In the spring of 2011, Parade writer Shawna Malcom sat down with Cory Monteith, who wanted to discuss something he had never spoken about in detail before: his struggle with addiction, which started when he was a teenager. Here, Malcom remembers that revealing conversation and the thoughtful, articulate, talented man she met.
A week before I interviewed Cory Monteith for a June 2011 Parade cover story, I went to see him play a show in Los Angeles with his fledgling Cali-rock band Bonnie Dune. Soon he would be traveling around the world via private jet to perform in packed arenas for the “Glee Live!” summer concert tour, but for this small gig on a college campus, Cory, the band’s drummer, had happily driven himself and his bandmates to the venue in a white rental van and unloaded his own gear. Near the end of the show itself, he decided to take advantage of the intimate setting and invite the audience, comprised mostly of enthusiastic female Glee fans, up onstage—a move that, in the absence of any hired security, had promptly led to his being mobbed, stripped of his drumsticks and accidentally whacked in the head with a microphone.
It probably hadn’t been the best idea, he admitted later with a laugh, but the actor-musician, whom I’d first met in 2010 while reporting another story, thrived on connecting with people—something he was getting fewer and fewer opportunities to do, thanks to the insulating bubble of fame. In two short years, Cory had gone from little-known Canadian actor to breakout TV star and international heartthrob, but he wasn’t like most fast-rising young-Hollywood types I’ve encountered. He was humble. Articulate. Genuinely nice. And he had the talent to back up the bright future full of challenging film roles and major-label albums he envisioned for himself.
Sadly, that promising future was unexpectedly cut short last weekend when Cory died in a Vancouver hotel room at age 31 from what has since been ruled an overdose of heroin and alcohol. Cory first detailed his struggle with substance abuse as a teenager in the interview I did for Parade. I hadn’t really known what he planned to say when he arrived for the interview at a favorite restaurant on a Saturday night, fresh off a plane from New York, where he’d been filming an episode of Glee. His publicist had said he wanted to talk about how he’d turned his life around after a troubled youth, though what that “troubled youth” entailed was never explicitly stated. I was told only that Cory would reveal as much as he felt comfortable.
Over the course of several hours, he gradually revealed his eye-opening journey—the feelings of alienation and unworthiness that had led to heavy drug use, the interventions, the first stint in rehab at 19 and the rock-bottom moment of facing the threat of prison after getting caught stealing to support his increasingly “dire” habit. “The underlying problem was that I wasn’t ok with myself,” he said. “The drugs were symptomatic of me not being in a good place. Things got really bad, really ugly.”
He answered every question I posed candidly, thoughtfully and on the record, save for naming the hard drugs he’d used. He’d only discuss that off the record. He was keenly aware that the revelation that the seemingly clean-cut kid from Glee was a recovering addict would be big news, and he said he didn’t want the media to focus on those particular “buzzwords.” “What is just one part of your story, paraphrased and taken out of context, can be a headline in someone else’s,” he said. “And everything that comes out of my mouth is gonna be repeated in two-sentence-long bites for the next years of my life. Certain words travel far and wide.”
Instead, Cory hoped his decision to speak out on his own terms would serve to help others struggling with similar issues.It was also clear that, while he was grateful for the success that had come with Glee, he was eager to make the distinction between himself and his naive character Finn Hudson, who’d led a largely charmed life at McKinley High as a popular jock and show-choir standout. ”I feel like a bit of a fraud sometimes,” he admitted. In his own teen years, he’d been a self-described “loner, outcast,” and he’d been known to joke that some of his best acting had come from appearing as if he knew what he was doing when he held a football or basketball.
I also got the strong sense that he was struggling to reconcile his public persona with his private self. “At the end of the day, who everybody meets in the public eye, the public image, and myself are two different people in a way,” he said. “It’s a very accessible version of me. I’m definitely more introverted. I’m definitely darker. I’m definitely more, at times, pessimistic in real life. I shouldn’t say pessimistic. That’s a little strong. I’m more pragmatic in real life because I come from a whole different body of experience.” Despite showing up to the interview wearing a disguise of sorts—a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of his beloved Vancouver Canucks hockey team and a pair of nerdy black Clark Kent-esque glasses—Cory seemed to want to be seen that night for exactly who he was.
He said he was committed to not letting the glossy glare of Hollywood blind him to the hard lessons he’d learned long before moving there. ”It’s a trap,” he said of using drugs. “Because when you choose that lifestyle, you unchoose everything else. You don’t realize you’re doing it, but you’re distancing yourself from the rest of the world. You’re putting up walls and burning down bridges and alienating yourself from everybody. It’s very lonely.”
He seemed to be at his best when he had a set or a gig to show up to every day, something that would keep him busy and creatively challenged, though even then, he admitted, there were times he could be thrown “off track” by the thoughts that ran through his head. Among them: “Thinking about doing other things, thinking about buying a yacht and sailing the Mediterranean and quitting the show.” It was in those moments that he relied heavily on his support system, which at that time included other sober-living people, his “closer than close” mom Ann, the roommates who shared his seven-bedroom rental house, his Bonnie Dune bandmates, and his “family” of cast and crew at Glee. “I have the fortune of being surrounded by people I love and who love me and will remind me of what is important,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘This is what you want.’”
We’ll likely never fully understand what led Cory to succumb to the demons he’d fought so hard against. But he seemed to leave our interview that night buoyed by the experience of sharing where he’d been and owning those choices, for better or worse. All that was left was to find a way home. Having been dropped off at the restaurant earlier in the evening, he asked if I’d mind giving him a ride. Soon he was sitting in the passenger seat of my car, his laughter filtering out of the open windows and over Laurel Canyon. I can still vividly picture him tapping out a beat on my dashboard and enthusiastically singing along to a Beatles track blasting from the speakers. Here’s hoping that, wherever he may be, he still is.
Original article she's referring to is here.
This is a beautiful article. It's long so I bolded his quotes, but it's worth the read.