The narrative is tragically familiar. Rizzoli & Isles actor Lee Thompson Young, who got his big break in the title of the popular Disney Channel series The Famous Jett Jackson when he was just 14, died Monday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 29.
His publicist confirmed to TMZ that the death was a suicide: “It is with great sadness that I announce that Lee Thompson Young tragically took his own life this morning…Lee was more than just a brilliant young actor, he was a wonderful and gentle soul who will be truly missed.”
Young is part of the stable of actors (Raven Symone, Shia LaBeouf, Melissa Joan Hart) who holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of millennials who grew up watching him on TV. On The Famous Jett Jackson, Young played an actor who moves the production of his secret-agent TV show to his North Carolina hometown to be closer to friends.
Check out a personal favorite moment from the show, when Jett Jackson shares the screen with Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child:
The show, along with Even Stevens, Lizzie Maguire, and So Weird, was among the Disney Channel’s first original series. Its success—owed largely to Young’s relatable, charismatic performance—paved the way for more recent star-making hits Wizards of Waverly Place (Selena Gomez), Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus), and Sonny With a Chance (Demi Lovato).
In the years after Jett Jackson’s cancellation, Young worked continuously, appearing in guest spots on TV shows The Guardian, Smallville, and South Beach. In 2004, he played running back Chris Comer in the film Friday Night Lights, and costarred with Keke Palmer in the 2006 indie hit Akeelah at the Bee.
He was part of the last season of Scrubs in 2009, playing a cocky surgical intern:
He’s been a cast member on the TNT drama Rizzoli & Isles since its pilot episode, playing Detective Barry Frost, a computer whiz-kid investigator whose technical prowess is humbled by his squeamishness—he becomes ill at the very sight of blood.
“We are without the words to truly express our collective grief and profound sadness at the loss of such a sweet, bright light,” Rizzoli & Isles creator Janet Tamaro tweeted just after the news broke.