Naya Rivera Had the Sweetest Crush on Bryton James When They Were Kids

Years before Bryton James became a star on The Young and the Restless, he was a child actor on the ABC comedy Family Matters. The late Glee actor Naya Rivera was his co-star for three episodes. Here’s what Rivera said about the sweet crush she had on James.

Naya Rivera appeared on ‘The Royal Family’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ before ‘Family Matters’

Nya Rivera and Bryton James in 1992 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
Nya Rivera and Bryton James in 1992 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Rivera got an early start in the entertainment industry. She joined the cast of The Royal Family back in 1991. She played the role of Hillary Winston until the show ended in 1992. After that, Rivera appeared in one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and then secured a recurring role in Family Matters.

In her book, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, Rivera discusses the huge crush she had on James. Her character, Gwendolyn, was the love-interest of Richie (played by James). “Richie wasn’t just my on-screen love; offscreen I was convinced I was going to marry him,” writes Rivera. “He could dance, and he had the best Jheri curl on TV—what more could a girl want?”

Naya Rivera says she was ‘obsessed’ with Bryton James

James made a big impression on Rivera. She says she would talk to him on the phone for hours. They even danced together at the Family Matters wrap party. James dazzled her with his Michael Jackson moves and she tried to impress him with her running man. Here’s what Rivera said about that magical night:

I thought he looked like Michael Jackson, and I was obsessed. I’d call his house to talk to him, and [James] and I would tie up the phone lines for hours. As to what our conversations were actually about? Beats me. The pinnacle of our romance was the Family Matters wrap party.

As all the adults were getting drunk, and older kids were being cool, [James] and I burned up the dance floor until we were sweaty—him with his Michael Jackson moves and me with the running man, which I had mastered so well that it should’ve been in the special skills section of my résumé.

Rivera said being a child actor helped her get perks

Neverland ranch | Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Neverland ranch | Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Rivera had a good life as a child star. She got exclusive invites and made famous friends. One big invite was to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. “My on-screen roles definitely led to some offscreen perks,” wrote Rivera. “Michael Jackson’s niece was also an actor, and we were on several auditions together. Over time, our moms became friends, enough so that I was invited to her birthday party at Neverland Ranch.”

For Rivera, the best part of the trip was being able to eat all the candy she wanted. She couldn’t believe she didn’t have to pay for anything.

 “I remember walking up to a concession stand that was filled with popcorn and candy,” wrote Rivera. “I had planned on just drooling at the snacks from behind the glass because I didn’t have any money, but then the guy working the counter said, ‘Do you want anything? Everything is free here.’ If this had been a movie, we would have cut to a trippy echo sequence at that moment: ‘Everything is free… Everything is free…’ I’d never heard anything so glorious in my brief little life.”

Read more: Naya Rivera’s Traumatic Experience as a Child Actor

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