Glee alum Darren Criss recently shared devastating news with the world: his brother Charles died by suicide last month. The affable and charming actor was uncharacteristically somber, releasing an emotional statement to fans to explain the “colossal shock” he and family experienced in the sudden loss of their loved one.
Criss’s love for his brother is apparent throughout the heartbroken statement, as he talks about the legacy of Charles, whom he lovingly refers to as “Chuck,” and what he wants people to understand about the battle his brother waged for so long.
Darren Criss in Mourning of his Best Friend
Criss shared the news on social media with a statement on the sudden and shocking loss. Criss started with, “It breaks my heart beyond measure to say that my beloved brother Charles has left us.”
Criss continues, “Obviously this is a colossal shock. His loss leaves behind a debilitating fracture in the lives of his mother, his brother, his three small children, and their respective mothers. I have spent what feels like a small eternity trying to wrap my head around it, something I suspect I’ll be attempting to do for the rest of my life. But in the short time that I’ve had to process everything, I’ve managed to put some words together that may help with some of the questions you have. And though it’s with the heaviest sadness I’ve ever felt to have to write this, it does give me peace to know I’m putting it out there.”
The 35-year-old actor goes on to share that he considered Chuck to be his, “instant, ready-made best friend.” They were a “dynamic duo” who “discovered the world together” and made beautiful music. Criss explains that Charles’ artistic soul gave him an insight into and understanding of the world that yielded, “a prolific amount of music that was endlessly unique, clever, fun, intriguing and beautiful to me.” Criss called his brother’s art, “a fitting metaphor for his very soul.”
According to Criss’s statement, Charles loved his children but struggled to find purchase in life over the past few years, which were difficult for his brother’s depression. Criss calls his battle with depression “severe,” adding that it was, “A depression that was only worsened by a lifelong struggle he had with expressing his feelings — a dangerous combination only outmatched by his all-too-incredible ability to conceal it. Not just from the world at large, but most tragically, from the people who were closest to him.”
Criss went on to encourage anyone struggling to seek help for themself, hoping to avoid more families feeling the agony that he is now with the loss of his loved one. Criss adds that he hopes his brother’s suicide doesn’t define his legacy and continues, “Chuck Criss was vibrant, special, worldly, hilarious, insightful, gifted, intelligent, celebrated and adored.He was a good man with a good heart who contributed enormous amounts of laughter, music, and joy to the world.
And for the ones who were lucky enough to take part in those wonderful moments, it’s marvelous to know that those memories are plentiful, everlasting, and can never be taken away.”
Glee Cast is Uncomfortably Familiar With Tragedy
Unfortunately, those actors and actresses who have Glee on their resume are no strangers to tragedy and heartbreak. The cast has had what seems like an extraordinary amount of loss – and it all started in 2013.
Cory Monteith, who dated fellow headliner Lea Michele, was found dead in July 2013 in a hotel in Vancouver – and it was discovered that he died from an overdose. It’s perhaps doubly heartbreaking because Monteith had just checked into a rehab center in March, committed to his battle to get and stay sober. Before he went to rehab, friends later revealed that Monteith was shooting up heroin and crystal meth. It’s not uncommon that someone overdoses after a stretch of sobriety. Often, during that period of being sober, drug tolerance goes down, and when an addict in sobriety uses at the rate they were used to before getting clean – it has tragic consequences. Such was the case for Monteith, who friends describe lovingly and fondly, but who couldn’t win the battle against his demons. Glee paid tribute to Monteith’s passing with an episode titled, “The Quarterback,” which showed the characters dealing with the death of Monteith’s on-screen character, Finn Hudson. Although they don’t reveal the cause of Hudson’s death in the show, hints are dropped that they gave the character the same end that his real-life actor experienced, and the frustrated emotions and heartbreak of his fellow castmates were allowed on full display throughout the episode.
The next tragedy to strike the case came in the form of Mark Salling. Salling played lovable rogue Noah “Puck” Puckerman, but the truth behind the scoundrel and (spoilers) devoted dad was dark and chilling. Glee aired its last episode in March of 2015. In December of that same year, Salling was arrested on charges of child pornography, which makes his on-screen relationship with one of the show’s child actors chilling in retrospect. Salling was indicted in 2016 and pled guilty in late 2017. But Salling wouldn’t ultimately face the music; he committed suicide in 2018, unable to face the public backlash he faced when his crimes were revealed.
It would seem like that would be enough shock and horror for any show’s alumni, but it didn’t stop there. In July of 2013, another Glee headliner lost her life. Naya Rivera who played the saucy and sharp-tongued Santana Lopez went missing. The actress was on a boat ride in a SoCal lake with her then-4-year-old son when she accidentally drowned. The boy was later found asleep on the boat, alone, and a search turned up Rivera’s body shortly after.
Just this week, Rivera’s loved ones were granted a win in a wrongful death case the United Water Conservation District and Ventura County. Per NBC, “Her former husband, Ryan Dorsey, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the child alongside Rivera’s estate and her business manager. The suit accused Ventura County, its parks and recreation management agency and the United Water Conservation District of neglecting to sufficiently warn visitors of the lake’s dangers, provide appropriate safety equipment, and inflicting emotional distress on the child who witnessed his mother’s death.”
Although Charles wasn’t a cast member of Glee, it’s hard not to draw the connection to the other tragedies that have orbited around this show’s legacy. It’s a jarring legacy, given the hope and positivity Glee brought to the world before it wrapped in 2015. Criss’s on-screen character Blaine Anderson may go down in history as one of television’s most wholesome and heartfelt characters – much of that only possible through Criss’s ability to articulate and emote in an extraordinary way.
A Bright Point of Light in a Dark Year
While Criss has wrestled with more than anyone’s fair share of tragedy over the past month, all is not dark for him. Back in October of 2021, Criss announced that he and his wife Mia are working on the “ultimate collab” – a baby!
The happy couple met in 2006 before tying the knot in 2019. Their romance has been adorable – and knowing that they’re welcoming a baby now is a bright spot of hope for a family that desperately needs it. Even the announcement was adorable, by the way; it featured Darren and Mia in a recording studio, followed by an audio sample of their baby’s heartbeat and sonogram. And it was captioned, “We’ve been making music for years.
… But this time we made a BEAT.
The ultimate collab droppin Spring 2022.”
Welcoming someone new into the family can’t take away the heartache of Charles’ loss, but it always helps to have hope. And there’s nothing quite like a Spring baby to bring hope.