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The Tragic Truth Behind Frost's Death On Rizzoli & Isles

The following article includes discussions of mental health and suicide.

Countless characters appeared throughout the seven-season run of TNT's crime drama series "Rizzoli & Isles." The witty and engaging crime procedural explored the relationship between its two title characters — Boston police detective Jane Clementine Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Maura Dorothea Isles (Sasha Alexander) — but had plenty of supporting players along the way, including Rizzoli's archetypal overbearing Italian mother Angela (Lorraine Bracco) and her former partner Vince Korsak (Bruce McGill). However, there's one supporting character in particular who made an unforgettable mark on audiences during the show's first four seasons: Rizzoli's second partner, Detective Barry Frost. 

Actor Lee Thompson Young brilliantly portrayed the character, a homicide detective who, ironically, can't stand the sight of gory crime scenes or dead bodies — a fact that might suggest he had chosen the wrong vocation, given that dead bodies are inextricably linked to investigating homicides. But the producers of "Rizzoli & Isles" didn't reduce Detective Frost to mere comic relief. He's fiercely loyal to his partner and fans didn't get to see as much of him as they likely hoped to. 

Detective Barry Frost had a complicated backstory

While Detective Barry Frost was a supporting character on "Rizzoli & Isles," viewers did get to learn a bit about his backstory. We learn that he went to school at a well-regarded preparatory academy but was one of only three Black students. It's revealed that he lived in Japan when his father, United States Navy Admiral Frost (Ernie Hudson) was stationed there. Viewers also learn that Barry's father was more dedicated to his job than he was his family, resulting in some tension between the two men, tension which came to a head when Admiral Frost demands the release of suspect Petty Officer Richard Salerno (Matthew Florida) in the Season 2 episode "Sailor Man" (via Fandom). 

Detective Frost's relationship with his father helped define his personality, as actor Lee Thompson Young shared in an interview with Rolling Out. "The appearance of Barry's father will fill in some of the blanks about how he came to be the way he is. His father won't be in many episodes, but his appearance will spark little clues into Barry's character throughout the season," Young said.

The Barry Frost character had to be written off of "Rizzoli & Isles" due to tragic circumstances in real life, which is why Barry's funeral in Season 5, Episode 2 is so emotional. The Boston Police Detective is killed during the Season 5 premiere, dying in a car accident as he's coming back from a vacation. Young had a successful career and was a magnetic presence on screen, but the bright young star also struggled with depression and lived with bipolar disorder (via the New York Times). When Young didn't arrive on set to film the penultimate episode of "Rizzoli & Isles" Season 4 in 2013, the police were called to check on the 29-year-old star. They discovered that Young had died by suicide (via USA Today).

The devastating death of Lee Thompson Young

Due to the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding actor Lee Thompson Young's death, "Rizzoli & Isles" showrunner Jan Nash explained to TV Guide how the series had a duty to address his passing with care: "We couldn't just say, 'Barry Frost went on vacation,' and occasionally talk about how much fun he was having or give him a new job in a new city. That would feel icky. We realized that we had to have the character die so we could deal with that loss the same way the people on the show had dealt with Lee's loss."

"We are beyond heartbroken at the loss of this sweet, gentle, good-hearted, intelligent man. He was truly a member of our family. Lee will be cherished and remembered by all who knew and loved him, both on- and off-screen, for his positive energy, infectious smile and soulful grace," read a statement from executive producer Janet Tamaro (via Today). Family, friends, and co-workers gathered at the Paramount lot for a memorial service to honor Young, during which series star Angie Harmon was said to be in tears (via E! Online).

In the show, the Boston Police Department set up the Barry Frost Memorial Scholarship to help pay for students' education if they intend to take up a career that would help the public. Teenage witness Tasha Williams (Jaz Sinclair) is the first recipient of the scholarship, and it allows her to get into Boston Cambridge University, Maura Isles' (Sasha Alexander) alma mater.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

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