“Glee” cast members are reuniting to honor one of their own.
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Naya Rivera’s death last summer, her co-stars will pay tribute to the late star and the legacy of her character Santana Lopez at the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
Cast members, including Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Vanessa Lengies, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., Becca Tobin, Jacob Artist and Jenna Ushkowitz, will appear during the virtual award show to celebrate the impact of Rivera’s portrayal on LGBTQ teens and Latinx LGBTQ representation on television.
Demi Lovato, who played Rivera’s character’s girlfriend in the fourth season of the Fox musical comedy, will introduce the cast and the special tribute, according to a news release. Series star Lea Michele, who came under fire last year after being accused of verbally abusing cast members, along with other “other traumatic microaggressions,” will not be in attendance.
The event, which will air April 8 on YouTube, is meant to mark the 10-year anniversary of Santana coming out as lesbian.
Rivera began her time on the series as a recurring background character, playing a relatively one-dimensional, sharp-tongued cheerleader sidekick. She went on to become an integral part of the “Glee” family.
Viewers particularly gravitated to Rivera’s nuanced portrayal of her character’s struggle with her sexuality, and her romance with fellow cheerleader Brittany (Heather Morris). Her portrayal became a beacon for the series’ many LGBTQ fans, especially young fans of color.
Rivera understood the responsibility of that representation, championing LGBTQ rights and celebrating the Latinx community during her time on the series.
“Off screen, I am a woman who stands in support of equality, and equal rights for all,” Rivera penned in an open letter to the LGBTQ community in 2017 for Billboard. “It has been one of the great blessings in my life to receive such love and touching stories as a result of my portrayal of Santana Lopez on ‘Glee.’”
After her death, “Glee” creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan remarked how Santana and Brittany’s romance was “one of the first times an openly lesbian, high school relationship was seen on network television,” adding that the late actor deeply appreciated what the storyline “meant to the many young women who were seeing themselves represented on television for the first time.”
Rivera drowned during a boating accident on Southern California’s Lake Piru in July during a trip with her young son, Josey.
Before her body was found, members of the “Glee” cast gathered at the lake where she disappeared and were photographed holding hands on the shore alongside Rivera’s family shortly before her death was confirmed.
The 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards, hosted by Niecy Nash, will air April 8 at 8 p.m. on YouTube; it will also be available to stream on Hulu starting at 10 p.m.