Jessalyn Gilsig on her emotional tribute to ‘Glee’ co-star Naya Rivera (Exclusive)

It’s still hard for Jessalyn Gilsig to talk about her late Joy co-star, Naya Rivera. ET spoke to the actress about her new Disney + show, Big shot, at its premiere on Wednesday, and also spoke about recently honoring Rivera alongside her Joy family at the GLAAD Media Awards.

Gilsig, who played music teacher Will Schuester’s ex-wife, Terri, in Joy, was part of the emotional virtual reunion that included Matthew Morrison, Darren Criss, Amber Riley and more. At the end of the segment, Gilsig read a statement from Rivera’s mother, Yolanda Previtire, thanking GLAAD for keeping Rivera’s legacy alive. Rivera, who hosted the GLAAD Media Awards twice, was an ally and activist in the LGBTQ community.

“That was overwhelming, you know, it felt like a huge responsibility,” Gilsig tells ET’s Lauren Zima about her participation in the tribute. “I’m a mother myself, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for her, but Naya was such a great – I want to call them children of JoyThey are not children, they are young adults: she is unique, she took her role very personally and used it to be a true advocate and changed people’s lives and there are many testimonies of young people who found courage through their work . I was honored to be a part of that, but his legacy is longer than, you know, such a short life but such a great legacy. “

Gilsig said that Joy The cast felt good coming together to honor their late co-star and friend. The actress died last July while swimming with her then 4-year-old son, Josey, in Lake Piru, near Santa Clarita, California. He was only 33 years old.

“It’s a reminder also of how shocking that show was and how our culture has advanced in such a short period of time and the power we have to do it, and I know we are all very proud to be a part of that moment,” she says.

Gilsig also spoke to ET about getting closer to the cast of his new show. Big shot. The actress plays the character of Holly, who coaches basketball at a private girls’ high school alongside John Stamos’s character, Marvyn Korn, a temperamental college basketball coach who is fired from his job and has to accept the coaching job at the elite school.

“We really became a team,” she says of her and Stamos. “I think it was the combination of the material and then also the virus and because we were all working through the pandemic and there were all these internal challenges, but in the end, we felt like a genuine team.”

Playing as a coach was not a problem for Gilsig either.

“I’m a sports fanatic and this show was perfect for me because I was able to bring out that side of me that really enjoys the game, enjoys yelling instructions at girls,” she shares. “I mean, for me, this was a lot of fun.”

Big shot premieres on Disney + on April 16.

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