real-life was not a sit-com or a musical. And, now, sadly, we know it didn't have a happy ending.
Good-night, sweet prince. Don't stop believing.