The first time I met and interviewed Cory Monteith was in the summer of 2009.
Glee's cast and crew were holed up in a small theater in Los Angeles putting the final touches on season one's season finale, the episode in which Lea Michele belted out one of Barbra Streisand's signature songs, "Don't Rain on My Parade."
At that point, Fox had only aired one episode of Glee about four months earlier to get the series some early buzz. But it was enough to make the 27-year-old Canadian a bona fide TV star.
"The fact that I get to do this for a living is ridiculous," he told me. "I still can't wrap my head around the fact that people are paying me to do this."
He told me he was a high-school dropout who first decided school "wasn't" for him when he was in the sixth or seventh grade.
"People are really happy that [acting] worked out," he said, referring to his friends and family back in Canada. "Things went very, very badly in my life for a long time, and now they are going very well."
Monteith was born May 11, 1982, to interior decorator Ann McGregor and Joe Monteith, a military man. Monteith and his older brother, Shaun, were raised by their mom after she and Joe divorced when Cory was 7 years old.
When he was about 12 or 13, Monteith was drinking and using drugs. He would attend 16 different schools by the time he dropped out for good at 16.
Three years later, his mom reportedly staged an intervention for her son, who had resorted to stealing money from family and friends to pay for his drug habit.
With some sobriety under his belt, he tried to start a new life. "I was working as a roofer and a taxi driver in some backwater town, and I was at loose ends and somebody said, 'You should be an actor,'" he said during our first chat. "I was like, 'Sure! I need to pay my rent.'"
He eventually landed work on TV shows like Kyle XY and in movies, including Final Destination 3.
And then came Glee in 2009, the same year he reunited and saw his father for the first time in 17 years. A real-life romance with Michele began in late 2011.
But Monteith's demons came back earlier this year. By March, there was another intervention. This time, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center.
As E! News first revealed yesterday, Monteith's struggle had become a lot harder than most people suspected. A source says he was shooting up heroin and crystal meth.
His detox "was very long," one source said.
But Monteith persevered. He looked like a walking clean bill of health when he was first spotted after rehab vacationing with Michele in Mexico.
On June 8, in what would be his last interview, Monteith told me he was looking forward to getting back to work on the show that made him a household name.
However, five weeks later, Monteith was dead from a drug overdose in a Vancouver hotel room. An autopsy found heroin and alcohol in his body.
When Monteith and I were sitting in that theater in 2009, he told me he took nothing for granted.
"I don't forget where I came from," he said.
And we, sweet Cory, will never forget you.
If you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol or drugs, call Alcoholics Anonymous' 24-hour hotline at 1-800-923-8722.