Already have an account?
Get back to the

Naya Rivera and the ‘Glee’ Cast Were Like a ‘Family’ Before Her Death, Former Publicist Says (Exclusive)

Together forever. Naya Rivera’s bond with her Glee costars ahead of her disappearance and death was unique and felt by everyone who knew her.

Related: Matthew Morrison and More 'Glee' Alums React to Naya Rivera's Death

“Everybody got along and I think everybody respected each other,” Zack Teperman, Rivera’s former publicist told Us Weekly exclusively on Monday, July 13. “I think she respected them. They respected her. I think of them all growing together, it was a family.”

Teperman, who is now the owner and president of ZTPR, worked with the California native from 2009 to 2013 at Lexicon Public Relations, during the height of her Glee success.

Naya Rivera and Her Glee Costars Were Like a Family
Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, Jenna Ushkowitz, Dianna Agron, and Lea Michele Ross D Franklin/AP/Shutterstock

“I think that’s how it is on a lot of sets, with a lot of people, but something about Glee, it was just different. It was a different type of show,” he told Us. “[There were] all different types of personalities, but they were a family and they made me, being a young guy in Hollywood, even feel part of that family.”

He noted that everyone “felt that strong bond” while working on the Fox set.

Related: Most Shocking Celebrity Deaths of All Time

“That’s why even years later, after not even speaking to her for years after we stopped working together, I still feel that bond,” he continued. “I still feel that connection to her. That’s why this is even more heartbreaking and tragic to me.”

Rivera played Santana Lopez on the musical series from 2009 to 2015 and forged lifelong friendships with many of her castmates. Following her death at the age of 33 — her body was recovered on Monday, July 13 — those friends and colleges mourned her, together.

Naya Rivera and Her Glee Costars Were Like a Family 2
Heather Morris, Mark Salling, Kevin McHale, Naya Rivera and Jenna Ushkowitz Sipa/Shutterstock

Many of the show’s former stars, including Heather Morris and Amber Riley were on the scene at Lake Piru in Los Angeles, when the authorities found Rivera’s body, five days after she went missing on July 8. Teperman told Us that he wasn’t surprised that the actors were there to support one another.

“They’re a family. They’ve been through a lot of things, that cast, that a lot of [other] casts can’t even imagine. It’s just sad,” he explained, noting that Rivera’s body was discovered on the seven-year anniversary of fellow Glee actor Cory Monteith’s death. “It’s those moments that make everybody much stronger and that love is just there, and it was seen today.”

Naya Rivera Former Publicist Says She Wanted to Use Her Platform for Good
Zack Teperman and Naya Rivera Courtesy Zack Teperman/Instagram

He added: “Everybody gathered around — it just shows that as much as everybody can go in different directions, and different things happen in life, you’re always there for your family and those guys are all family.”

Rivera was initially reported missing on July 8, after her 4-year-old son, Josey, whom she shared with ex-husband Ryan Dorsey, was found asleep alone on the vessel. The Step Up: High Water star’s ID was also left on board, but she was nowhere to be found.

When her body was recovered, on Monday, some of her former Glee costars were standing alongside the lake, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

“They were down there by the edge of the lake and prayed for about a half hour,” Captain Eric Buschow, the spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told Us exclusively on Tuesday, July 14. “I did not go down there and stand with them, so I don’t know what they did or said other than they had expressed a desire to go down there and have a prayer.”

Related: Tia Mowry, Ne-Yo and More Stars Pay Tribute to Naya Rivera

Buschow recalled there being 12 to 15 people praying by the site and revealed that “As they were praying, we got a call that the body was discovered on the surface of the lake.”

Hours after the Sorry Not Sorry author’s death was announced, her friends and costars were quick to share their well-wishes for her family in touching social media tributes. The outpouring of love included messages from Chris Colfer, Dianna Agron, Demi Lovato and more.

With reporting by Marc Lupo

In this article

Got a Tip form close button
Got a tip for US?
We're All Ears for Celebrity Buzz!