It’s never easy when someone you know passes away. Whether you know their death is coming, or it’s sudden and unexpected, the grieving process is extremely difficult. Being famous doesn’t change that fact. In reality, fame can only complicate matters further. When celebrities lose their co-stars, they may struggle to find the privacy to mourn. As public figures, they’re expected to frequently update their social media accounts and share their thoughts with fans who are interested in the personal details of their lives.
At a time when they are vulnerable, sad, angry, and heartbroken, it is understandably difficult for them to open up about their experience. However, when actors do open up about the loss of their co-star, it’s typically a refreshingly honest account of how they’re dealing with unimaginable tragedy and how their friend had a profound impact on their life.
For some actors, the realization of how important their co-stars were in shaping their worldview isn’t realized until after their gone while others experience the full impact of the loss immediately. Here’s a look at how these actors’ lives were changed forever after a co-star passed away.
Cory Monteith’s death broke his Glee co-star Lea Michele’s heart
Three years after meeting on the set of Glee in 2009, Lea Michele and Cory Monteith made their red carpet debut as a couple (via Life & Style). However, less than a year later, Monteith tragically overdosed. While their relationship was still relatively new at the time of his passing, Michele and Monteith had gotten to know each other well over the years as their Glee characters were also romantically involved. In 2012, Michele even told Marie Claire, "No one knows me better than Cory."
In an interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Michele said her grief over Monteith’s death followed her everywhere, "Grief goes with you everyday [with] whatever you’re doing — when there’s great moments, when there’s hard moments."
In 2014, Michele also told Glamour that at the time of Monteith’s passing, the two had become settled with each other. "We were done. We were it," Michele said. However, the actress revealed to Teen Vogue that her love for Monteith and his loss gave her a strength she didn’t have before. "I somehow feel the insane love Cory and I had for each other morphed into this strength that I have right now," she explained.
Vin Diesel thinks of his Fast & Furious co-star Paul Walker as family
Paul Walker’s death in 2013 completely halted the production of Fast & Furious 7 as the cast and crew worked through their grief and figured out the best way to move forward with the project (via The Hollywood Reporter). Vin Diesel, Walker’s Fast and Furious co-star for more than a decade since the franchise’s 2001 beginning, has openly shared his grief with fans.
When speaking with Today in 2015, Diesel revealed he’d named his fourth daughter Pauline after his late friend. Diesel told the outlet that he "knew [Walker] was there" when she was born. The honor ensures that Walker’s memory will always live on in Diesel’s family.
In 2019, Diesel shared an emotional tribute to Walker on Instagram. In the post, Diesel addressed Walker directly, writing, "I reflect on how lucky I am to call you my brother." This sentiment is further evidenced by Diesel’s continued relationship with Walker’s daughter, Meadow, whom he and his family have remained close to in the years since Walker’s death.
Dwayne Johnson protects his special bond with his Fast & Furious co-star Paul Walker
Paul Walker’s sudden death in 2013 devastated not only Vin Diesel, but his other Fast & Furious co-star, Dwayne Johnson, according to Entertainment Weekly. While some of Walker’s co-stars were outspoken about their grief, Johnson chose to process the tragedy in private.
In an interview with The Independent in 2014, though, Johnson described the moment he learned about Walker’s passing. He was driving with his wife Lauren Hashian when he started receiving messages on his phone. After pulling the car over, Johnson told the publication, "We said a prayer right then to give his daughter strength — because we had talked about our daughters."
Since then, Johnson has rarely spoken about Walker’s death, but in 2019, he shared a rare birthday tribute on Instagram. In the post, Johnson explained that he never posted about Walker, writing, "I never post about my friend. Personal thing, but I prefer to keep our memories and bond private and quiet." Nevertheless, Johnson noted that Walker’s death helped to remind him not to take life for granted. He continued, writing, "We never know what’s around the corner, so we gotta live as greatly as we can in the honor of our loved ones and ancestors who are no longer with us."
Kevin McHale said his Glee co-star Naya Rivera made him a "better person"
Naya Rivera’s tragic death shocked the world over, but it was especially hard on her former co-stars. Many took to social media to share their grief over the loss of their friend, as Entertainment Weekly highlighted. Among those vocal about the loss of Rivera was Kevin McHale, who starred alongside Rivera on Glee.
McHale penned a thoughtful tribute to his co-star on Twitter. In the post, McHale wrote, "I’m thankful for all the ways in which she made me a better person." In another tweet, he continued, writing, "I’m thankful she became like family." McHale also expressed that he "can not imagine this world without [Rivera]."
McHale also commented on Rivera’s talent, writing, "She was the most talented person I’ve ever known [and] I’m furious we won’t get to see more." While Rivera’s fans and other co-stars expressed similar remorse at the star’s sudden passing, it is clear that Rivera and McHale’s bond was quite special.
Mark Hamill was devastated after his Star Wars co-star Carrie Fisher passed away
Star Wars fans around the world mourned the 2016 death of Carrie Fisher, who suffered a heart attack while on a flight from London to Los Angeles, according to People. One of the lives Fisher touched the most, though, was that of her onscreen brother of 40 years: Mark Hamill.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2017, Hamill spoke candidly about his longtime friend and co-star. He told the outlet, "It’s devastating and I still haven’t come to terms with it." He continued, saying, "Gosh darn it, I still think of her in the present tense, you know?" The Guardian columnist noted that their conversation, which should have covered Hamill’s career, kept going back to Fisher — a testament to the co-stars’ lifelong friendship.
Mark Hamill took to Twitter before filming for his final Star Wars film began in 2018, telling fans, "It’s bittersweet facing my final chapter without her. She is simply irreplaceable." In a tribute for The Hollywood Reporter, Hamill put it simply, saying his life "would have been so much drabber and less interesting if she hadn’t been the friend that she was."
Daisy Ridley learned how to handle fame thanks to her Star Wars co-star Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher’s 2016 death left everyone in the Star Wars community brokenhearted. While those who had known her since the first trilogy no doubt dealt with the loss in their own unique ways, Daisy Ridley was just beginning to get to know the series legend.
While Daisy Ridley was the star of the more recent Star Wars trilogy, which began in 2015, she was working alongside the likes of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, who had all been around since the very beginning. After Fisher’s sudden passing, Ridley revealed in an interview that she had regretted not soaking up as much of Fisher’s wisdom as possible. Ridley told IGN she wished she’d asked Fisher more questions, "Like life things," she explained, "and how it was after they finished (the original movies), and were they actually friends, and did they stay in touch, and how the filming experience actually was."
According to Elle, though, Ridley’s short time with Fisher was not necessarily wasted. The Hollywood veteran imparted a crucial piece of advice regarding Ridley’s rising fame, which was to embrace her success rather than hide from it.
Heath Ledger’s death rendered his Brokeback Mountain co-star Jake Gyllenhaal speechless
In 2008, Heath Ledger’s death at just 28 years old left his friends and family heartbroken. Among those closest to Ledger was Jake Gyllenhaal, Ledger’s Brokeback Mountain co-star. In the years since Ledger’s death, Gyllenhaal has been open about how Ledger’s passing at such a young age impacted him. Some eight years after Ledger’s death, Gyllenhaal told People, "Personally, it affected me in ways I can’t necessarily put in words or even would want to talk about publicly." However, Gyllenhaal did reveal that Ledger’s death helped him understand mortality and how "fleeting" life is.
In an interview with NPR, Gyllenhaal did admit, "I miss him as a human being and I miss working with him". Thus, of course, revealing just how important both their private friendship and professional relationship were.
Ledger’s death also had a profound impact on the way Gyllenhaal views his career. He told NPR, "I’m trying to be present where I am. I’m trying to have relationships that are as real as they possibly can be on a movie set, be close to people because I know that it’s precious."
Jai Courtney considers his Sparatcus co-star Andy Whitfield a "hero"
Andy Whitfield’s first real big break into Hollywood came in 2010, when he starred in Starz’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand. However, according to The New York Times, soon after the show premiered and became an instant hit, Whitfield had to take a hiatus from the series in order to battle non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Ultimately, in 2011, Whitfield lost his life to the disease.
While Whitfield only filmed one season of Spartacus before stepping away, he had became very close to his co-star, Jai Courtney, on set. In fact, Courtney is even the godfather to Whitfield’s children. Courtney told Entertainment Tonight, "He became kind of a mentor, kind of a hero to me in a way." Courtney also told the publication, "Andy was a very special friend — and his family, I consider an extension of my own."
Courtney explained to Collider that he learned a lot from Whitfield’s approach to life. He told the outlet he "always [feels] more grounded and more centered and more honest" when he remembers Whitfield’s philosophy of being both realistic and present in the moment.
Anton Yelchin’s death was a "terrible loss" for Zachary Quinto
When Anton Yelchin passed in 2016, the entire Star Trek community of fans, cast, and crew mourned together, according to BBC News. Zachary Quinto, Yelchin’s co-star in the rebooted Star Trek films, has been particularly candid about his grieving process.
In an interview withThe Late Show with Stephen Colbert after Yelchin’s passing, Quinto said his co-star’s death was "absolutely senseless." As BBC News explained, Yelchin was fatally struck by his own car. Quinto also said Yelchin’s death was a "terrible loss" both personally and for the industry. Quinto revealed to Stephen Colbert that the Star Trek cast shares a special bond and that he, Yelchin, and the rest of the cast will always be linked together, sharing, "We are truly intertwined inextricably and I think we always will be."
Quinto’s grief over Yelchin’s death was further expressed in a touching Instagram post where Quinto lamented the young age at which "our Anton" lost his life. Quinto also remarked that Yelchin was "one of the most open and intellectually curious people I have ever had the pleasure to know."
Luke Perry’s death "changed everything" for his Riverdale co-star KJ Apa
Luke Perry’s 2019 death was heartbreaking for the Riverdale cast and crew, according to Entertainment Weekly. KJ Apa, who played Perry’s onscreen son, was hit particularly hard by the passing of his co-star.
Molly Ringwald, Apa’s onscreen mother in Riverdale, told Us Weekly that Apa was affected the most by Perry’s death, saying, "KJ and Luke were very close and had such a unique bond. Luke was really like his father — his American father. He really assumed that role, so watching KJ grapple with that was really tough to watch. As a mother, as just a person, it was hard to watch."
For his part, Apa remembered Perry in an interview with Mr Porter’s The Journal, saying, "I miss him. I just miss talking to him. I miss listening to him." Apa also said, "It made me really think. What kind of man do I want to be? And I’m still figuring it out." Apa further revealed that his co-star’s death "changed everything" as he had never experienced a loss so close to him before.
Michael Massee never got over the accidental death of his co-star Brandon Lee
In 1993, Brandon Lee, son of famed actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, died tragically on the set of The Crow, according to Biography. During the filming of Lee’s death scene, his co-star, Michael Massee, fired a prop gun at Lee. Unbeknownst to Massee, the gun, which was supposed to contain a blank, fired a "metallic projectile," according to The New York Times. The projectile struck and killed Lee, and the terrible accident haunted Massee for his entire life.
In 2005, Massee spoke publicly about Lee’s death for the very first time, some 12 years later. Massee told Extra the shooting of the film went "tragically awry." Massee also said, "Since then, I am very conscious of the dangers of making a movie."
Massee also revealed to Extra that he chose to deal with the awful accident in relative privacy, choosing only to speak to Lee’s fiancee and mother about what happened. Massee did reveal, however, that while he processed the accident privately, he had not necessarily moved on, saying, "I don’t think you ever get over something like that."
Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman taught him lessons he’ll remember forever
Daniel Radcliffe was just a boy when he was cast as Harry Potter in 2000, per CNN. Radcliffe’s formative years were spent on the set of the Harry Potter movies, which he starred in for more than a decade. As such, he grew up around actors like Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, and Alan Rickman. Understandably, Rickman’s 2016 death was heartbreaking for everyone who knew him, and Radcliffe’s tribute to the late actor revealed just how big of an impact he made on Radcliffe’s life.
Radcliffe penned an emotional tribute honoring Rickman (via Yahoo!), writing that he was "one of the loyalist and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry." Radcliffe also noted that, aside from being a talented actor, Rickman was a kind and supportive friend. Perhaps most notably, Radcliffe wrote, "Working with him at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career." This, of course, revealed just how much of an impact Rickman had on his life.
Explorers’ River Phoenix inspired a chapter in co-star Ethan Hawke’s book
River Phoenix died at just 23 years old, after a prolific start to his Hollywood career, according to Vanity Fair. Ethan Hawke, Phoenix’s co-star in 1985’s Explorers, was notably affected by the young actor’s passing. Hawke revealed to People, however, that the co-stars were not exactly close at the time of Phoenix’s death. In actuality, they were rivals breaking into Hollywood at the same time. People also noted Hawke lost a role in Stand By Me to Phoenix and, for his part, Hawke admitted, "It was a nightmare for me."
But then Phoenix died, and Hawke instantly regretted his jealousy, telling People, "It was nothing but loss. And I learned really sharply what a waste of time that kind of competitiveness with your peers is, that I really missed him."
That loss has stayed with Hawke throughout the years. In 2016, Hawke told Vulture that Phoenix inspired a chapter in his children’s book, Rules for a Knight. In the chapter, the narrator describes a rival knight who was better than him at everything and it’s only after his rival dies that the narrator realizes the true value of their friendship.
Cameron Boyce’s sudden death reminded his Descendants co-star Dove Cameron of the importance of life
When Cameron Boyce died in July 2019, Dove Cameron, his co-star in Disney’s Descendants series, was alone in London, according to Seventeen. Cameron told the publication, "I was nervous about why I could be getting so many texts and calls, so I only looked at my mother’s text. I knew she would be the gentlest, and the most concise, whatever it was."
Cameron has been candid about her — and the rest of her co-stars’ — grieving process over the sudden loss of their friend. She told E! News it was difficult to have to grieve so publicly, saying, "It’s like how do you speak about your experience with one of your favorite people, one of your people you feel closest to?"
However, Cameron also admitted that the tragedy brought her closer to her other co-stars and that they really leaned on each other more than ever before. She told E! News, that they "want to make an effort." She added, "It really reminds you how important everybody is, how important your one life is."