We've Already Lost Too Many Glee Cast Members

The following article includes discussion of substance abuse, suicide, and child abuse.

Looking back on "Glee" — those six seasons of glorious chaos — feels like remembering a fever dream. The show was born from the "Representation Matters" hope of the early Obama years and saw the country through "It Gets Better" and beyond, tackling every social issue you can imagine along the way: teen pregnancies, school shootings, eating disorders, unexpected texting-induced car crashes, multiple groundbreaking LGBTQ+ relationships, and a too-involved glee club coach. The show sure had its ups and downs and varied wildly in quality, which is part of what made it exciting and unpredictable; for every heartwarming cover of "Teenage Dream," there was a bizarre performance of Duck Sauce's EDM hit "Barbra Streisand," where a mall full of people pointed at Lea Michele when they said "Barbra Streisand." (Seriously, how much did she pay Ryan Murphy to include that?)

Unfortunately, it's tough for fans to revisit the show without remembering that we have lost too many "Glee" cast members already. Fans and media speak of a "Glee" curse; we're not sure about all that, but it is important to respectfully remember the stars of the series who have died.

Cory Monteith

Cory Monteith broke out on "Glee" as Finn Hudson, the star quarterback who has a talent for show choir too. His performance of "Jessie's Girl" was an early fan favorite that showed off his charisma and magnetism, setting up the show's central Finn/Rachel coupling.

Monteith passed away in 2013 after an overdose, having missed the last few episodes of Season 4 for a stint in rehab. He had been open about the fact that he dealt with addiction for years, telling George Stroumboulopoulos that he went public so he could serve as a role model. "If I can, through my experience, shed light on the way out of a difficult situation that I know many kids are experiencing, just like I did when I was a teenager?" he said. "That's huge."

Lea Michele remembered her costar and boyfriend on the one-year anniversary of his death, tweeting (via Us Weekly), "We hold you in our hearts today, and every day we remember your smile. We will love you and miss you always."

"Glee" paid tribute to Monteith in the Season 5 episode "The Quarterback." At that point the show was splitting its time between the remaining high schoolers in Lima, Ohio, and the graduates in New York City. Finn died off-screen, and everyone reunited to remember the lovable quarterback. "I've never seen a crew that you can't continue shooting because they've left the room sobbing," showrunner Ryan Murphy told reporters in 2013 (per The Hollywood Reporter). "It was very hard."

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Mark Salling

Mark Salling played lovable jerk Puck on "Glee," a football player who at first resents being made to participate in Glee Club but eventually becomes a beloved member of the New Directions. Though his character was ultimately a good guy, Salling had a dark side in real life. The actor was arrested with a reported 50,000 images and videos of child pornography on his computer, and Deadline reported that he pled guilty "because I am guilty of the charges."

Salling took a plea deal and was sentenced to four to seven years behind bars in October 2017; in January 2018, he died by suicide before being taken into prison, per The Sun. As news broke of Salling's death, co-star Matthew Morrison sparked backlash among the fanbase. The actor, who played Glee Club's coach Will Schuester, shared a photo of himself with Salling and Monteith along with a caption suggesting they were both angels. Though comments on the photo have since been removed, PopBuzz reported that fans were upset with the comparison between the two departed stars, given that Monteith was lost to an accidental overdose while Salling had committed serious crimes in life. 

Jane Lynch told TMZ his death was "sad and tragic," while recurring "Glee" star Iqbal Theba tweeted, "Some of u might know him for only his flaws but I also knew him as someone who was great to work with... I truly wish he'd fought his demons."

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If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) .

Naya Rivera

Few "Glee" characters made an impact on culture quite like Naya Rivera's Santana Lopez. She was one of the first Latina teens to come out on television, revealing her sexuality in a heartbreaking conversation with her abuela that went poorly. Santana's relationship with Brittany was a trailblazing representation of lesbian love on television, and Rivera understood its importance before the writers did. She told Access Hollywood that Santana's sexuality was initially used for laughs, but she recognized how important it was to course correct. "I kind of was encouraging them to make it more serious and not play around with it, cause there are people out there that, y'know, it's not a joke to, it's their real lives," she said.

Rivera performed a soul-shattering cover of "If I Die Young" in memory of Cory Monteith, and it wound up seeming like an eerie prophecy. In 2020, Rivera took her son out on a lake in a boat and didn't return. The star's body was found days later, on the seventh anniversary of Monteith's death. "She mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat, but not enough to save herself," Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub revealed, per CNN. The "Glee" cast reunited at the GLAAD Media Awards, which she hosted twice, in her honor.

Days before her death, Rivera shared a photo on Instagram with a powerful caption: "no matter the year, circumstance, or strifes everyday you're alive is a blessing. make the most of today and every day you are given. tomorrow is not promised."

Robin Trocki

In the first two seasons of "Glee," actor Robin Trocki played Sue Sylvester's older sister Jean. The famously ornery cheerleading coach always had a soft spot for a Cheerio named Becky who had Down syndrome, so the introduction of Sue's sister with the same genetic disorder helped explain Sue's motivations.

Trocki passed away in 2019 due to complications from Alzheimer's, per her Los Angeles Times obituary. Her "Glee" character had previously died on the show, because the actor was no longer able to work. Upon filming the heartbreaking funeral episode, Jane Lynch used the opportunity to raise awareness of difficulties faced by people with Down syndrome. "People with Down syndrome rarely last past 30," Lynch said to Entertainment Weekly. "Robin is 55. So this really hit home." She explained that Robin's real-life sister is always by her side, echoing the relationship Sue had with Jean on the show. "[Filming the funeral] was really rough and I will miss her very much," Lynch said. "I love working with Robin!" 

In later seasons of "Glee," Sue had a baby. The child (played by infant actor Jordyn Orr, per ABC News) had Down syndrome as well, and, in a lovely tribute to the actor who had played Sue's sister, the baby was named Robin.