Glee creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan are truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Naya Rivera. After officials confirmed that Naya had passed away, following an accident at Lake Piru on July 8, Ryan, Brad and Ian released a statement to HollywoodLife while mourning the loss of their fallen star.
“We are heartbroken over the loss of our friend Naya Rivera,” Ryan and his co-creators began in their tribute to Naya. “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.”
They continued, “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.”
“Naya was a real pro. 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. 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, than 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,” Ryan and his co-creator added, before concluding by saying, “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 three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”
Naya starred on Glee for all six seasons, from 2009 to 2015. She played Santana Lopez, a fierce and competitive cheerleader who went head-to-head with real-life frenemy Lea Michele‘s character, Rachel Berry, for the biggest solos. Eventually, Santana would go on to marry her best friend, Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) during the show’s final season. Naya also performed alongside her co-stars in the 2010 Glee live tour.
Heather was actually the first Glee cast member to speak out after Naya’s disappearance. The actress rented a pontoon boat at Lake Piru, just northwest of Los Angeles, on July 8. Three hours later, another boater found her four-year-old son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, sitting in the boat by himself, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. A desperate search ensued for Naya after Josey told authorities that his mother went swimming and never came back. Her death was sadly confirmed on July 13.
Before Naya’s death was confirmed, Heather begged her fans for prayers on Instagram, asking for the safe return of her dear friend. “We need all the prayers we can get to bring our Naya back home to us,” Heather wrote in the early hours of July 9. “We need your love and light.”