“Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family and her son Josey,” the Glee creators said in a statement to Us Weekly on Tuesday, July 14. “The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”
Rivera was pronounced dead by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, July 13, nearly one week after she was reported missing after taking her son on a boating trip on Lake Piru in California. She was 33 years old. While the cause of her death is not yet known, authorities do not believe there were any signs of foul play or indications of a suicide. Josey, whom Rivera shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, was found asleep on the rented pontoon boat, where he watched his mother “disappear” into the water.
As more heartbreaking details of Rivera’s tragic death emerge, her costars and loved ones have come together to share their favorite memories of the late actress. Murphy, 54, Falchuk, 49, and Brennan, 42, remembered the California native as a “real pro” who was “fiercely protective of the rest of the cast.”
“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,” the creative partners added. “Naya could act, she could dance, and she could sing (could she ever sing!) She could nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene … She was a joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around.”
The Glee team was “heartbroken” over the loss of one of the show’s biggest stars, whose will always be remembered for her “numerous iconic Glee musical performances” as Santana Lopez.
“But her greatest Glee legacy is probably the humor and humanity that she brought to Santana’s relationship with her best friend and eventual girlfriend/wife Brittany (played by Heather Morris),” the frequent collaborators continued. “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. … She had the rare combination of humility and endless confidence in her talent.”
While Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan admitted to facing “ups and downs” with the cast and crew of the beloved Fox series over the years, they cherished their memories with the Sorry Not Sorry author.
“She was fun. She was kind. She was generous,” they said. “We disagreed, we fought, we made up, then we fought some more, then we made up again. The kinds of things that happen in a family. Naya was more than just an actor on our show — she was our friend.”
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