Glee creators said they’re “heartbroken” over the death of Naya Rivera and remembered her as “one of the most talented, special stars” they’ve ever worked with.
One day after Rivera was found dead in a reservoir outside of Los Angeles, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan issued a joint statement to the Hollywood Reporter honoring Rivera, who starred as Santana Lopez on their musical comedy series.
“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 said. “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 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.”
They also listed a few of Rivera’s “iconic Glee musical performances” on the series, including the Adele song mashup, “Valerie,” and “Songbird.” They said her greatest legacy on the show was her character’s relationship with Brittany (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 show’s creators said. “Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions.”
Murphy, Falchuk, and Brennan said Rivera “was a real pro” to work with because she was “always on time, always knew her lines (which wasn’t easy considering the giant mouthfuls of dialogue we often gave her), always kept everyone laughing on the set.”
They added, “She was warm and caring and fiercely protective of the rest of the cast. She was tough and demanding. She was fun. She was kind. She was generous.”
The three creators also said they’re starting a college fund for Rivera’s 4-year-old son, Josey, who was found alone on a rented boat drifting on Lake Piru. Authorities said the boy told investigators he and Rivera had been swimming when she boosted him from behind into the boat. He then saw her disappear under the water.