Ryan Murphy, the co-creator of Glee, delivered a eulogy at a private memorial service in July for Cory Monteith. Read an excerpt below.
For me, Cory was both the beginning and the ending of Glee…literally.
The first scene of the pilot was Cory’s Finn and Matt [Morrison]’s Mr. Schu. None of us really knew what we were doing. Glee was a musical, musicals had never worked on television, and we were figuring it out as we went along. At the end of his first take, Cory could see I, his director, was a little unsure. He came up to me with a big grin and said, “This is going to be fun.” He was terribly right, and terribly wrong.
The ending of Glee is something I have never shared with anyone, but I always knew it. I’ve always relied on it as a source of comfort, a North Star. At the end of season 6, Lea [Michele]’s Rachel was going to have become a big Broadway star, the role she was born to play. Finn was going to have become a teacher, settled down happily in Ohio, at peace with his choice and no longer feeling like a Lima loser. The very last line of dialogue was to be this: Rachel comes back to Ohio, fulfilled and yet not, and walks into Finn’s glee club. “What are you doing here?” he would ask. “I’m home,” she would reply. Fade out. The end.
That ending, and that beginning, speaks deeply of my personal feelings for Cory. Despite his troubles, he always felt deeply rooted—dependable, sweet, someone you return to for comfort. He was big, oafy, oversize—which is why during the pilot I gave him the nickname Frankenteen, a nickname that, much to his horror, stuck. But he was also the biggest surprise for me personally, and in many ways reaped the most respect.
When we started, he alone had never danced. He had never really sung. And yet from his audition tape—where he tried out banging on Tupperware—he became a singer. A great one. And he became a dancer. He gave both his heart, and that is what Cory was to me—all heart. Ultimately his body, through his terribly sad and frustrating addiction, won out over that big, strong beating heart.
On Glee, Cory was the quarterback. He was a natural leader and, always, a welcome embrace. When new cast members joined the show—and that choir room can at first be a chilly one—Cory was the first to speak to them, welcome them, show them the ropes.
From the beginning Cory and I had a father-son relationship, which at that time I have to admit I did not want. I didn’t know how to do that. But Cory—from a broken home, a lost boy—needed a male figure to provide guidance, support, a direction. In retrospect, Cory was kind of my training wheels for becoming the father I am today with my own child.
One of the most difficult things about the death of a young person is the loss of potential. Of what could be. Cory had a lot of unfulfilled dreams. He longed for more adult material, to prove himself as an actor. And he wanted to direct. He wanted to get better, he wanted to evolve.
And so he is frozen in a moment. For generations of children, future impressionable young people who will watch his indelible character of Finn Hudson, he will always be that quarterback—a person who champions the underdog, fights the bullies, loves for the exact right reasons. Cory will continue to change lives for the better. It is a rare gift to touch the lives of one person, let alone millions.
For more “Late Great” essays — including Martin Scorsese on Roger Ebert, and Dwayne Johnson on Paul Walker — pick up the special double issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now.