Naya Rivera's 'Greatest Glee Legacy' Was the 'Humor and Humanity' She Brought to 'Brittana,' EPs Affirm

Brittana Naya Rivera

According to the creative team behind Glee, Naya Rivera‘s contribution to the Fox phenom can best be summed up in one word: Brittana.

In a statement, Glee co-creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan said the late actress/singer’s “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. 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.”

Rivera’s accidental drowning death was confirmed on Monday after her body was recovered from California’s Lake Piru, five days after she was first reported missing. She had rented a boat on July 8 to go swimming with her four-year-old son, Josey. The boy was later found alone in the boat, with no sign of Rivera.

“Naya wasn’t a series regular when we cast her on Glee,” Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan noted. “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.”

You can read the trio’s complete statement below:

We are heartbroken over the loss of our friend Naya Rivera.

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.

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). 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.

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. 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.

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 three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.

-Ryan, Ian and Brad

Ali Adler, a co-executive producer/writer during the show’s early seasons, also shared the following remembrance on her Instagram:

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I had the privilege of working on #Glee with Naya. She was a ball of fire. Tenacious, iconoclastic, hilarious, wicked, silly, hard-working, a pot always about to boil, quick to get the joke, faster to make one, diligent, maternal and soft all at once. She took every line we gave her and made it better. She took the work seriously but herself, less so. She sang and danced and laughed and cried and jabbed the pointy sticks of the words just hard enough to hurt but never to pierce the skin. As Santana, she came out to her Abuela, saying the exact same words I had spoken to my own Oma so many years before her. And like my Oma, Abuela never spoke to her again. Naya was amazing as she did it. Open, yearning, heart breaking as was mine ten feet away from her as I watched on set, tears dripping down my cheeks, walloped by her abilities. I am so sad for your family, for your son. I’m so sad for all of us who don’t get to play with her anymore and for the world who won’t get to see what’s next. I send so many prayers and so much love to those left behind because there’s nothing and no one who can replace your radiance. Your last act on Earth was to lift your son to safety. A mother’s love, a mother’s strength with her last breath. I will always remember Naya and that burst of strength and call upon it when I need it. 💔

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