Looking at photographs of a smiling Lea Michele and equally beaming Cory Monteith is enough to break a heart after news broke that Monteith was found dead at 31 years old Saturday.
The pair fell in love onscreen as Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry, all the while forming a very real off-screen romance. Rumors have swirled around whether Monteith and Michele were planning to wed, but one thing was clear: The two cared for and supported each other beyond their careers.
Michele told “Marie Claire” in a January 2013 interview that she felt like “the luckiest girl in the world,” and that Monteith made her “feel like (she) could do anything.”
The two met in 2009 when “Glee” began filming, and began officially dating in mid-2012.
Monteith had a history of using drugs that began when he was just 13 years old. He was admitted into rehab in April of this year, but Michele was openly supportive of him, telling “People” magazine, “I love and support Cory and will stand by him through this. I am grateful and proud he made this decision.”
It remains unclear what the cause of Monteith’s death was, although in initial reports police were not suspecting “foul play.”
What’s clear is the devastating effect a beloved actor’s death has on those close to him and those who were only just his fans. Michele has been privately mourning her loss, having yet to make any official statement on Monteith’s death.
While the larger loss is of Monteith the man, there is an inherent loss in the fictional world when a character living onscreen dies in real life. Such is the situation with “Glee’s” Finn, who was reportedly supposed to play a big role in the initial episodes of the upcoming fifth season. The season was scheduled to begin filming in mid-August, according to Fox.
Now, the stage of the lively, song-filled show has been dimmed with the loss of one of its brightest stars.
“Glee” is not the first show to lose a cast member, not even the first to see a prominent player go. Notably, “8 Simple Rules” lost star John Ritter suddenly to an undetected heart condition in 2003, and bartender Coach of “Cheers” died from a heart attack in 1985. Both shows wrote the respective characters’ deaths into the plot.
That seems to be the trend when a show loses an actor, writing the character’s death into the show. But with Monteith, the pain cuts a little deeper.
Many shows appear to have a sense of camaraderie between cast members, and losing a co-star is likely similar to losing a friend or member of a tight-knit little family. But given Michele and Monteith’s relationship, forcing her to relive the pain of such a devastating event seems unbearable.
Michele lost the man she loves, and for Rachel to lose Finn permanently, I would imagine, it would break her heart all over again. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Michele decided to step away from the show altogether to avoid the pain.
Fans might not even be able to fully handle the death of the boy they grew up with, either.
Finn was the guy that wasn’t supposed to exist in high school: the star football player who loved to sing and chose the uptight choir standout over the head cheerleader. But on “Glee,” he did exist.
The show made impossible things happen, consistently offering hope and inspiration to its viewers. “Glee” is the ultimate advocate for the ones who don’t have it so easy in life, and the show does an incredible job connecting fans to characters who teach them confidence and compassion.
Watching Finn “set Rachel free” in the final episode of Season 3, when the two were set to wed and Finn instead took Rachel to the train station to send her off to New York, was heart wrenching. Finn and Rachel are characters, yes, but through “Glee” they came alive as so much more. For those who experienced high school alongside “Finchel,” as the couple was affectionately known, Rachel and Finn stood for something we all wanted.
Monteith’s death has sparked an outpouring of support from fans, grief from friends and co-stars and celebration of the young actor’s life. For someone who meant so much to so many people, in so many different ways, grieving once is hard enough. The idea of reliving it — well, there might not be a harder goodbye to watch unfold onscreen.