Naya Rivera remembered as a spunky child actor

Before Naya Rivera starred in "Glee," she had several smaller roles as a child and even sat down with Arsenio Hall.
NAYA RIVERA;BRYTON JAMES
As a child actor, Naya Rivera had small roles in several shows, including "Family Matters." Here, she's seen in a 1992 episode alongside Bryton James.Walt Disney Television via Getty
/ Source: TODAY
By Samantha Kubota

Memories of actor Naya Rivera have been pouring in from friends, co-stars and fans after authorities said they believe they recovered her body in the lake where the "Glee" star went missing while boating on July 8.

Though she'll always be remembered for her role as the unstoppable Santana Lopez on Fox's comedy musical series, others are recalling her days as a spirited child actor with a bright future. Comedian and talk show host Loni Love is among them, posting last week old footage of Rivera as a 4-year-old on "The Arsenio Hall Show," cracking jokes and exuding confidence.

"She's 4 years old, but actually she's 40," comedy legend Redd Foxx is seen quipping in the clip. Foxx and Rivera appeared together on the show "The Royal Family" in the early 1990s.

Back in 2013, Rivera had made a visit to the revived edition of "The Arsenio Hall Show" more than two decades after her appearance as a kid.

Another former "Royal Family" co-star, Jackée Harry, tweeted a video of Rivera on the show and said she was praying.

"We starred alongside one another in her first very television series, The Royal Family, and I’ve watched her career blossom ever since," Harry wrote on Twitter just after Rivera's disappearance. "Please God, don’t cut this life short."

Rivera had several appearances as a child actor in famous shows, from "Family Matters" to "Baywatch."

A young Naya Rivera in a scene with Jaleel White's Steve Urkel on "Family Matters."Walt Disney Television via Getty

She played a young Gwendolyn in several episodes of "Family Matters."

In 1993, Rivera played a girl named Cindy in an episode of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and, in 1996, played a girl lost on the beach in an episode of "Baywatch."

In 2002, she appeared in an episode of Disney Channel's "Even Stevens" as Charlene, who confronts Shia LaBeouf's Louis when he gets gum in her hair.

Authorities believe Rivera drowned in Lake Piru while boating with her 4-year-old son on July 8. The 33-year-old from Woodland Hills rented a boat at 1 p.m., officials said, and three hours later, authorities found her son napping alone in the pontoon.

"We're presuming that an accident happened and we're presuming that she drowned in the lake," Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Dyer said last week, adding that there were no signs of foul play or anything that went wrong "besides a tragic accident."

On July 13, officials announced a body had been located in the search for Rivera — exactly seven years after fellow "Glee" co-star Cory Monteith's tragic death at age 31.

Lake Piru is about 56 miles north-northwest of Los Angeles.