LOS ANGELES -- "Glee" co-creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan said Tuesday that they are "in the process of creating a college fund" for the 4-year-old son of Naya Rivera, the actress who died last week while swimming in Lake Piru.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of our friend Naya Rivera," the trio said in a joint statement. "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 33-year-old's body was found floating on the lake Monday morning following an extensive search conducted by dive crews and with sonar equipment after she went missing on July 8. The actress died while on a boating trip with her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, who was found safe and asleep on their rented boat after his mother's disappearance.
Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said Monday during a press conference that Rivera likely "mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself." Several members of the "Glee" cast gathered by the lake after Rivera's body was found seven years to the day since another costar, Cory Monteith, died of an overdose.
In their statement, Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan celebrated Rivera's musical prowess, as well as the strides she made for representation by playing Santana Lopez, a fierce, openly gay Afro-Latina cheerleader, on primetime TV.
"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)," they wrote. "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."
Other "Glee" alumni who have saluted Rivera recently include Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones), Lea Michele (Rachel Berry), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina Cohen-Chang), Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams), Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel), Darren Criss (Blaine Anderson), Dianna Agron (Quinn Fabray), Alex Newell (Unique Adams) and Jane Lynch (Sue Sylvester).
"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," the "Glee" creators' statement continued. "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."
Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan ended their note with condolences to Rivera's family, "especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family and her son Josey."
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