Ryan Murphy Exclusive On Cory Monteith Memorial Episode: “Lovely Tribute And Very Heartfelt Look At How Young People Grieve”

EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Murphy, as part of an Emmy-timed interview this week, updates Deadline/Awardsline’s Christy Grosz about writing Glee‘s Cory Monteith memorial episode and going back to the set of the series without the actor:

Related: EMMYS Q&A: Ryan Murphy

It’s been a difficult circumstance because we basically went straight from the memorial into [reworking] the two Beatles episodes, Ryan Murphywhich I think are fun and optimistic, that we had always had planned. The hard part for all of us is that the past week we’ve been holed up writing the memorial episode. There were a lot of things that we had to decide — how are we going to deal with his death? At one point, we were going to have his character die after an accidental drug overdose — that was something we had considered. But we have decided that we’re not going to have him pass from that. Basically, what we’re doing in the episode is we are not telling you yet, or maybe not at all, how that character died. Cory MonteithThe idea being, how somebody died is interesting and maybe morbid, but we say very early on in the episode, “This episode is about a celebration of that character’s life.” That might be weird for some people, but it felt really exploitative to do it any other way. The cast and crew have had solace in being together. They’ve been holed up doing those Beatles numbers. There’s been tears on set. It’s been hard for a lot of people. But the really difficult thing is coming. We start shooting the memorial episode this week. We’re just now finishing it, and at the end of the week we’ll send it to [the studio 20th Century Fox Television] to get their approvals. But I think it turned out to be a lovely tribute, and it’s a very heartfelt look at how young people grieve. After that, we’re going to take two weeks or three weeks down to get our heads together because it’s been a really hard thing to write. We loved Cory and we loved Finn and it feels like a huge loss and a huge heartache not to have either of them around. We’re trying to craft an episode that’s not just about us grieving but about a lot of the young fans grieving.

Comments (56)

  • While I understand the desire to focus on how young people grieve, I believe that this show is missing a huge opportunity to layout addiction as a disease (which it is) and make an impact that could essentially eliminate the stigma currently associated with addiction. To miss the mark on this opportunity is a tragedy in and of itself. Especially when you consider the millions of people who are affected by a loved ones addiction. Disappointed by this news to say the least.

    Comment by Kelly — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:36am PDT  
    • I am glad they are not having Finn die of an accidental OD. Finn was not Cory and it wouldn’t hold to where Finn’s character was at. Finn had finally gotten a purpose in life and it would really undermine all of last year’s story to have him die of an OD.

      Comment by Camussie — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:48am PDT  
    • I really disagree. Why should the death of Finn (who is a fictional character) be related to the actor’s real life tragedy? In the fictional world of Glee, Finn never had a drug problem. In fact, in one of the previous episodes, Finn told his mom that he would never end up like his father, who did die of drug overdose. There would be no narrative context for the character to end up like that. And Glee is not a social learning platform, nor should it take any responsibility to become one.

      Comment by JT — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:52am PDT  
    • I hear what you’re saying, but with all of the attention being paid to Cory and his death, I think that talking about the realities of his struggles and death can already speak powerfully to the issue — more powerfully than forcing an out-of-character story line on the character he played in a single episode would be able to do. Maybe down the road Glee can tackle this issue in a long, developed story with a character brought in for that purpose, where the complexities of addiction can be addressed. Helping people address the feelings that come when a loved one suddenly dies, especially when the person is young and those grieving him are young, is a monumental task in and of itself.

      Comment by Julie — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:54am PDT  
      • Julie – you raise a good point. We should let Cory’s story stand on its own; it doesn’t need the help of a fictional character, especially when that would involve artificially contorting the character’s story line. And yes, looking at grief, and emphasizing the value of a person’s life over and above how they died, can make for a very valuable message. I really like that they’ve decided to leave open the question of how he died. In fact, part of the grieving process often includes accepting the fact that the question of “How did this happen?” may never be fully answered.

        Comment by Susie — Sunday August 18, 2013 @ 10:50pm PDT  
    • One of the factors for the disintegration of the quality of the show was that it started taking itself too seriously. It became preachy about issues and started going up on its soap box. The episodes became so heavy handed that it was excruciating to watch. Remember the “Shooting Star” episode anyone? That episode was universally panned by the critics. I hope the Glee writers have learned their lesson. I miss the days when Glee was a dark comedy with satire and subtle but biting social commentary.

      Comment by AJ — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:56am PDT  
      • This. 100%.

        Comment by Brittany — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:29am PDT  
      • I agree something went damn wrong. I feel Glee got so caught up in the initial hype and paid too much attention to that. Felt to me like they became more strategic about what they felt would hold on to viewers (like too many guest stars) rather than rely on the very unique creativity that brought the show to life. By the 3rd time I saw Gywneth’s silly mug and silly character appearing I started to lose my patience (don’t get me started on Chenowith either). Anyhow I just began to question most of their choices and as a fan it finally became more frustrating than fun.

        I’m truly saddened by Cory’s passing though. He was one of the few characters I cared about.

        Comment by Mar — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 4:24pm PDT  
        • I agree. I also thought that Matthew had it written into his contract that he would sing and dance more than the kids. So much of his “teaching” was unrealistic and performing with them in public is the best example. As a teacher, his character frustrated me so many times. An effective teacher knows how to tell a student he or she is not the best rather than deal with it forever. Kurt, Santana and Mercedes were not competitive performance show singers.

          Comment by Gunny — Thursday September 26, 2013 @ 4:02pm PDT  
    • What is a tragedy is that this young man is gone, and how opportunistic individuals try to take advantage of this situation to deal with their own personal issues/social problems. Fortunately, the producers of this show clearly ‘get’ that what will best fit it, as well as the loss of this character is celebrating their life and not proselytizing the unfortunate circumstances that ended it.

      Comment by Truthteller — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:09am PDT  
    • I think his death alone in reality was enough of a lesson in addiction. There is no need to exploit that to help kids better understand. They should be getting that understanding from parents, teachers, trusted ones and not from a TV Show. Im glad that they are giving him a tribute with dignity. The sigma is that an addict is nothing more of a person than just that. When they are so much more. Im pleased to see that the reasoning of “how” isn’t as important as “how” to deal with loved ones moving on in a healthy way. Far too often kids don’t know how to deal with that.

      Comment by littlelittle — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:15am PDT  
    • No way. An actual person died here. It’s painful enough to know why. Why shove it further in the faces of his friends and family? Kids know not to do drugs and at the end of the day, a half hearted statement from a television show isn’t going to stop them if that’s what they want to do. The fans, the cast and his family are grieving right now. They need to deal with that, not have someone shouting DRUGS ARE BAD in their face for an hour. How could that possibly be effective?

      Comment by Paige — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:28am PDT  
      • Paige, I totally agree with what you are saying. I don’t know why anyone would want to put the cast and crew and especially Michelle through having Finn die the way Corey did. My Lord, I don’t know how these people have made it through dealing with filming Finn’s memorial so close to the real life loss of their loved one. This is tragic no matter how he passed.

        Comment by Kat — Tuesday August 20, 2013 @ 9:23am PDT  
    • But this is the wrong place for it because while the actor struggled with addiction for many years, there has not even been the slightest HINT that Fin did drugs. I think it is a good thing that they are focusing on the grieving of those left behind and the life Fin led rather than focusing on the way he died. One of the tragedies of Corey’s death is that for years to come whenever there is a piece on entertainers who died of drug overdoses his name and picture will be trotted out. Like River Phoenix, after a decade or two has passed how he died could overshadow how he lived. I am glad the episode is going to focus on the life of Fin and the hole he left behind.

      Comment by KarenLaRae — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:44am PDT  
      • Exactly right. As another comment so succinctly put it 19 year Finn was not 31 year old Cory.

        Comment by Camussie — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 1:39pm PDT  
    • I agree with you 100%. This opportunity is to important to pass. Yes it is great to celebrate life, but Cory’s passing is a unique opportunity to save many lives. the truth is that if Mr. Murphy decides to not use this tragic event to save many lives, than dear Cory’s life was in vane, because in a way Cory’s overdose and his addiction was a sacrificed for others to show what it can happen to those that are on the same road as he was before he died. May God give the writers of the show wisdom.

      Comment by pita — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 12:19pm PDT  
    • I understand the “loss” of the opportunity to talk about drug addiction, but quite frankly that is discussed ALL THE TIME (as it should be).

      However, the grieving process is hardly EVER adequately addressed if ever at all.

      I’m GLAD Glee isn’t going for the obvious.

      Comment by dollydas — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 5:29pm PDT  
    • While I agree in theory, the notion of something that is not visible and measurable as a disease is something to many people simply REFUSE to understand. It threatens there sense of self control. If I were the Glee writers, I would not want to tackle that one right now.

      Comment by Ev Barney — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 8:01pm PDT  
    • As Ryan Murphy said, it would be viewed as exploitative to use the tragedy of Cory’s death as a storyline for their show. It’s just wrong – it’s disrespectful. While I agree with you in some ways – it would certainly be a great storyline for the show that has dealt with many sensitive issues with tact – can you imagine all the stories that would be printed later on? All the mad fans. Not to mention the pain the cast would have to go through filming such an episode? Why would you put them through that? Who would put them through that?

      While I certainly see your point, it’s not fair or right to Cory’s hard work and love and devotion to acting and the effort he put into developing the character, Finn, to have him die of an overdose. I like that they are honouring the character in this way and I absolutely applaud them for the direction they’re taking.

      Comment by Mary — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 8:37pm PDT  
    • Finn is not Cory. He should not die that way.

      Comment by Rachel — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 8:47pm PDT  
  • I’m so glad they decided that Finn would not die of drug related causes. Cory’s fans were so afraid of that happening. It would have felt like driving a stake through the heart of Cory’s fans who are STILL mourning him. I’m glad the writers realize 31 year old Cory is not 19 year old Finn.

    Comment by Alison — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:41am PDT  
  • Cory was such a wonderful human being. Fans who knew Cory loved his kindness, his generosity, his sense of humor, his giving spirit. He was always willing to stop and take pictures with fans, or sign autographs, and talk to them. I mean look them in the eye and really talk to them. His fans miss him terribly. But we will always remember his “hansome smile” and his “beautiful, beautiful heart” as Lea said.

    Comment by RIP Cory Monteith — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:44am PDT  
  • Cory didn’t just have young fans-I’m 66 years old, and I am still having troubling believing he is gone.
    I appreciate RM saying that the tribute episode will not spend time on how Cory (Finn) died; as many have said, it should be all about how he lived, and what he achieved in his short life. I am not sure I can watch Glee again because Finn and Finchel were the main reasons I still watched it, and now I just feel too sad to care about a television show.

    Comment by sabrina — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:47am PDT  
  • Making the focus be on grieving, and on celebrating the life of the character and the actor, is the very best choice the show could make in such difficult circumstances. I’m extremely pleased that they aren’t trying to impose a drug overdose story on Finn that would feel very out-of-character for Finn’s story.

    Comment by stw — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 9:47am PDT  
  • “We loved Cory and we loved Finn and it feels like a huge loss and a huge heartache not to have either of them around.” – Not only for the cast and crew of Glee, Mr Murphy. But especially so for the fans as well. Cory’s fans are still grieving. The sadness has still not stopped.

    Comment by Felice — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 10:06am PDT  
  • I really hope that the path forward finds the Glee characters not forgetting about Finn. Aside from Cory’s tremendous impact on the success of the show, Finn, was the character that we followed through Glee club since episode one. I don’t want them to dwell on his death, but, I would like to hear him mentioned once in a while. I’m glad that they are not focusing on the real life circumstances for the plot of the episode…too painful.

    Comment by modo1013 — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 10:16am PDT  
  • I think it’s odd that Ryan Murphy says “We loved Cory and we loved Finn” as though the loss of Cory as a person is somehow equal to the loss of Finn as a character.

    Comment by Bob Hope — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 10:24am PDT  
    • That’s not what he said, it’s completely a comparison made in your own head. Great job on creating something out of thin air to be indignant about.

      Comment by J. — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 10:57am PDT  
      • “We loved Cory and we loved Finn and it feels like a huge loss and a huge heartache not to have either of them around.”

        I cut and pasted this from the article. This isn’t thin air at all. Unless you are talking about Ryan Murphy’s head.

        Comment by Labeja — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 3:29pm PDT  
      • How about just using the misunderstanding as an opportunity to clarify and not attack. The urge to snap someone’s head off when it’s not always necessary is becoming grossly epidemic. Jeezus.

        Comment by Mar — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 4:48pm PDT  
  • I can’t disagree with you more. While I’m not a huge fan of Glee, tears came to my eyes when I read the piece about the memorial episode. I look at it as a young man’s life was cut short. My heart bleeds for his family, friends and colleagues. Those people as well as fans of the show are in mourning. We all know how he died. I agree with Ryan Murphy going into specifics would feel exploitive. The point is to pay homage to the man/character…the HUMAN BEING. The people who are feeling his lose are focused on that. You sound like someone with an agenda. That’s fine but there will be plenty of opportunities to have a discussion/episode that delves into the issue of drug use and addiction. I say first things first, address the lose of the man.

    Comment by Lisa — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 10:31am PDT  
  • I would like to make a suggestion. Cory was near and dear to all of us. And even though his passing was such a tragedy to us all, I think Cory’s character shouldnt be killed by a drug overdose. Finn wasnt like that. That isnt how we see Finn. Maybe his character should be killed by someone else who was hyped up badly on drugs and killed in new york. Which happens to be common there. Rachel’s “other boyfriend” can be the one who discovers or is witness to it. He could come see Rachel and Kurt in their loft and break down. Just a suggestion. But i dont think Finn should die from a drug overdose. That is not how we ever saw Finn.

    Comment by Debbie Stacey — Thursday August 15, 2013 @ 11:02am PDT  
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