Nearly a year after his daughter’s death, the father of Naya Rivera is opening up about the “Glee” star’s career ambitions and love for her family.
In a new interview with People magazine published Wednesday, George Rivera remembered the trailblazing performer as a devoted mother who was hopeful for the future. In July 2020, Naya Rivera died at age 33 while on a boating trip with her son, who was 4 at the time. Her body was recovered in Ventura County, Californa’s Lake Piru after an extensive search.
“She was looking forward to so many things,” George Rivera, 64, told People. “She was in a good place. And she saw a way forward.”
An actor and singer who mostly worked on the small screen, Naya Rivera was best known for her groundbreaking turn as Santana Lopez, a fierce and sharp-tongued cheerleader who was one of few gay characters seen on primetime TV. Audiences were introduced to Santana when “Glee” premiered on Fox in 2009.
In 2014, Naya Rivera married fellow actor Ryan Dorsey, with whom she shared her now-5-year-old son, Josey. The couple divorced in 2018.
“She loved being a mother, and you could see the maturity and satisfaction that Josey brought,” George Rivera said. “It was a good time for her.”
In Fox’s hit musical dramedy, which ran for six seasons and ended in 2015, Naya Rivera delivered a number of standout performances as Santana. She also lent her vocal talents to the YouTube Red series “Step Up: High Water,” based on the blockbuster film franchise of the same name.
In 2013, Naya Rivera briefly dabbled in the pop music scene with “Sorry,” a single featuring rapper Big Sean, to whom she was once engaged.
“She was really looking forward to starting to record music again,” George Rivera told People. “Our relationship was really bonded around music.”
“She was a pretty good writer and wrote a lot of poetry, but she didn’t play any instruments, so we’d been looking for collaborators and we found this young group who she liked and who were good songwriters,” he added, revealing that they had planned to travel to Nashville to relaunch her music career.
Among her final projects was “Step Up: High Water,” which recently tapped actor and singer Christina Milian to replace Naya Rivera as Collette Jones opposite Ne-Yo’s Sage Odom in the drama’s third season, premiering on Starz later this year.
“I never cared if she was an actress,” her father told People. “I’m a music guy, a former musician and frustrated disc jockey. I always wanted her to sing, record and, more importantly, write music. I was so happy about that upcoming trip [to Nashville] — and so was she.”
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