Actress Naya Rivera, 'Glee' TV star and 'fierce talent,' dies at 33

Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Actress Naya Rivera, best known for playing a sharp-tongued cheerleader and glee club member on Fox's hit musical comedy-drama "Glee," was found dead Monday morning after an extensive search at Lake Piru in Ventura County. She was 33.

At an afternoon press conference, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said he was "confident" that the body found floating on the lake was that of Rivera, who went missing Wednesday. Her 4-year-old son, Josey, was discovered Wednesday night sleeping alone on a boat his mother had rented for them that afternoon.

The area had been searched extensively by dive crews and with sonar equipment, and cabins around the lake were scouted as well. Rivera's body was found at 9:10 a.m. in the northeastern portion of the lake, Capt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment issued a joint statement Monday.

"Naya Rivera was a fierce talent with so much more to do and this is such a terrible tragedy. We are forever grateful for the indelible contribution she made to 'Glee,' from the first episode to the last. Our hearts are broken and our thoughts go out to Naya's family, friends and young son," it said.

Rivera earned stardom with her breakthrough role in "Glee" when it made its debut on Fox in 2009. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, the series transformed its mostly unknown young cast into TV superstars.


Rivera played popular and conniving cheerleader Santana Lopez, who joins the school's glee club as a spy for cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) but soon finds herself developing an interest in music while dancing and singing around the halls of McKinley High School. Rivera became a series regular in the show's sophomore season.

"Glee," which finished its six-season run in 2015, was one of Fox's biggest hits with young viewers during its time on air, though its ratings dropped in its final two seasons.

But the beloved series and its cast have been plagued by tragedy. Rivera is the third main "Glee" cast member to die in seven years.

Cory Monteith, who played heartthrob football star and singing coach Finn Hudson on the series, died on July 13, 2013, of a drug overdose after a battle with substance abuse. And Mark Salling, who played Noah "Puck" Puckerman, died in 2018 of an apparent suicide; he was weeks away from sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. (Like their characters, Rivera and Salling dated on and off during the show's run.)


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