Before 30-year-old Victoria native Cory Monteith was belting out ballads on the hit TV musical comedy Glee, he was a troubled youth struggling with drug addiction and the issues that too often come with a broken home.
These days he’s a goodwill ambassador for RE*Generation, a initiative to address youth homelessness supported by Virgin Unite, the charitable arm of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group of companies.
Metro sat down with the six-foot-three triple-threat in Vancouver on Friday to talk about how more than $50,000 in grants from Virgin Unite will help local at-risk youth. The money is going to the Broadway Youth Resource Centre, and a theatre program for youth called Project Limelight.
(Sorry, Glee fans, questions about the show and his budding romance with co-star Lea Michele were strictly off limits!)
M: How did you become an ambassador for RE*Generation?
CM: I started with RE*Generation on behalf of Virgin Unite three years ago in Toronto, something like that, raising awareness of Canada’s national youth homeless problem: how many homeless youth there are in the country. It’s such a developed, wealthy nation really, per capita. That shouldn’t be a problem.
M: Is that something you saw a lot of growing up on Vancouver Island?
CM: Sure. It’s strange to grow up in a place like Victoria. It’s beautiful. It’s a postcard, with all these tourists coming from all over the world to see this beautiful city, you know, miniature little British town, and you have kids sleeping the streets and stuff in sleeping bags, in doorways. It doesn’t seem congruent, it doesn’t work, doesn’t seem right, and I think it’s systematic. It’s not a matter of resources or ability to fix the problem, it’s just a matter of finding the people that are actually going to do something about it at a community level.”
M: What does Project Limelight mean to you personally?
CM: This is the same woman (Maureen Webb, co-founder of the Project Limelight Society), the same program under a different guise, that started me and sort of ignited my passion for the arts. It’s the reason I started acting, so my heart is close to this program because it’s inspiring kids to do something different, get involved their community. The networking that happens for these kids, they get to all know each other. It’s priceless, and it brings people together, and it keeps people out of trouble. It did for me.
M: How so?
CM: I started going to acting classes once a week at Red Room Studio (in Nanaimo), which is what Project Limelight was called when I was 19, and it was those first classes when I started reading these plays and started pretending to be someone else. My first acting teacher that I met through the program, Andrew Mcllroy, said, ‘You know, you’re kind of good at this. You should keep it up, see where it goes,’ and I had never been good at anything up until that point. So that was sort of the beginning for me, and it’s the beginning of something for all these kids, too.
Canadians can donate $5 to Virgin Unite and RE*Generation by texting REGEN to 30333.