The creators of “Glee” released a heartfelt tribute to the late actress Naya Rivera on Tuesday, where they announced their intentions to start a college fund for her son Josey.
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan offered a touching tribute to Rivera, who played Santana Lopez on the TV show, a day after her death was announced by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Rivera went missing Wednesday after renting a boat with her 4-year-old son, Josey Hollis, on Lake Piru in California.
Authorities believe Rivera's body was found Monday based on location and physical characteristics, though an official identification is pending a dental examination by the medical examiner.
"Glee"’s co-creators said they were lucky to happen upon Rivera in the early years of the Fox television series, describing her as one of the “most talented, special stars we would ever have the pleasure of working with.”
“She could nail a joke as well as she could crush you with an emotional scene,” the statement said. “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 three men went on to describe Rivera’s impact in her role as Santana, a Latina cheerleader who eventually came out as a lesbian. Over the course of the series, Santana fell in love with her best friend Brittany, played by Heather Morris, and they eventually married each other in the last season.
“Naya always made sure that Santana’s love for Brittany was expressed with dignity, strength and with pure intentions,” the statement said. “Naya was always moved by the girls who reached out to her to tell her how much Santana and Brittany’s love affected them.”
Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan described her as having “combination of humility and endless confidence.” The men also offered their sympathy and love to Rivera’s family.
“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 statement said. “The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”
A number of “Glee” stars have offered public tributes to Rivera after her presumed death was announced, most emphasizing her love for Josey and their dedication to honoring her memory.
Investigators have speculated that Rivera might have been caught in a current in the lake and used the last of her energy to get Josey back on the boat, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub told reporters Monday. Her son told authorities he and his mother went swimming and his mother helped him back into the boat from behind. When he looked back, Josey said he saw his mother disappear under the water.
Rivera's presumed death is believed to be a "tragic accident," according to investigators.
Kevin McHale, who played Artie on the show, wrote on Instagram that Rivera’s most natural talent was that of a mother to Josey. He described Rivera at her most peaceful in her love for her son.
“I’m thankful that Naya got that beautiful little boy back on that boat,” McHale wrote. “I’m thankful he will have a strong family around him to protect him and tell him about his incredible mom.”
The sentiment was echoed by a number of Rivera’s co-stars, including Harry Shum Jr., who played Mike Chang on "Glee." He wrote in a statement posted to Instagram that he was so happy to see her dreams for the future become reality in Josey, who she described as her “greatest success.”
“We will make sure to keep your legacy and spirit alive so Josey will grow up to know the incredible woman you were,” Shum Jr. wrote. “Love you, Naya. You are already missed. Eternally.”