Colfer, 30, who acted alongside Rivera on Glee from 2009 to 2015, started his essay, posted by Variety on Tuesday, July 21, by writing, “I’m not sure anyone on Earth could give Naya Rivera the tribute she deserves.”
The actor described losing his former costar as “a nightmare.” He wrote: “I find myself wondering if Naya was even real or if she was just a dream all along. How could a human being be that talented, that hilarious and that beautiful at once? How could one person be responsible for so much joy and be the subject of so many wonderful memories?”
Rivera’s body was recovered on July 13, after she was reported missing five days earlier. She was at Lake Piru in the Los Angeles area on July 8, boating with her 4-year-old son, Josey, before tragedy struck. After a boater found Josey asleep alone on the vessel that afternoon, and Rivera’s ID still beside him, police were called in to investigate. Her death was ruled a drowning.
While honoring the Step Up: High Water star, Colfer described Rivera’s voice, writing, “You could feel her soul resonating through your own. Her voice would break your heart in one chorus, only to rebuild it in the next. Watching her perform was like watching magic unfold before your eyes.”
As an actress, the California native explained that Rivera would “tell a whole story with one expression.”
He added: “Her heroic and groundbreaking portrayal of Santana Lopez on Glee inspired millions of young people around the world, especially in the LGBTQIA community, and it will be treasured for generations to come.”
Colfer continued to gush about his longtime friend, noting she had a “superhuman ability to memorize scripts” before going into detail about her personality.
“When someone is as talented as Naya, saying she was also one of the funniest and most quotable people that I’ve ever met sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s the absolute truth,” the Struck by Lightning actor wrote. “Naya could defuse a bomb with a witty remark. Her comebacks and quips were legendary, and I used to follow her around set, jotting down everything she said into my phone.”
The Land of Stories author recalled how Rivera would bounce back after a rough day of filming, saying he’d find her outside with a cigarette wearing her Cheerios uniform. “She would raise an invisible glass and say, ‘To being role models!’ or ‘City of dreams, huh?’” he revealed.
Off screen, Colfer and Rivera had a close bond as well.
“As a friend, you could talk to her about anything. She was the cool older sister you went to for advice, to blow off steam, or to get the hottest take on the latest gossip,” he wrote. “Just being in Naya’s presence made you feel protected and regardless of the situation, you knew she’d have your back. She was never afraid to stand up to authority, she always called out mistreatment where she saw it and she always told you the truth — even when it was hard to hear.”
Colfer said that throughout his friendship with the actress, she always spoke about wanting to be a mom.
“When her son Josey was born in 2015, it was like a missing piece of Naya had finally arrived,” he explained. “Their connection was magnetic, their affection was radiant and I’ve never seen a person look happier than when Naya gushed over her little boy. Being a mom was perhaps Naya’s greatest talent of all, and as her final moments proved, Naya was an extraordinary mother until the very end.”
Rivera’s efforts to save her son were made clear when the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reported on July 13 that Josey said his mom got him up out of the water and on to the vessel before she perished. “Her son described being helped into the boat by Naya who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water,” the sheriff said at the time.
Colfer continued his tribute to the Devious Maids alum, pointing out how lost her loved ones are following her passing.
“Naya leaves behind a void that only Naya herself could fill. To have a friend like her, even briefly, is to be blessed beyond belief. She is a shining example of the impact a person can have when one lives fearlessly,” he wrote. “Her loss is a tragic reminder to celebrate every moment we possibly can with the people we love because the only thing we know for certain about life is how fragile it can be.”
He concluded the letter by quoting Rivera: “No matter the year, circumstance, or strife, everyday you’re alive is a blessing. Make the most of today and every day you are given. Tomorrow is not promised.”
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