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The Glee Curse: How TV's cheeriest show has been plagued by tragedy and scandal

While Glee was easily one of the cheeriest shows to ever grace television screens, behind-the-scenes a murky curse has long-prevailed among its troubled cast and crew. 

On Thursday, it was revealed that one of the show’s lead stars, Naya Rivera, who played Santana Lopez, was presumed dead after her son, four, was found alone in a pontoon boat on Lake Piru in California. 

The heartbreaking news comes among a string of heartbreaks and horrors surrounding the programme, including Cory Monteith’s accidental drug overdose in 2013, Naya’s ex-boyfriend Mark Salling’s conviction for possession of child pornography and subsequent suicide and recent rumours of unrest on-set. 

The programme ran for six seasons from 2009 to 2015 and throughout its time on air and the years following, trauma has reigned supreme – leading to claims of a ‘Glee Curse’.

Not so Glee-ful: While Glee was easily one of the cheeriest shows to ever grace television screens, behind-the-scenes a murky curse has long-prevailed among its troubled cast and crew (Pictured top row L-R: Chord Overstreet, Harry Shum Jr., Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Iqbal Theba, Heather Morris, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch. Bottom row L-R: Kevin McHale, Mark Salling (floor), Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Cory Monteith, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison in 2011)

Not so Glee-ful: While Glee was easily one of the cheeriest shows to ever grace television screens, behind-the-scenes a murky curse has long-prevailed among its troubled cast and crew (Pictured top row L-R: Chord Overstreet, Harry Shum Jr., Naya Rivera, Dianna Agron, Iqbal Theba, Heather Morris, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch. Bottom row L-R: Kevin McHale, Mark Salling (floor), Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, Cory Monteith, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison in 2011)

NAYA RIVERA’S SUSPECTED DROWNING AND ARREST 

On Thursday 8 July it was revealed that Naya Rivera was missing and presumed dead today after her four-year-old son was found alone on a boat. The star and her son Josey rented a pontoon boat on Lake Piru on Wednesday, but three hours later another boater raised the alarm after seeing the vessel drifting and the child asleep on board.

Naya Rivera played Santana Lopez

Naya Rivera played Santana Lopez 

Cops found Rivera’s life vest on the boat and believe that ‘she did go in the lake’ to go swimming, acknowledging that ‘this may well be a case of drowning’. Her car was reportedly found nearby.

Four-year-old Josey has told investigators that he got back on the boat and his mother did not, but the circumstances are unclear and cops say it is ‘challenging’ to interrogate a toddler.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department confirmed last night that the missing woman was 33-year-old Rivera, who starred in 113 episodes of the hit musical series from 2009 to 2015. 

Divers and helicopters were scouring the reservoir until darkness fell but no trace of Rivera has been found and the search has been halted until first light.

Naya welcomed son, Josey Hollis, with then-husband Ryan Dorsey in 2015. She called her young son ‘my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him’ in her 2016 memoir ‘Sorry Not Sorry.’

Rivera and Hollis divorced in 2018, after Rivera had applied to end the marriage in 2016 but they had initially reconciled. On Thanksgiving weekend 2017, Rivera was arrested in West Virginia on suspicion of domestic battery against Dorsey. The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said Dorsey later asked that Rivera not be prosecuted.

Heartache: On Thursday, it was revealed that one of the show's lead stars, Naya Rivera, who played Santana Lopez , was presumed dead after her son, four, was found alone in a pontoon boat on Lake Piru in California (Pictured: Naya and Josey, on Friday)

Lost love: Naya welcomed son, Josey Hollis, with then-husband Ryan Dorsey in 2015. She called her young son 'my greatest success, and I will never do any better than him' in her 2016 memoir 'Sorry Not Sorry' (Pictured: Naya and Ryan, in 2015)

Heartache: On Thursday, it was revealed that one of the show’s lead stars, Naya Rivera, who played Santana Lopez , was presumed dead after her son, four, was found alone in a pontoon boat on Lake Piru in California (PICTURED, LEFT, ON FRIDAY, WITH HER SON JOSEY, RIGHT, IN 2015, WITH EX-HUSBAND RYAN DORSEY)

CORY MONTEITH’S FATAL DRUG AND DRINK BATTLE 

In what was the start of the show’s behind-the-scenes demise, on 13 July 2013, Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson, was found dead of a drugs overdose aged 31 in his Vancouver hotel room, after taking a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol. Four months before his death he had completed a stint in rehab.   

Cory Monteith played Finn Hudson

Cory Monteith played Finn Hudson

Cory was dating Lea Michele at the time of his death. After news broke of his overdose, it was revealed that Lea rang his mother, hysterical and screaming: ‘Is it true?’ Following his passing, she released a statement.

Through her representative, the actress said: ‘Lea is deeply grateful for all the love and support she’s received from family, friends, and fans. Since Cory’s passing, Lea has been grieving alongside his family and making appropriate arrangements with them. They are supporting each other as they endure this profound loss together.’

Lea, who is expecting her first child with husband Zandy Reich, began dating Cory in 2012, and after his death, she said: ‘There was no greater man than Cory. So, for the time we spent together, I consider myself very lucky.’

Five years after his death, Cory’s mother Ann McGregor insisted her son had been on pain medication following dental work to cap his teeth in the weeks before his overdose and that he ‘never meant to die’. 

She said he had battled his fair share of demons from a young age, drinking and smoking marijuana from 13, and with two stints in rehab by the time he was 19. While he managed to get clean for a time, he fell back into bad habits when he went to Hollywood. 

Ann, who admitted her son began using drugs again in December 2012, seven months before his death, said: ‘He wasn’t ready for the Hollywood world. Drugs were his way of checking out’. After his death, she said: ‘I still can’t pick up the pieces. My world totally stopped. And I’m a different person than I was before.’

Heartbreaking: Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the show and dated his co-star Lea Michele up to the time of his death, was found dead of a drugs overdose aged 31 in his Vancouver hotel room (Pictured: Cory and Lea in 2012)

Troubled: Four months before his death Cory had completed a stint in rehab (Pictured: Cory in 2010)

Heartbreaking: Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the show and dated his co-star Lea Michele up to the time of his death, was found dead of a drugs overdose aged 31 in his Vancouver hotel room, after taking a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol (PICTURED, LEFT, WITH LEA IN 2012, RIGHT, IN 2010)

MARK SALLING’S HORRENDOUS CHILD PORN CONVICTION AND DEATH 

The most horrific of the show’s woes was undoubtedly Mark Salling’s 2015 arrest and subsequent conviction in 2017 for possession of more than 50,000 images and 600 videos which showed girls, some of whom as young as three, being raped. It was described as ‘the worst pornography collection the nation has seen’. 

Mark Salling played Noah "Puck" Puckerman

Mark Salling played Noah “Puck” Puckerman

Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the show, had tried to conceal them by masking his IP address and storing them on an encrypted hard drive. They were revealed to police by an ex-girlfriend who he showed them to. She was sickened and notified authorities. In his plea deal, the extent of his collection was described in harrowing detail.

He was found dead from suicide by hanging on 30 January 2018 near his home in Sunland, Los Angeles. His death came shortly before his sentencing, which was due to take place on March 7. He had attempted suicide the previous year by slashing his wrists, after which he was treated for psychological problems.

Salling dated Naya from 2007 to 2010. In her 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, the actress admitted that she was not surprised by his horrendous convictions. 

She wrote: ‘I can’t say I was totally shocked. When Mark dumped me, I thought it was the worst thing ever, but can you imagine if that didn’t happen?…

‘And I was laying there in bed when the battering ram came through the door?’

Prior to his death, in January 2013, Salling’s ex-girlfriend Roxanne Gorzela accused him of sexual battery by forcing her to have unprotected sex without consent. He denied the charges and filed a countersuit for defamation. In March 2015, they out of court with judges ordering him to pay her $2.7million.

Horror: The most horrific of the show's woes was undoubtedly Mark Salling's 2015 arrest and subsequent conviction in 2017 for possession of more than 50,000 images and 600 videos which showed girls, some of whom as young as three, being raped (Pictured: Arriving at court in December 2017)

Shocking: He dated Naya from 2007 to 2010. In her 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, the actress admitted that she was not surprised by his horrendous convictions (Pictured: The former couple in 2009)

Horror: The most horrific of the show’s woes was undoubtedly Mark Salling’s 2015 arrest and subsequent conviction in 2017 for possession of more than 50,000 images and 600 videos which showed girls, some of whom as young as three, being raped (PICTURED, LEFT, ARRIVING AT COURT IN DECEMBER 2017, RIGHT, WITH EX NAYA RIVERA IN 2009)

LEA MICHELE’S DRAMA BEHIND THE SCENES 

Lea Michele, who played Rachel Berry on the show, has been plagued with rumours in recent weeks, after a host of cast and crew members have come forth to accuse the leading lady of bullying on-set. 

Accusations of on-set bullying began with a tweet from Lea’s co-star Samantha Ware last month, accusing her of being rude to her on-set and behaving with ‘traumatic microaggressions’. 

Lea Michele played Rachel Berry

Lea Michele played Rachel Berry

Others then piled on to the actress with allegations of their own, including Heather Morris, Dabier Snell and Yvette Nicole Brown. Lea was subsequently dropped by her sponsor, HelloFresh. 

Morris, 33, who played cheerleader Brittany S. Pierce on the Ryan Murphy show, claims Michele was ‘very’ unpleasant to work with, saying: ‘Was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so; for Lea to treat others with the disrespect that she did for as long as she did, I believe she SHOULD be called out.’ 

Lea apologised and said she has ‘never judged others by their background or color of their skin.’ She also insisted she will learn from the mistakes she has made so she ‘can be a real role model for my child’ when she gives birth in a couple of months.  

Naya and Lea famously had on-set friction, with the former writing in her book: ‘One of the Glee writers once said that Lea and I were like two sides of the same battery and that about sums us up. We are both strong willed and competitive – not just with each other but with everyone – and that’s not a good mixture…

 ‘We’re all stressed, yes, but we’re all working toward the same goal, so laugh it off and keep it movin’. Lea was a lot more sensitive, though, and it seemed like she blamed me for anything and everything that went wrong.’ 

Shocker: Lea Michele, who played Rachel Berry on the show, has been plagued with rumours in recent weeks, after a host of cast and crew members have come forth to accuse the leading lady of bullying on-set and has since been dropped as an ambassador for Hello Fresh (pictured promoting the brand)

Shocking: Accusations of on-set bullying began with a tweet from Lea's co-star Samantha Ware (pictured) last month, accusing her of being rude to her on set and behaving with 'traumatic microaggressions'

Shocker: Lea Michele, who played Rachel Berry on the show, has been plagued with rumours in recent weeks, after a host of cast and crew members have come forth to accuse the leading lady of bullying on-set (PICTURED, LEFT, LEA FRONTING HELLO FRESH, RIGHT, SAMANTHA WARE ON GLEE SET)

CREW MEMBERS’ PASSING: ‘WE’VE LOST ANOTHER ONE’ 

Between 2013 and 2014, the show saw three heartbreaking deaths. Three months after Cory’s 2013 death, assistant director Jim Fuller passed away in his sleep, from heart failure. 

Production assistant Nancy Motes

Production assistant Nancy Motes

In Season Four, a subtle shout-out was given to Jim, while Glee cinematographer Joaquin Sedillo wrote on Twitter after his death: ‘This is such sad news. Jim was such a great guy and was so good to me always.’ 

Then in 2014, the cast were left ‘devastated’ by the death of the production assistant Nancy Motes, the sister of Julia Roberts. Nancy died aged 37, after drowning in a bath on February 9, 2014. She was found surrounded by non-prescription and prescription pills, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. 

She claimed in her suicide note that the actress was so cruel that she ‘drove me into the deepest depression I’ve ever been in’. She described the Oscar-winning star as a ‘so-called sibling’ who should get nothing if she died – except the memory that she pushed her over the edge.

In the handwritten note, which was used as evidence in court amid a legal battle over her estate, Nancy said that Roberts’ abuse had been so bad that ‘I burst into tears because I wake up’.

Following Nancy’s tragic death, fellow production assistant Cristina Lageman spoke to MailOnline about Jim’s death, Nancy’s suicide and the concerns over ‘a curse’ on the show’. 

Cristina said: ‘She was such a good friend to me. It’s just shocking. Yes, she had her own little struggles, but when we got together, we just bonded and she never let them get to her. It’s such a shock, what with Cory passing last year, then we had a crew member, Jim Fuller, die. Now we’ve got this hit and it’s almost too much.

‘Glee was like a family. We spent 12 hours a day together. We would refer to each other as The Glee Family. Colleagues have been posting on Facebook: “We’ve lost another one.” 

Further pain: Production assistant Nancy Motes, the sister of Julia Roberts, died aged 37, after drowning in a bath on February 9, 2014. She was found surrounded by non-prescription and prescription pills, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner (JULIA ROBERTS AND HER SISTER NANCY PICTURED IN 2002)

Further pain: Production assistant Nancy Motes, the sister of Julia Roberts, died aged 37, after drowning in a bath on February 9, 2014. She was found surrounded by non-prescription and prescription pills, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner (JULIA ROBERTS AND HER SISTER NANCY PICTURED IN 2002)

Heartbreaking: She claimed in her suicide note that the actress was so cruel that she ¿drove me into the deepest depression I¿ve ever been in¿. She described the Oscar-winning star as a 'so-called sibling' who should get nothing if she died - except the memory that she pushed her over the edge

Heartbreaking: She claimed in her suicide note that the actress was so cruel that she ‘drove me into the deepest depression I’ve ever been in’. She described the Oscar-winning star as a ‘so-called sibling’ who should get nothing if she died – except the memory that she pushed her over the edge








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