Cory Monteith never considered himself a triple threat.

He could sing, but never sang before, he played drums in a band that never broke and his acting credits included “Scooter Guy” and “Teenage Boy” as recently as 2007.

So when the Calgary, Alta.-born, Victoria-raised actor got the call to play a principal role in breakout TV musical comedy Glee, it’s unsurprising he felt just a little overwhelmed.

“I didn’t really understand what this thing was going to be, how it would change my day-to-day life,” he said in a Toronto hotel, days following an appearance at the Gemini Awards in his hometown. “It occurred to me, when I had five people on speakerphone call me at once and say, ‘You’ve got it!’ … just the tone in their voices explained a lot to me about the size and scope of this project.”

Thankfully for him, Monteith soon understood the Glee creators weren’t looking for the consummate performer, but someone newer to singing and dancing, a chance for his “latent potential” to be realized. But Monteith wasn’t only inexperienced outside drama. Having dropped out of high school in grade 9, he didn’t exactly appear to fit the bill of his high school quarterback-turned-glee club chanteur character, Finn Hudson, either.

“It’s a little surreal, playing this all-American jock when I’m Canadian, never played sports, and am 27-years-old playing high school,” he said. To bring Finn to fruition, Monteith had no shortage of pop culture references to access, citing George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti as a chief inspiration. “It’s such a celebrated thing in American film and television culture, high school… letterman jackets, the varsity and everything.”

The high school theme hasn’t waned, and the addition of performance to it commonly induces reference to wildly popular Disney film and concert franchise High School Musical, a comparison Monteith has tired of.

“If High School Musical hadn’t come first, Glee would have done better numbers,” he said with a laugh.

“It would have been the first thing and I think there wouldn't have been all those people going, ‘Oh, well they’re just trying to rip off High School Musical’.”

“This show feeds more off of the American high school zeitgeist as a cultural thing.”