Jenna Ushkowitz is finally ready to open up about the death of her Glee costar Cory Monteith. Sharing a picture of the cast via her Instagram account on Monday, July 22, the 27-year-old actress (who plays Tina Cohen-Chang on the FOX musical comedy) paid tribute to the late actor, who died at age 31 from "a mixed drug toxicity" consisting of heroin and alcohol on July 13.
"I am so grateful that Glee brought this group of extraordinary individuals together to form a family," said Ushkowitz, who's been part of the show since it premiered in 2009. "I was lucky enough to closely experience the love and light that Cory shared with the world, as well as having the privilege of traveling down the road together on a once in a lifetime journey. Cory always reminded me to be gracious, kind and open, and he will leave a mark in my heart forever."
Ushkowitz added, "Thank you everyone for your constant support and love while we mourn the loss of our dear friend." The star also thanked fans for reaching out to Monteith's family and his girlfriend, costar Lea Michele.
Many of Monteith's friends and costars have issued statements commending his character in the wake of his death. "He was one of the most generous and kind people that I have ever met," said Dianna Agron, who played his onscreen cheerleader girlfriend, Quinn Fabray. "He had a smart, curious mind, he was an enormous talent. He was loving to not only me but my family."
Jane Lynch, who plays former cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, echoed Ushkowitz and Agron's sentiments during a recent appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. "I don't think he left one day un-lived," she said. "He was a real bright light in our family. We've lost a really great guy."
Michele, 26, has yet to publicly address her boyfriend's death. A rep for the star issued a statement on her behalf July 16, saying, "Lea is deeply grateful for all the love and support she's received from family, friends, and fans. . . We continue to ask the media to respect the privacy of Lea and Cory's family."
Production on the fifth season of Glee has been delayed in order to let the cast and crew grieve Monteith's death; his character, lovable jock Finn Hudson, will get a proper sendoff. "Right now we're writing the third episode, which deals with Finn's death -- which, you can imagine, is a very difficult episode to write," the show's co-creator, Ryan Murphy, recently revealed. "It has to be done very carefully and with a lot of taste and really making sure that it's a tribute to Cory."
Murphy said Michele "was very adamant" that the cast and crew get back to work sooner than later "so that mortgages could be paid and people could take care of their families." He added that while the actress is "very grief-stricken," Michele is "also one of the strongest people I know. She wants people to be better and get back to work. So that's what we're going to do."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Jenna Ushkowitz Honors Cory Monteith, Thanks Glee Fans for Support