DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The actor who played the shining football star-turned singing coach on the Fox TV hit "Glee" has died. Cory Monteith was found in a hotel room in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday. An autopsy is scheduled for later today, but authorities have already said that the Canadian's death doesn't appear to involve foul play. NPR's Nathan Rott has this remembrance.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The Cory Monteith that most Americans knew wasn't Cory Monteith at all. It was Finn Hudson, the high school football star turned glee club singer whose singing talents were discovered in the shower during the musical comedy's pilot episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GLEE")

CORY MONTEITH: (As Finn) (Singing) I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might...

ROTT: But outside of a love for drumming, Monteith said that Finn Hudson wasn't him. Here he is on the Canadian talk show "George Stroumboulopolous Tonight."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: You know, you look; you see this young, All-American quarterback-looking dude on the show, and you just immediately make assumptions. And I think people really started identifying me with those assumptions.

ROTT: And that wasn't the reality. Cory Monteith wasn't a high school football star. He was a high-school dropout.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: I really had no idea what I was going to do. It was like, I don't like going to school so - you know, I was really lost. I was really lost for a lot of years.

ROTT: He got into drugs at age 13. He dropped out of school at 16, and found work as a Wal-Mart greeter and a taxi driver. At 19, he checked into rehab.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: For me, it wasn't so much about, you know, the substances per se; it was more about - about not fitting in. It was not having - I hadn't found myself at all.

ROTT: But he said that acting changed that. He started landing small parts in TV shows like "Stargate" and "Smallville." And then came "Glee."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: I think they were looking for the triple threat: singer, dancer, Broadway-type person for this part, and that's not really me. You know, I'd never sang or danced or anything before this. And so I sent them a tape of myself, you know, acting, doing a scene. And instead of singing and dancing for the part, I sent a tape of myself playing the drums on Tupperware.

ROTT: He re-created it on the show "Ellen" with two pencils and a platter of empty dishes.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ELLEN")

MONTEITH: It was like this...

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING AND CHEERING)

ROTT: Clearly, it worked. In 2009, he got the part of Finn Hudson, the jock turned geek who everyone would come to know him as.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GLEE")

MONTEITH: (Singing) I'm just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train going anywhere.

ROTT: After that song in the show's pilot, "Glee" grew to have a following of 7.5 million people, and Monteith became a superstar, winning a Teen Choice Award and helping the show's entire cast win a Screen Actors Guild Award. But of all those fans that were suddenly vying for his attention, one stood out. It was his father. On the Canadian talk show, Monteith said until that point, he hadn't talked to his dad in years.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: I look at it as one of the best experiences that have come from this, this whole, you know, explosion.

ROTT: It wasn't all easy, though. There was always a question about what he'd do after "Glee," what came next. And earlier this year, he checked back into rehab. He hoped that his struggles could help others though.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOLOUS TONIGHT")

MONTEITH: If I can, through my experience, shed light on the way out of a difficult situation that I know many kids are experiencing, you know, just like I did when I was a teenager - I mean, it's - that's huge.

ROTT: Monteith was 31 years old. Nathan Rott, NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.