Jane Lynch paid tribute to her Glee co-star Naya Rivera today, saying that the late actress was a ‘force of nature.’
Jane, 60, spoke with Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show this morning, spending a few minutes reflecting on her time with Naya, who died tragically at the age of 33 on July 8.
‘She was a force of nature and it’s just gut-wrenching and heartbreaking that she is gone,’ Jane said.
‘I think that one of the things that kind of got lost when we were doing the show is what a force she was, because there were so many talented people,’ Jane told Jenna via video chat.
‘She was one of those people, she wasn’t in every scene, but when she was … she blew everybody away.’
Jane recalled that while they’d both be given lengthy, three-page monologues, Jane would take a week to perfect hers — and Naya would nail it ‘right off the bat.’
She also said that her niece was good friends with Naya, and quoted her as saying, ‘With Naya you felt like somebody had your back.’
‘She was somebody who wasn’t gonna let anybody mess with you, she was a great advocate,’ she said.
On hearing of her passing last month, Jane tweeted: ‘Rest Sweet, Naya. What a force you were. Love and peace to your family.’
Naya died by drowning after she went missing on July 8 on Lake Piru in California. She had been out on the water with her four-year-old-son Josey, who was later found asleep alone on their pontoon boat.
The boy told investigators that his mother helped him back aboard but when he looked back he saw her disappear into the water.
Police say it appears Rivera ‘mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself’.
Her family released a statement after the autopsy confirmed her death, describing her as a ‘sassy angel’ and ‘magnetic spirit’.
‘We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week,’ they told Deadline.
‘While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister.
‘Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya,’ the statement added.
‘We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support.
‘Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time.’
Several of Naya’s other co-stars have also shared tributes since her death.
Heather Morris, who played cheerleader Brittany S. Pierce on the show, posted on Instagram shortly after Naya’s death.
‘The messages are going to trickle out. But you’re still here with me. And I’m not done remembering your legacy,’ Heather, 33, wrote.
‘You would tell me “you look so skinny” EVERY TIME you saw me and it made me giggle slash I loved it and when I told you how it made me feel…you said “well I’d always like to hear that I look skinny so I make sure to make others feel good like that.”‘
‘We had a play date in the works for this week and I can’t wait for it to be over so I can stop thinking about how I missed our chance to be together.
‘I f****** loved how you drank martini’s and no one would know you smoked cuz you were a mastermind at hiding it. I’m doing something everyday to honor your strength and it helps me to feel close to you. I love you Nay.’
Chris Colfer, meanwhile, said he was ‘blessed beyond belief’ to have known Naya in an essay published on Variety last month.
‘The process of losing her has been such a nightmare, I find myself wondering if Naya was even real or if she was just a dream all along,’ the 30-year-old wrote.
‘How could a human being be that talented, that hilarious and that beautiful at once?’ he went on. ‘How could one person be responsible for so much joy and be the subject of so many wonderful memories?’
He went on: ‘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.
‘Just being in Naya’s presence made you feel protected and regardless of the situation, you knew she’d have your back,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
‘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. 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.’
Amber Riley, 34, shared her own Instagram tribute, writing: ‘I’m so mad the world will never see how high you could have soared.
‘Her brain was brilliant. She was smart and as quick as a whip. Always had me in stitches, we would be in tears laughing so hard at one another.
‘There was never competition, or shade, or intimidation with us. Just pure adoration and mutual respect…. You were so much more than just this show. Your talent outshined us all so many times!
‘I say your name everyday and hold you in my heart,’ the actress and singer said, adding: ‘Just like I do Cory.’
Glee star Cory Monteith passed away in July 2013 in a hotel room in Vancouver, B.C., as a result of an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol.
Jenna Ushkowitz mourned on social media, too.
‘Naya, you were a force and everyone who got to be around you knew it and felt the light and joy you exuded when you walked into a room,’ she wrote.
‘You shined on stage and screen and radiated with love behind closed doors. I can not believe I took for granted that you’d always be here.’
While revealing their ‘friendship went in waves as life happens and we grow,’ she explained that she knows not to ‘look back and regret.’
‘I love you and promise to help the legacy of your talent, humor, light and loyalty live on,’ she said.
She concluded: ‘You are so loved. You deserved the world and we will make sure Josey and your family feel that everyday. I miss you already.’
And days after deleting her Twitter account due to suspected trolling over Naya’s disappearance, Lea Michele took to Instagram to post black and white snaps of the late actors on set.