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Glee Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

This article contains discussion of death, suicide, substance abuse, addiction, and child abuse.

When "Glee" premiered on Fox in 2009, few could have predicted the musical dramedy's effect on pop culture. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan, "Glee" was a bizarre concept from the get-go — specifically, a cast of adult actors playing high school students who burst into song several times a day and are rarely seen in academic classes. Yet, as with most projects involving Murphy, the underdog show focused on the much-maligned Glee Club at an Ohio high school. captured the hearts of many. Audiences tuned in week after week, eager to see what acapella group New Directions was up to, and the next day they downloaded the episode's best songs — especially if the episode featured a mash-up.

"Glee" brought its curtain down in 2015, after six seasons, and though its viewership dropped significantly over its run, "Gleeks" still shed tears as they said farewell to their favorite series. In a twist of bitter irony, "Glee," with its young cast and sunny outlook, has suffered numerous tragedies both during and after its six-year run. Here are the "Glee" stars you might not know passed away.

Cory Monteith played all-American Finn Hudson

On "Glee," Cory Monteith played Finn Hudson, an all-American jock with a sensitive side and soothing voice. Finn's on again, off again relationship with Lea Michele's Rachel Berry was a centerpiece of the show's dramatic moments, earning the affectionate portmanteau "Finchel" (and the two had an off-screen relationship as well). Howevr, Monteith came to the "Glee" cast with some weighty personal struggles. In a 2011 interview with Parade, the Canadian actor opened up about his struggles with drugs and alcohol, which began when he was just 13 years old. By the time he was 19, Monteith's friends and family organized an intervention, after which Monteith entered rehab for the first time.

Unfortunately, Monteith's demons continued to haunt him throughout his 20s. In March 2013, at the age of 30, Monteith entered rehab, completing the program at the end of April (via E! Online). Then, on July 17, news broke that Monteith was found dead in his Vancoucer hotel room. Autopsy results revealed that the actor died of an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol; codeine and morphine were also found in his blood. The third episode of the fifth season of "Glee," titled "The Quarterback," is dedicated to Monteith.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Mark Salling played bad boy Puck

"Glee," like any show set in high school, had its "bad boy," and in that ole, Mark Salling played Noah "Puck" Puckerman for the entirety of the series, though he is listed as a recurring character for its final two seasons. Much like Shakespeare's character of the same name, Puck was a mischief-maker, albeit a lovable one. As the series' resident horn dog, Puck was often "romancing" a variety of women. Like his co-star Cory Monteith, Salling also found himself in unflattering headlines.

In 2013, Salling's ex-girlfriend, Roxanne Gorzela, sued the Texas native, alleging he forced her to have unprotected sex. Though Salling denied the accusations, he settled with Gorzela out of court, paying her $2.7 million (via TMZ). A few months after "Glee" ended, Salling was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. When authorities searched his California home, they discovered more than 50,000 images of child pornography on his computer. Salling pled guilty in December 2017, with sentencing set for March 2018. Likely facing several years in prison, Salling died by suicide in January 2018. He was 35 years old.

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

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Robin Trocki broke stereotypes as Jean Sylvester

Jane Lynch is one of only five "Glee" actors to star in a main role for all six seasons of the show. As Sue Sylvester, head coach of William McKinley High School's cheerleading squad, Lynch played the show's villain. Typically clad in a tracksuit, Sylvester stalked the halls of McKinley, instilling fear in both students and staff. Yet despite her edges, Sue also had a soft spot for Becky Jackson, a McKinley student with Down's syndrome, who Sue takes under her wing. Though her affection for Becky seemed out of character, viewers eventually learn that Sue has an older sister, Jean, with Down's syndrome.

Robin Trocki, who came to "Glee" with no acting experience, played Jean Sylvester in five episodes throughout Seasons 1 and 2. Trocki died in 2019 from Alzheimer's disease at the age of 63. While not a star of the series, Trocki's involvement with "Glee" helped raise awareness for Down's syndrome (via Legacy).

Naya Rivera played mean girl and secret softie Santana Lopez

For the first season of "Glee," Naya Rivera played the recurring character Santana Lopez, one of Sue's top cheerleaders, before being promoted to the show's main cast in Season 2. Just as Mark Salling's character filled the role of "bad boy," Rivera's character served as the "mean girl," though that persona softened over time. In addition to providing powerful vocals in New Directions, Santana also added to the show's LGBT sensibilities. Early in the series, Santana is revealed to be bisexual, and in Season 6 she marries fellow glee club alum Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris).

In July 2020, Rivera took her 4-year-old son on a pontoon boat in California's Lake Piru. When Rivera failed to return the rental boat at the appointed time, a team was sent to locate the boat and its passengers. When the boat was found, only Rivera's son was onboard. The child told authorities that after a swim, his mother helped him back onto the boat before she slipped beneath the water's surface and disappeared. After an exhaustive and multi-day search, the Ventura County Sheriff's Office announced the discovery of a body believed to be Rivera's; dental records would later confirm the body's identity. An autopsy concluded that Rivera died as a result of accidental drowning (via E! Online). She was 33 years old.

Jean Sincere was the disapproving Ancient Librarian

Billed as "Ancient Librarian," Jean Sincere appeared in three episodes of "Glee" during its first and second seasons. Her role largely consisted of either shushing or glaring at the glee club members as they broke into exuberant songs in her library. However, in Season 1's "Bad Reputation," the librarian responds to a performance of "U Can't Touch This" by suggesting that the club members recreate the song for the Sunday service at her church.

The role of the Ancient Librarian was typical of Sincere's television career, which began at the dawn of the medium in the late 1940s and concluded in 2012 with a guest appearance on "iCarly." A trained stage actress, Sincere made her debut on Broadway in the 1941 production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," and appeared in other shows before touring Europe as part of the USO.

After nearly three decades away from television, Sincere returned to the small screen in a 1985 episode of "Cagney and Lacey" and moved into steady work as a guest player in series like "Newhart," "Murphy Brown," and "Everybody Loves Raymond." She also made occasional forays into feature film work, of which her voice-acting role as the elderly Mrs. Hogenson, whom Bob Parr helps with an insurance claim in "The Incredibles," was the most memorable. Sincere remained active on television and local theater into her ninth decade; she died of natural causes at the age of 93 on April 3, 2013.

Meat Loaf appeared on Glee's Rocky Horror tribute

Though some critics were not impressed by "The Rocky Horror Glee Show," the Season 2 tribute to Richard O'Brien's enduring cult musical, fans of the 1975 film version were undoubtedly happy to see two of its stars appear in minor roles. Barry Bostwick, who played Brad in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and singer and actor Meat Loaf, who played Eddie in the film and original Broadway production, feature as managers of a local news station who plot with Sue Sylvester to produce an expose on the school play.

Born Marvin Lee Aday, Meat Loaf — who gave different reasons for his stage name throughout his career (via People) — enjoyed chart success in three different decades as well as a second career as an actor. His success on the pop and rock charts was largely anchored around the "Bat Out of Hell" trilogy of albums which featured such enduring and epic-scaled radio hits as "Paradise By the Dashboard Light," and the Grammy-winning "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That").

As an actor, Meat Loaf's best-known role outside of "Rocky Horror" was as Robert Paulson, the sympathetic ex-weightlifter in David Fincher's "Fight Club," though he also appeared in "Wayne's World" and "The Salton Sea" and on "Masters of Horror" and "Elementary." After experiencing several health issues in the 2000s, he died at the age of 74 in Nashville, Tennessee on January 20, 2022.

Mike Hagerty declared a tie between New Directions and the Warblers

Presiding in part over the 2010 Western Ohio Sectionals Championship in Season 2's "Special Education" was Pete Sosnowski, associate director of the state's Department of Motor Vehicles and head judge of the competition. Sosnowski, who announced that New Directions and the Warblers both tied for first place, was played by veteran actor Mike Hagerty.

A Chicago native and member of its famed improv troupe, The Second City, Hagerty began appearing in minor and supporting roles on TV and in movies in the early '80s. A go-to for overworked and easily aggravated blue-collar types, Hagerty — who was also billed as Michael Hagerty or Michael J. Hagerty — played cops, truck drivers, salesmen, and furniture movers on projects ranging from "Nothing in Common" and "Dick Tracy" to "Married... with Children" and "Cheers." By the mid-'90s, Hagerty had moved up to supporting roles, which included his best-known small screen characters (via Deadline): grumpy building super Mr. Treeger on five episodes of "Friends" and the owner of a vintage clothing store who butted heads with Kramer in "Seinfield."

Hagerty remained active well into the new millennium with recurring roles in "Lucky Louie" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," and co-starred in the HBO comedy "Somebody Somewhere." TMZ reported that after completing the latter show's first season, Hagerty experienced a seizure due to an adverse reaction to antibiotics and lapsed into a coma; the 67-year-old died at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on May 5, 2022.

Oliva Newton-John played diva versions of herself twice

Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John parodied her own squeaky-clean image in two appearances in "Glee," for which she played a diva-ish version of herself. In Season 1's "Bad Reputation," she helped repair the damage done to Sue Sylvester's status and dignity when a bootleg video of her performing Newton-John's "Physical" is leaked to the internet. Newton-John tapped Sue to appear in a near-exact duplicate of the original campy music video. She later returned that same season for "Journey to Regionals", which offered her a chance to play for laughs as a self-centered judge for the New Directions' performance at a competition.

Born in England but raised in Australia, Newton-John enjoyed considerable success in two mediums throughout the 1970s and 1980s. As a singer, she earned 15 Top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, including five No. 1 hits like "I Honestly Love You" and "Physical," and 12 Grammy nominations, including four wins. Newton-John's success as a singer also led to an acting career that included the staggering box office hit "Grease" – which also generated three Top 10 hits — and "Xanadu."

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Newton-John became a tireless advocate for research and treatment. The disease returned in 2017 and metastasized to her back and bones. After penning a memoir, "Don't Stop Believin'," in 2018, Newton-John died at the age of 73 at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley in California on August 8, 2022.

Tim Conway turned up in a Chris Colfer-written epsiode

Emmy-winning comic actor Tim Conway joined fellow performing vets Billy Dee Williams and June Squibb for Season 5's "Old Dog, New Tricks," which was penned by cast member Chris Colfer. The episode gave its three guest stars a few moments to shine as residents at a home for retired actors who are producing a stage version of "Peter Pan."

Conway began in regional television in the late 1950s before earning his first break on "The Steve Allen Show." A co-starring role on "McHale's Navy" led to several attempts to craft a TV series around him, but Conway always seemed to fare best as a supporting player; he was a hilarious improviser who frequently reduced his castmates on "The Carol Burnett Show" to hysterics, and teamed with another peerless TV comic, Don Knotts, in a string of '70s features for Walt Disney Pictures. Conway was also an in-demand guest star on numerous series like "Coach" and "30 Rock" (for which he won two additional Emmys) and a popular voice-over actor for animated projects, most notably as Barnacle Boy in "SpongeBob SquarePants."

In 2018, Conway was diagnosed with dementia due to normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up in the brain. He died from complications of the condition at the age of 85 in Los Angeles on May 14, 2019.

James Lipton watched Finn's Actors Studio audition

Best known as the creator, writer, and host of the long-running Bravo and Ovation series "Inside the Actors Studio," James Lipton appeared in the Season 3 finale, "Goodbye." The episode, which concerned the graduation of eight Glee club members, saw Finn audition for Lipton in order to win a spot at the prestigious Actors Studio. That same year, Lipton also interviewed several "Glee" cast members and co-creator Ryan Murphy on an episode of the "Actors Studio" series.

"Inside the Actors Studio" was the product of Lipton's work as the dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, a graduate program for actors that united the Actors Studio with New York's New School University. As part of its curriculum, Lipton recorded interviews with actors, directors, and writers about their crafts, which began airing on Bravo in 1994. Its success vaulted Lipton to pop culture stardom, which he parlayed into appearances, most often as himself, in series like "The Simpsons" and "Saturday Night Live."

Lipton was himself a former actor who began in radio during the 1940s and made appearances on Broadway and television during the 1950s. He segued into writing for television series like "The Guiding Light" and specials for comedian Bob Hope, as well as several novels and Broadway musicals. He remained with "Actors Studio" until 2018, earning 18 Emmy nominations (and winning one) during the show's 24-year run; Lipton died of bladder cancer at the age of 93 on March 2, 2020.