Glee creators pay tribute to Naya Rivera, announce college fund for her son
The trio released a statement Tuesday about Rivera, whose body was recovered from Lake Piru in Ventura County, Calif., after an extensive and intensive search of the area for five days. The actress had rented a pontoon boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey, who was found alone and asleep on the vessel by boaters in the area.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of our friend Naya Rivera," the statement released to EW reads. "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. 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."
The trio reflected on her many performances on the Fox series, as well as the legacy her work leaves behind for fans who adored her and the representation she brought to many young women with the role of lesbian cheerleader Santana Lopez.
"Naya is responsible for numerous iconic Glee musical performances – The Adele Mash-Up, "Valerie," "Songbird," 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). 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. 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."
The three described Rivera as "a real pro," who 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. 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 statement continued. "There were ups and downs during the wonderful and stressful years we spent making Glee. We disagreed, we fought, we made up, then we fought some more, and 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."
They added, "Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was big part of the Glee family and her son, Josey. The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all."