The kid from Calgary does the high school quarterback role one better — with Glee

It took a little convincing, but Cory Monteith’s mom finally gets that her son is a TV star. “I think it was The Tonight Show,” says Monteith. “When she saw me on there with Conan O’Brien, she knew this was for real.”

Lea Michele

It took a little convincing, but Cory Monteith’s mom finally gets that her son is a TV star.

“I think it was The Tonight Show,” says Monteith. “When she saw me on there with Conan O’Brien, she knew this was for real.”

About a year ago, the 27-year-old Calgary-native, with just a few Canadian TV credits to his resume, was unknown in Hollywood.

That was before he jumped in his car and drove from Vancouver to L.A. to audition for Glee. Now he’s part of TV’s hottest new ensemble as Finn Hudson, the all-American, small-town quarterback who dares to sing in that un-coolest of cliques, the high school glee club.

It is one thing for a young Canadian to hit the jackpot that is an American series success, but Monteith also finds himself a pop star, signing CDs for people like O’Brien.

The first Glee soundtrack is a smash hit, with tracks from the series — featuring Monteith and the other young actors belting out hits from Queen, Kanye West and Journey — topping the downloads on iTunes. A second CD hits stores in December.

“It’s surreal,” says Monteith. “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Now he finds himself in all kinds of odd situations — like jamming on drums in Calgary over the weekend at the Gemini Awards.

“I didn’t expect to be doing that,” says Monteith. “I got the call at the last minute. Do you want to play the drums with Mike Reno of Loverboy? What am I supposed to say — no?”

This week, Monteith is in Toronto promoting Glee for the Global network. The Fox series has been a hit on both sides of the border, drawing over 1.6 million Canadian viewers last Wednesday night.

“You’ve got to watch this Wednesday night’s episode, I’ve got a couple of solos coming up,” says Monteith. Seems Finn finally meets the parents of cheerleader Quinn (Dianna Agron).

“We have a bit of an awkward encounter,” he says. “I try to sing my way out of it. Hilarity ensues.”

As fans know, Quinn is pregnant and Finn has been led to believe he’s the baby daddy. He’s not, and Monteith says he finds out pretty soon. And when he does, “he loses it,” says Monteith. “He gets pretty upset.”

The cast has wrapped production on the first 13 episodes and are taking a break before heading into the back nine in January.

The production is a killer, with song and dance routines worked into episodes that take seven or eight days to shoot. Monteith says the high school exteriors are shot down in Long Beach, Calif., with interiors shot over the two largest sound stages on the Paramount lot.

Without giving too much away, many of the other storylines are set to be resolved by the end of the 13th episode, says Monteith.

Set in a fictional high school in Lima, Ohio, the glee club is building toward a regional showdown. Co-star Lea Michele, the Broadway-trained actress who plays high school outcast Rachel Berry, has a solo in the half season finale “that will blow your mind,” says Monteith. “It will make your head explode.”

The six-foot-three-inch actor has heard the criticism that the series sometimes veers too far into fantasyland, with dozens of vocalists heard even though just six or seven actors are in a scene.

“There shouldn’t be 150 people singing on a football field,” says Monteith. “Noted.”

He says executive producer Ryan Murphy and the other show runners plan to tone down some of the musical excess as the series moves forward.

“We’re still all finding our feet with this show,” says Monteith. “There’s going to be a lot less production in the music as the show goes along.”

He points to a recent scene where several members of the glee club were heard improvising and goofing around as Finn banged out a beat on the drums. That was the real cast singing on camera — raw and un-dubbed.

“That scene came from us between takes just fooling around,” says Monteith. “Ryan Murphy, being the genius that he is, saw it and on the spot decided to make it part of the show.”

Glee airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Global and Fox.

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