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The Glee Curse: What I Gathered From the New Docuseries (Part 1)

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UGA chapter.

After first airing in May 2009, Glee quickly became a household name. While the show was initially known for its unique musicality, inclusivity, and absurd plot lines, Glee is now associated with the tragic, sudden deaths of stars Cory Monteith, Mark Salling, Naya Rivera, and more. The Price of Glee is a three-part docuseries (documentary series) that recently aired on the Investigation Discovery channel and was released on Discovery+ on January 16th. None of the original leading cast members were interviewed for the series, but, boy, did the featured crew members, stand-ins, background dancers, and family members have a lot to say.

Here’s the official trailer for the series:

The series centered around the deaths of Glee leads Cory Monteith who played Finn Hudson, Mark Salling who played Noah Puckerman, and Naya Rivera who played Santana Lopez. In this article, I’ll share everything I learned about Cory Monteith’s untimely death, as well as his experience being one of the biggest TV stars of his time.

Cory Monteith

Cory Monteith was an instant fan-favorite, playing the lovable quarterback, Finn. Monteith was 27 when he landed the role for the 16-year-old high school kid.

He, just like all his castmates, was catapulted into fame incredibly quickly, and that seemed to bother Monteith especially. Glee was Monteith’s first major acting gig, and it seems as though he never really was comfortable with the intense singing and dancing aspect of the show.

Monteith was interviewed on George Stroumboulopoulos’ CBC talk show, Tonight, where he admitted, “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?”

Doug Penikas, a dancer for seasons 1 and 2 of Glee, explained the extreme nature of the show for the main cast members saying, “If they’re not acting, they’re rehearsing. If they’re not rehearsing, they’re learning a song. If they’re not learning a song, they’re singing a song for the albums. And then repeat.” 

Monteith was very private and tried to keep his rocky past a secret from the fans. Ultimately, however, he opened up about addiction and his history of substance abuse in an interview with Parade magazine in 2011. He hoped to inspire youth going through similar struggles as he had, saying, “There is a way out. You never know what’s in store for you.”

Monteith voluntarily checked into rehab on March 31st of 2013. He then tweeted, “sending out big love to everyone. thank you for the continued support! It means the world to me! :)” on April 26th when he completed his treatment.

Shockingly, Monteith was then found dead in a Vancouver hotel room on July 13th, 2013, after he missed his checkout time. Police ruled out foul play almost immediately, and the coroner’s office later found that Cory’s death was accidental and due to “mixed drug toxicity, involving intravenous heroin use combined with the ingestion of alcohol,” according to an NBC report. He was only 31. 

In the Docuseries, the hair department head for Glee, Dugg Kirkpatrick, told a story of one of the last times he spoke to Monteith before his death. Allegedly, Kirkpatrick was giving Monteith a haircut when Monteith shared that he was sober at a party, but that he wanted a drink even though he knew he shouldn’t.

Kirkpatrick explained Monteith “was told by a certain cast member that same night, ‘You know, if you want to have a drink, you should have a drink. I’ll be here, you can always trust that I will be here for you.’” While he wouldn’t disclose which cast member allegedly said that to Cory Monteith, Kirkpatrick is confident that moment was the beginning of Monteith’s downfall.

Monteith “resented it, but also he took the direction. I think it set him on a path to destruction.” Kirkpatrick added, “he was given permission by somebody that he loved.”

The Price of Glee revealed that Glee star Lea Michele, who Monteith was dating at the time of his death, was given full authority to decide the future of the show after Cory’s death. Director Ryan Murphy gave her three options—to end the show, take an extended break, or write Finn’s death into the script and keep working. It was Michele who made the decision to take just two weeks off from filming and to write Cory’s death into the plot of the show, though the cause of Finn’s death was never stated in the following episodes.

Lea Michele single-handedly made it impossible for Cory Monteith’s Glee costars to grieve healthily. Michele explained her excuse for this on Ellen in 2013 saying, “‘We have to go back to work.’ We have to. They’re my family.” … 👀

Katrina Mitzeliotis, an ‘Entertainment Reporter’ revealed that while filming the episode about Finn’s death, “They continuously had to stop because, you know, cast and crew were sobbing.”

At the start of the episode titled “The Quarterback,” Chris Colfer, who played Kurt, Finn’s stepbrother, on Glee, delivered a heartbreakingly cold voiceover. The voiceover is followed by an absolutely gut-wrenching monologue delivered by Finn’s mom, Carole (Romy Rosemont).

Kurt says, “Everyone wants to talk about how he died too, but who cares? One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived.”

Cory Monteith is remembered as a lovable, genuine, grounded person who was always kind despite the incredible hardships he went through. The blame for his death is certainly not solely on him, the stress of the show, or his past experiences, but The Price of Glee definitely makes you wonder just how different Monteith’s life could have been had he not been involved with the show.

Exactly what has that done for all of you, Lea? Stay tuned for more articles detailing my findings from The Price of Glee.

Sydney is a Journalism and Theatre major with a minor in Political Science at UGA. She loves all things pop culture, politics, nature, and self-improvement/healing! You can almost always find her on campus diving in to a good book or grabbing a coffee at Starbucks or Jittery Joes.