Canadian actor Cory Monteith, best known for his breakthrough role in the TV series Glee, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room yesterday. He was 31.
I interviewed him less than two years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival, when he was in town publicizing the film Sisters & Brothers, by director Carl Bessai. In it, he played a suddenly famous and hard-living young star whose brother (played by 90210's Dustin Milligan) was crashing at his Hollywood home.
During the interview at the swank Hazelton Hotel, Monteith was polite but guarded and cautious. Word was he didn't want to talk about his personal life with co-star Lea Michele or address rumours that his character, football player Finn, would soon be leaving the series.
But I did ask him how he stayed grounded amidst the constant glare of paparazzi.
"I say ‘No' to a lot of shit," he said. "I think that's where [irresponsible behaviour] starts: in the land of ‘Yes,' in the land of ‘Everything's free and everything's yours.' I have very specific boundaries."
Although his life had changed a lot in the past few years, he listed a number of things that kept him humble.
"I still get up and put my pants on one leg at a time," he said. "There are always the great equalizers: things like laundry and airport security lineups."
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Monteith had entered rehab for substance abuse.
And now his sudden, premature death, which begs the question: Did he eventually give in to some Hollywood enabler and say "Yes"? Toxicology reports are pending.
At that brief interview, there was still a glimpse of the good ol' Canadian boy beneath the slick exterior.
When I asked if he related to the movie's self-destructive character, which now seems like an eerie foreshadowing, he seemed sincere.
"Well, it's something I see a lot of," he said. "And something I hope I never turn into. I hope I never get that far away from what matters."
Turns out that hope never came true after all.