Cory Monteith called himself Frankenteen. Though the nickname was meant to be an insult hurled at his character Finn Hudson on Glee, Monteith embraced the moniker. It was his Twitter username for some time, and what fans would use to tag the actor on Tumblr.
On the show, Monteith’s Finn was a towering presence whose social awkwardness undercut his football player physique. He was a bumbling and mediocre quarterback who thought he got a girl pregnant without even having sex with her. Eventually, he became a high school graduate with no prospects, resorting instead to enlisting in the army and compulsively asking his girlfriend to marry him. They never wed.
Cory Monteith knew a thing or two about being lost.
But if there’s one thing that went right in Finn’s life, it was joining the New Directions, Glee’s cornucopia of misfits and rejects, a force united by a passion for Britney Spears' covers. He didn’t have the vocal range to merit an American Idol spot, but, as the Frankenteen, he fit in.
It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Monteith playing Finn. At 27, Monteith was cast as a high school student after charming creator Ryan Murphy with an audition tape that looked like it was made by an inexperienced 13-year-old. He couldn’t sing, so he played the drums to show off his musicality. Of course, he didn’t have drums on hand and instead assembled wine glasses and Tupperware. He had the spirit producers needed for the leading role of a flamboyant, outside-of-the-box show. A show no one had ever seen before.
Below is a clip of Cory Monteith's Glee audition tape.
Most of all, Cory Monteith knew a thing or two about being lost.
He was a recovering drug addict who’d been using since he was 13. The son of a Canadian soldier, he had been in 16 different schools by the time he was 16, including a few alternative programs for troubled kids. At 19, he finally got clean. In April of this year, he checked back into rehab, with the support of his fans and castmates, including his on- and off-screen girlfriend, Lea Michele.
Glee is watched by eight-to-ten million viewers per episode on FOX. For many, Monteith wasn’t just a character on a TV show, he was a role model. He understood the younger demographic of the series—tweens caught out there, unable to imagine life beyond middle school and high school drama—and he didn’t try to hide his connection to his fans. He was forthcoming about his personal demons, and wanted everyone to know it was OK to ask for help.
Near the end of his final season on Glee, Monteith’s Finn is losing himself in the party lifestyle of college, and leaves his job as an assistant coach of the New Directions. But with the encouragement of an old teammate, his best friend Puck, he picks up his books. He begins studying the only thing he’s discovered he’s good at: teaching.
In his last appearance on the show, Frankenteen is back in the choir room. Alongside Mr. Schue, he stands before his class, finally understanding what it is he's meant to do.
On the next page, you'll find Tumblr tributes from a few of the lives Monteith touched.
Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)