The actress’ body was recovered from Lake Piru in Ventura County, California on Monday, days after she went missing during a boating trip with her son, Josey.
Paying tribute to Rivera in a joint statement, “Glee” producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan described the 33-year-old former child actor as a “joy to write for, a joy to direct and a joy to be around.”
“The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all,” they added.
Rivera played openly gay cheerleader Santana Lopez on the Fox musical comedy-drama, which quickly won critical acclaim after debuting in 2009. She appeared in nearly every episode of the show, which ended in 2015.
Although Rivera wasn’t initially hired as a cast member, 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,” the producers’ statement continued.
The trio also acknowledged the impact of Rivera’s character on the LGBTQ+ community, as well as “the humor and humanity” that she brought to Santana’s relationship with Brittany, played by Heather Morris.
“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.”
Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan signed off by saying: “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 group was pictured holding hands and looking out across the lake as they shouted: “Say her name — Naya”.