Rizzoli & Isles says a final goodbye to its late co-star Lee Thompson Young, starting tonight when the TNT series returns for its fifth season. Young committed suicide on August 19, 2013, at age 29, and he didn’t appear in the last batch of episodes for the drama’s fourth season.
The show will address the loss of his character, Detective Barry Frost, in the first two episodes. His absence last season was explained by sending Frost on vacation to visit his mother.
Here’s what you need to know about the late actor and the legacy he leaves behind.
1. Young Suffered From Bipolar Disorder & Depression
Young, who had a history of bipolar disorder, shot himself in the right temple alone in his North Hollywood apartment, according to a report from the Los Angeles County Coroner. He took medication for the illness and for depression. Lithium capsules and Quetiapine Fumarate tablets were detected in his bloodstream and found in his home.
A friend of Young told the New York Daily News that the actor “was ill. You don’t just do this.”
2. His Mother & Sister Launched a Foundation for Mental Illness After His Death
In the wake of their family tragedy, Young’s mother, Velma Love, and sister, Tamu Toliver Lewis, started the Lee Thompson Young Foundation. Based out of Atlanta, the foundation will officially launch on June 24. The national, nonprofit organization is “dedicated to erasing the stigma associated with mental illness and advancing treatment,” according to its Twitter page.
The mission statement for the foundation reads on its website:
We envision a world in which mental illness is recognized by all as a treatable, biological disorder and the stigma associated with it no longer exists; a world that supports and encourages wholeness and wellbeing at every stage of life.
Thank you for supporting our foundation. We will never forget those that suffer with mental health illness. pic.twitter.com/CZBm0WdlDG
— Lee Thompson Young (@ltyfoundation) May 29, 2014
The foundation tweeted a pic of a flowing river that was a favorite spot for Young when he visited his sister:
The river was one of Lee’s favorite places when he came to visit his sister. Thanks everyone for following us! pic.twitter.com/qfFpHberwc
— Lee Thompson Young (@ltyfoundation) June 2, 2014
3. He Found Fame on Disney’s ‘The Famous Jett Jackson’
Disney Channel’s The Famous Jett Jackson made Young a star. He starred on the kids’ action series for three seasons over five years.
His other TV credits include FlashForward and recurring roles on Scrubs and Smallville. He also starred in movies like Akeelah and the Bee, The Hills Have Eyes II and Friday Nights Lights as the back up running back Chris Comer.
4. Young’s ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ Character Will Die on the Show
— tv.com (@tvdotcom) June 17, 2014
Jan Nash stepped into the show runner position for Rizzoli and Isles this season, and her first delicate task was writing out Young’s character. She told TVGuide.com about that responsibility:
It was very daunting knowing what was before me and what I had to do. From the moment that I was approached about this show and started watching the episodes … and [after] I met with Angie [Harmon] and Sasha [Alexander], I knew that doing it in a compelling and respectful way was the most important thing to them for the season.
Nash and her staff decided killing Young’s Barry Frost character was the best way to deal with his real-life loss. The characters will learn of Frost’s death at the end of the Season 5 premiere and then viewers will see their grief and Frost’s memorial service in the second episode:
We had to deal with it in a real and concrete way. We couldn’t just say Barry Frost went on vacation and occasionally talk about how much fun he was having or give him a new job in a new city. That would feel icky. We realized that we had to have the character die so we could deal with that loss the same way the people on the show had dealt with Lee’s loss.
5. He Practiced the Faith of a Nigerian Tribe
Young practiced a faith worshipped by the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria and south Benin, Young’s friend told the New York Daily News. The actor traveled to a Yoruba village with his mother several months before his death and attended a “beautiful ceremony,” the friend said.
The friend said Young had a “great support” group:
He was very close to his mother and sister. He had a great support network. He had his local priest and lots of good friends who were like family, including the Rizzoli cast.
Rehearsing 1st crime scene w/out him… Letting us know he's here (Credit: Anthony Hardwick, DP) pic.twitter.com/03IK8wwFbc
— Angie Harmon (@Angie_Harmon) August 31, 2013