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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.