In May 2009, Fox aired the pilot episode for a new musical comedy called Glee. Singing and TV shows hadn’t mixed too well in the past, so few expected it to be a smash hit. But it was. Glee skyrocketed to success, and with it, the show’s stars saw near-instant fame.
At the front of the Glee powerhouse were leading lady Rachel (Lea Michele) — a talented underdog with no social status, but a voice to kill — and Finn (Cory Monteith) — the popular football jock just beginning to discover a love of music.
Cory Monteith was still relatively unknown. The Canadian actor had appeared in a few movies up north, but Glee was without a doubt his big break. Like Lea and her Glee character, Rachel, Cory shared many things in common with Finn... including the fact that neither of them were great at dancing.
Rachel and Finn’s romance becomes a core part of the Glee storyline. But while their characters might be dating, Lea and Cory are not. Over the course of Season 1, Finn and Rachel break up. Rachel then starts a relationship with Jesse St. James, a character played by her real life best friend (and Spring Awakening co-star/love interest) Jonathan Groff.
With her bold, elegant and skin-baring looks, Lea quickly makes a name for herself on the red carpet at various Hollywood events. By the time the cast heads to Comic-Con in March 2010, Glee is an international phenomenon. The entire cast is no stranger to the red carpet, and Lea has already landed on the cover of a number of magazines. Tabloids report that Lea has a bit of a diva attitude, but Glee creator Ryan Murphy shoots down those rumors
So what about their love lives? In December 2009, Cory tells People magazine that he has a crush on singer Taylor Swift. Tabloids start linking them as a couple in February 2010, and they’re spotted out bowling together in March 2010. However, sources insist the two are “just friends,” and Cory dodges the question when asked about her a month later.
As for Lea, rumors are flying that she and her on-screen teacher, Matthew Morrison (Will), might be an item off-screen. But while the two were close back in their Broadway days, both laugh off rumors of any real-life romance. Then in May 2010, Lea is spotted kissing fellow Broadway star Theo Stockman at the Time 100 gala, and it’s later revealed that the two have been dating for about a year.
A month later, Lea and Matt perform together at the Tony Awards, and they also perform songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show together. They play the roles of Brad and Janet, which means the characters kiss onstage. But now that Lea’s relationship with Theo is out in the open, the co-star rumors begin to fade.
It’s now July 2010, and Glee Season 1 has come to an end. Lea spends her summer hanging with bestie Jonathan, while Cory parties solo. He’s later seen out with co-star Mark Salling. But while Mark has girls by his side all night, Cory doesn’t. It’s also revealed that he doesn’t drink.
Glee Season 2 premieres in the fall, and Lea’s landing more magazine covers, as well as attending more Hollywood events. She and Theo have a long distance relationship, but he’s spotted coming from NYC to visit her in L.A. in September. More magazine covers soon follow, as well as a few more diva rumors. Oh, the life of a TV star.
On the show, Finn and Rachel’s romance goes through some rough times, but Finchel is a fan-favorite couple amongst viewers. So what is the actors’ relationship like in real life? On one hand, Lea and Cory appear to be friends and spend time together on set, but there are no signs of romance, and they don’t seem best friend levels of close. In December, Lea heads home to NYC for Christmas, and it’s clear that she and Cory did not spend Christmas or New Years together.
In January 2011, Cory is spotted with Taylor Swift at the People’s Choice Awards, and he’s even seen giving her a hug. About a week later, Lea wins a Golden Globe award for her work on Glee, but there’s no sign of her spending time with Cory at the event. At the end of the month, Lea stuns on the red carpet at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in a sparkly, low-cut dress.
In February, Lea posts a cute photo with co-star Chord Overstreet (Sam) during the Super Bowl, but we later find out that she was actually there with her boyfriend. Lea and Theo are still on! Lea and Cory also don’t seem to interact at that month’s Grammy Awards, and Lea brings Theo as her date to a MusicCares charity event that same month. Meanwhile, Lea’s still landing covers on plenty of magazines.
Cory still appears to be single, and when Gwyneth Paltrow stops by to guest star on Glee, he mentions that he’s jealous that Matthew Morrison gets to romance her character.
In March, Lea and Cory are spotted together on set while filming, but when Cory appears at the Teen Choice Awards the next month, Lea is nowhere in sight. As much as fans would love for these two to be a couple off-screen, as well, they really don’t appear to be.
Back on Glee, Rachel and Jesse go to prom together, Finn’s back with Quinn and Rachel is jealous, but Finn betrays the fact the he clearly has feelings for Rachel when he picks a fight with Jesse during the dance. Lea gushes about how much she loves the episode.
Later that month, Glee flies to NYC to film scenes for the Season 2 finale. Lea is back home and totally in her element. They film group scenes at Washington Square Park, then head to Central Park for a romantic Finn and Rachel date. The lovebirds rekindle their romance during a date at Sardis, and even meet a celebrity. They end with a sweet, moonlit walk.
Finn and Rachel end Season 2 as a couple... they even kiss onstage at Nationals, but in real life, Lea is still doing things long distance with Theo. He escorts her to the May 2011 Met Ball in NYC. On set, Lea’s closest relationships appear to be with her female co-stars. More Glee press duties and red carpets follow.
Glee’s summer concert tour kicks off later that month. Cory and Lea stand next to each other during many of the songs, but since their characters are dating, there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this. We do notice, however, that Lea’s tweeting pictures of Cory. The two do appear to be hanging out more than usual.
Two years later, NYC model Mallory Matoush will say that she and Cory met in June 2011, and that they dated until about February 2012. Cory and Mallory were never seen in photos together, so their relationship was never confirmed.
In August, Lea and Cory are both at the premiere of Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, but they walk carpet separately. Cory wins a Teen Choice Award later that month, but Lea doesn’t attend the awards show. Elsewhere, Lea continues to turn heads on the red carpet.
On August 10, Lea is back to work on Glee, and she’s crazy excited, tweeting photos of cute Rachel outfits. Lea spends time with co-stars off-set, but Cory is not one of them. In September, Gleereleases the class portraits for Season 3. It’s Rachel and Finn’s senior year. She’s holding a gold microphone in her photo, he has a football in his. Later, the entire cast appears in Vogue’s bigSeptember fashion issue.
The entire cast gets together for a FOX party, but Lea’s spending time with Chris, not Cory. Soon after, they all attend the Emmy Awards. Lea’s outfit is both funky and glamorous. Lea went solo to the event, while Cory tweeted a photo with Dianna Agron.
Lea and Theo have broken up! The news breaks on September 20, and suddenly we understand why Lea went solo to the Emmys. But does that mean that Cory and Lea will date, now that she’s single? Not so fast. We’ve seen no signs of anything quite yet.
Part 2: Romance Rumors Fly!
Part 3: They’re Finally Together!
Part 4: A Tragic Ending