The singer then passed the mic to a massive Zoom call with the cast of Glee, including actors Jane Lynch, Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, Heather Morris, Jenna Ushkowitz, Matthew Morrison, Alex Newell, Harry Shum Jr., Jacob Artist, Vanessa Lengies and Becca Tobin. There, the castmembers all took turns saying hello and complimenting each other’s outfits, before moving on to celebrating the life of their late castmate.
“I remember when Naya became a regular castmember,” said Lynch, who played tyrannical cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. “She was a dancer, and I always thought she was cute and she was a great dancer. And then Ryan [Murphy, the creator of Glee] started giving her lines, and I was like, ‘Wow. This girl is really something.'”
The cast also reflected on the impact of Rivera’s character, Santana Lopez, who was an out-and-proud Latina lesbian teenager — something the cast recognized was unheard of at the time. “With the exception of our show, there were almost no LGBTQ teens on television at the time,” said Alex Newell, who played transgender student Unique Adams on the the show. Heather Morris, who played Santana’s main love interest Brittany Pearce, added that “as an ally, Naya was so honored to represent them.”
Toward the end of their segment, the cast shared a note from Rivera’s mother Yolanda Previtire, who said that the young actress was proud to have a role through which LGBTQ kids felt seen. “Her desire was always to be an advocate for those who did not have a voice,” the note read. “I don’t believe she realized how important she was to this world. I am grateful that my eldest daughter helped to change the landscape of how we view and see each other.”
Watch the full tribute to Naya Rivera below: