The cast of Glee are coming together tomorrow night at the GLAAD Awards, to celebrate the life and legacy of their former co-star Naya Rivera.
Demi Lovato, who guest starred as Naya’s love interest on the show during season five, will introduce the tribute. Former Glee stars to appear include Heather Morris, Jenna Ushkowitz, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr. and more.
Ahead of tomorrow’s reunion, Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz and Heather Morris spoke to EW about Naya, and the wonderful impact she had on so many lives, before she tragically drowned last summer while swimming with her then four-year-old son Josey, in Lake Piru, California.
Naya played the iconic role of Santana Lopez on Glee from 2009 until the show ended in 2015. During that time, Rivera’s character went through an enlightening coming out journey, which many members of the LGBTQ+ community found incredibly relatable and empowering.
Speaking about the impact which Rivera had towards queer representation on TV, particularly within the Latinx community, Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz said, “It's something that marked a lot of fans' lives and affected a lot of people in the fandom because of her bravery as a character and seeing themselves represented on TV.”
“Glee was breaking barriers at the time. It's bittersweet because we miss her so much, and I feel like there was so much more she would have done if she was still around, but the fact that we're able to pay tribute and honor the work she did do, and the effect she did have on people's lives, it gives us something to celebrate as well in her remembrance.”
“The Santana army is really quite incredible and we've talked to many, many fans and they were pushing for some kind of tribute for the work she's done in the LGBTQ community as Santana and as Naya,” Jenna added.
“So, I reached out to GLAAD and we were able to craft this really incredible moment pretty quickly because we're a pretty tight knit crew, so anything for Naya. It's not hard to rally the troops,” she revealed.
It seemed quite poignant to host this reunion at the GLAAD Awards, which Naya herself has hosted on multiple occasions. This year in particular marks the tenth anniversary year since Naya’s character Santana came out as a lesbian, which is why her Glee co-stars were eager to mark the occasion.
Heather Morris, who played Britney S. Pearce on Glee, Santana’s true love and soulmate, said, “The fans helped us see where Naya's heart really was. They knew that GLAAD was really important to her. They also knew how important the Brittana relationship was.”
“She was always just so witty and incredible. I can recall the first moment I met her and we were in Mr. Shue's room, and immediately we were bouncing off of each other with funny gestures and comments and just being goofballs,” Heather wistfully recalls.
When talking about some of her more memorable performances on Glee, Heather says, “I really enjoyed watching her sing 'Songbird.' That's ingrained in my head, that time where I sat in the choir room and listened to her sing 'Songbird' because her voice is just of another world. It's always been my favourite. I will never forget that.”
Make sure to tune into the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards tomorrow night, at 12am GMT on Friday, April 9, on GLAAD’s YouTube channel.