'Glee' Cast and More Mourn Death of Actress Naya Rivera - Rolling Stone
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‘Glee’ Cast Mourn Death of Actress Naya Rivera

Plus, Demi Lovato, Lea Michele, and many others react to death of 33-year-old actress and singer

PIRU, CA - JULY 13: Cast members from the TV Show "Glee" and friends held hands as they shouted "Say her name - Naya" as they gathered on the Lake Piru boat launch Monday morning just as Ventura County Sheriff's Search and Rescue dive team located a body Monday morning in Lake Piru as the search continued for 33-year-old "Glee" actress Naya Rivera after her 4-year-old son was found alone on a boat she rented last Wednesday. Rivera rented the pontoon boat and had been swimming with her son who was the last one to see her before she went missing. The boy got back into the boat after a swim but his mother did not follow. Lake Piru on Monday, July 13, 2020 in Piru, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Friends, colleagues and former costars of Naya Rivera are mourning her death

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Friends, colleagues and former costars of Naya Rivera are mourning her death after the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office recovered her body on California’s Lake Piru Monday following a six-day search.

The 33-year-old actress and singer, best known for her role as Santana Lopez on Glee, is believed to have drowned while boating with her 4-year-old son, Josey Dorsey. Rivera was declared missing last Wednesday after Josey was discovered asleep and floating alone in the boat.

On Tuesday (July 14th), Glee showrunners Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan published a tribute to Rivera in the Hollywood Reporter.

“Naya wasn’t a series regular when we cast her on Glee. She didn’t have more than a few lines in the pilot. But it didn’t take more than an episode or two for us to realize that we had lucked into finding one of the most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with,” they wrote. “She could move between being scary tough and deeply vulnerable with ease. She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around.”

Later on, they described “the humor and humanity” that Rivera brought to the role of Santana and her relationship with her eventual girlfriend and wife Brittany, portrayed by Heather Morris.

“It was one of the first times an openly lesbian, high school relationship was seen on network television and Naya understood what ‘Brittana’ meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time,” the showrunners wrote. “Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions. Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany’s love affected them. Naya’s obligation to them — and to all of her fans — was obvious. She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent.”

For former Glee cast members and crew, the news of Rivera’s death was particularly resonant, as it came seven years to the day that fellow Glee co-star Cory Monteith was declared dead from a drug overdose. Glee star Lea Michele paid homage to both Monteith and Rivera through several black-and-white photographs on her Instagram story.

Jane Lynch, who portrayed Coach Sue Sylvester on the show, wrote on Twitter: “Rest sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.”

Chris Colfer, the actor who played Kurt Hummel, penned a lengthy Instagram post in tribute to Rivera: “How can you convey all your love and respect for someone in one post? How can you summarize a decade of friendship and laughter with words alone? If you were friends with Naya Rivera, you simply can’t,” he wrote. “Her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly. She spoke truth to power with poise and fearlessness. She could turn a bad day into a great day with a single remark. She inspired and uplifted people without even trying. Being close to her was both a badge of honor and a suit of armor. Naya was truly one of a kind, and she always will be.”

Kevin McHale (who played Artie Abrams) tweeted: “My Naya, my Snixxx, my Bee. I legitimately cannot imagine this world without you…A week ago today we were talking about running away to Hawaii. This doesn’t make sense. And I know it probably never will.”

“Cheerios Forever,” wrote Lauren Potter, who portrayed fellow Glee cheerleader Becky Jackson.

Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson) posted a long Twitter thread in tribute to Rivera. “She played by her own rules and was in a class of her own,” he wrote. “She had a brashness about her that I couldn’t help but be enchanted by. I also always loved her voice and savored every chance I got to hear her sing. I think she had more talent than we would have ever been able to see.”

Demi Lovato, who played Santana’s girlfriend Dani on Glee season 5, wrote: “RIP Naya Rivera. I’ll forever cherish the opportunity to play your girlfriend on Glee. The character you played was groundbreaking for tons of closeted (at the time) queer girls like me, and your ambition and accomplishments were inspiring to Latina women all over the world.”

Ricky Martin posted a picture of himself with Rivera, writing, “Beautiful memories boricua. RIP.”

Jenna Ushkowitz, who starred on Glee as Tina Cohen-Chang, wrote, “There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but … Naya, you were a force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room. You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors.”

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There are no words and yet so many things I want to say, I don't believe I'll ever be able to articulate exactly what I feel but… Naya, you were a ⚡️ force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room. You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. I was lucky enough to share so many laughs, martinis and secrets with you. I can not believe I took for granted that you'd always be here. Our friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow, so I will not look back and regret but know I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on. You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already.

A post shared by Jenna Ushkowitz (@jennaushkowitz) on

Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) posted a video of Rivera and her son with the caption, “My favorite duet partner. I love you. I miss you. I don’t have words right now, just lots of feelings. Rest In Peace Angel, and know that your family will never have to worry about anything.”

Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray) wrote, “Naya and I fell into stride with such ease, she was my first friend and ally on our show. In the pilot, our characters came and went with such swiftness. Our enthusiasm brimmed with all of the unknown. We tried to grasp what the other cast members must be feeling as we were working in such separate manners. We dared to dream. What if this show worked? Wouldn’t that be something? Something was brimming, it was palpable. And thank god it worked. Naya’s magnetic talent was going to be unleashed, we just didn’t know it yet. “

She continued, “To work with her was a gift. There was a great deal to absorb – her work ethic, her fearlessness, her talent – supreme. Naya had a laugh that would envelop you and hold you captive. She was mesmerizing. That twinkle in her eye, her luminous smile. Naya lead with truth, humor, wit. I loved her for all of these reasons.”

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⁣⁣ Naya and I fell into stride with such ease, she was my first friend and ally on our show. In the pilot, our characters came and went with such swiftness. Our enthusiasm brimmed with all of the unknown. We tried to grasp what the other cast members must be feeling as we were working in such separate manners. We dared to dream. What if this show worked? Wouldn’t that be something? Something was brimming, it was palpable. And thank god it worked. Naya’s magnetic talent was going to be unleashed, we just didn’t know it yet. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I’ve been revisiting Naya’s performances on our show and it has brought me great joy. To work with her was a gift. There was a great deal to absorb – her work ethic, her fearlessness, her talent – supreme. Naya had a laugh that would envelop you and hold you captive. She was mesmerizing. That twinkle in her eye, her luminous smile. Naya lead with truth, humor, wit. I loved her for all of these reasons. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I loved her sense of curiosity and wanderlust. I was lucky enough to be her travel partner for some of my most favorite adventures. As I write this, I’m grinning with swelling memories of a spontenaous 36 hour excursion – one might even say diversion – to Paris. With Naya, everything was possible and would often simply unfold before us, almost magically.⁣⁣ On this particular jaunt, within ten minutes of checking into our hotel, we found ourselves strolling the halls of L'École des Beaux-Arts, sipping wine from paper cups with students showcasing their latest work. It was fantastic. We were united in our commitment to discovery. And there was always a list of cleverly curated ideas in Naya’s back pocket, should we need it. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I cannot make sense of this tremendous loss. I will hold onto her and these memories for the rest of time, alongside our Glee family. Please hold space for her, her family, her beautiful boy. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ In absolute, loving memory.

A post shared by Dianna Agron (@diannaagron) on

Matthew Morrison, who starred as Glee‘s teacher and coach Will Schuester, described Rivera as a “powerful force, in both her personal life and in her work” on Instagram. “While so many of us were trying to find our voice, Naya’s was clear and resolute,” he wrote. “When she spoke, you would embrace every last word. And when she sang, she would let you into her soul. Glee acted as only a snippet of her life that we all, thankfully, had the honor of witnessing. But Naya would shine brightest when surrounded by her wonderful family.”

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Naya was a such a powerful force, in both her personal life and in her work. While so many of us were trying to find our voice, Naya’s was clear and resolute.  When she spoke, you would embrace every last word. And when she sang, she would let you into her soul. Glee acted as only a snippet of her life that we all, thankfully, had the honor of witnessing.  But Naya would shine brightest when surrounded by her wonderful family.  A common passion we both shared recently was that of our roles as parents. Naya was fervent about motherhood and had a steadfast love for Josey.  It is that powerful love that ensures us that her story does not end here. I’m confident that her positive influence will be continuously felt, and that her beautiful spirit will carry on in the lives of so many. I’m devastated by this immense loss.  This week has been long and trying with much praying and hope. I find some solace in closure, but the pain I feel for her and her family cannot be measured.  Rest in peace, keep shining down on us with your bright light.

A post shared by Matthew Morrison (@matthewmorrison) on

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