Kristin Chenoweth Shares Emotional Tribute to Naya Rivera: 'She Was Such a Sweet, Sweet Child'
The Tony-winning actress guest starred alongside Naya Rivera on Glee, playing April Rhodes on the musical comedy series
"A long time ago I was invited to be a guest star on a show called Glee," Chenoweth began. "I had the honor of meeting all my babies, those kids who still make me proud. I want them to know I still love them and I'm proud of them."
Then referring to the recent death of Rivera, who died in a drowning accident on Lake Piru in California last week, she continued, "And with Naya gone, I know how that hurts them. She was such a sweet, sweet child."
Chenoweth played April Rhodes on the musical comedy, appearing in five episodes across the six seasons of the series, where she starred alongside Rivera, who portrayed series regular Santana Lopez.
Chenoweth previously shared a photo on social media of Rivera holding her young son, Josey, 4, as a tribute to the late actress and added tearfully, "to see her sitting with her baby really just gets me," in her Instagram Story post.
The Tony-winning actress went on to share that her "longest and oldest friend" died earlier this year and shared her hopes that he was "preparing the way" for Rivera.
"My friend John Sawyer passed away on Mother's Day and I thought maybe John was up in Heaven with her preparing the way," she shared.
Chenoweth then concluded her tearful message with some optimism and advice, adding, "Anyway, I just want to tell you all not to lose hope, it's going to be OK. And if you need to have a big cry like I'm doing right now, then do it."
RELATED VIDEO: Glee Star Naya Rivera Dead at 33 After Disappearing on Boating Trip with 4-Year-Old Son
Rivera's family also released a public statement in the wake of the actress's death, telling Deadline, "We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers for Naya, Josey and our family over the past week. While we grieve the loss of our beautiful legend, we are blessed to honor her everlasting legacy and magnetic spirit. Naya was an amazing talent, but was an even greater person, mother, daughter and sister."
They added, "Thank you to the men and women of the Ventura, Tulare, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Departments for your commitment and unwavering effort to find Naya. We extend endless gratitude and ovation to the heroine who found her. Thank you to her friends, colleagues, and fans for your continuous support."
"Heaven gained our sassy angel. We kindly request that our privacy be respected during this very difficult time."