When Fox decided to premiere the pilot for its teen musical drama "Glee" in May 2009 ahead of its originally scheduled fall premiere, it was because they knew they had something special on their hands. Part of what made the pilot special was the vocal harmony of the Glee Club of fictional McKinley High, which included football player Finn. Finn was played by actor Cory Monteith, who had little previous acting or singing experience. Monteith was scheduled to continue his role as Finn in the show's fifth season but tragically died in July 2013, just days before filming on the new season was set to begin.
Though characters die on TV shows all the time, it is rare that an actor dies while the show is still in its heyday. When this occurs, producers and writers must rush to figure out a way to write the character out of the show's storylines, which even on its own is no easy thing to do. Show cocreator Ryan Murphy was quite candid about the challenges facing the cast and crew of "Glee" in the wake of Monteith's sudden passing from a lethal combination of heroine and alcohol. He knew that "Glee" fans were upset and wondering about the future of the show, so he finally came out and gave an interview in which he announced that the third episode of the season would be a tribute to Monteith's character, who would die in the episode just as the actor had.
Murphy also said that Monteith's costar and real-life girlfriend Lea Michele insisted that production on the fifth season only be pushed back a week. Though they could have postponed it further, she felt that having the cast and crew come together sooner would help them start healing faster. She was also acutely aware of the fact that though actors make a lot of money per episode, people like camera operators and caterers don't make millions and have to return to work as quickly as possible to keep food on the table. Murphy wished to honor Michele's request, so the premiere for season five will only be one week late. The first two episodes, which are both a tribute to legendary band the Beatles, will be scripted and filmed as originally planned. The third episode will be the tribute to Finn, but after that, nobody really knows where "Glee" will go without Monteith's character, who often provided much of the heart, optimism, and sweetness at the center of the show.
Fox got together with Murphy and Michele to discuss not only the show but how to honor Monteith outside of the show as well. They decided in late July to have a memorial service for the star, inviting his family and the "Glee" crew to attend. Though the network issued a press statement about the memorial, no cameras or reporters were allowed in order to keep it a more intimate, private gathering. It was the first time everyone from the show got together in one place since the shocking news of Monteith's passing had become public. Just a few days later in early August, filming finally commenced on the new season sans Monteith.
Many costars, and even people who just admired Monteith's work on the show, paid tribute to the tragic star on social media. Chris Colfer, who plays Finn's stepbrother Kurt on the show, tweeted pictures of the two together. He also expressed how much he would miss his onscreen brother.
Naya Rivera, who plays Santana on the show, said in September that everyone is coping by throwing themselves into their work to produce the best show possible. Grief counselors are also available to the entire cast and crew should they need someone to talk to during this difficult time.
Monteith had a history of drug problems going back to when he was just a teenager, a fact that he never tried to hide from the press. He had begun using again as late as spring 2013, when Murphy, cocreator Brad Falchuck, and Michele staged an intervention and told him that he needed to seek help. They wrote his character out of the show temporarily so that he could get treatment, promising that he would have his job back when he was better. He went back to rehab, and everyone thought he had kicked his habit for good before his tragic overdose death. The tribute episode is set to air on Oct. 10, 2013.