Lee Thompson Young from Rizzoli and Isles dead


Lee Thompson Young from Rizzoli and Isles. Image via IGN.

This is my Cory Monteith, you guys.

I don’t watch Glee, so when I heard about Cory Monteith’s death, other than the fleeting, clichéd thoughts of  ‘That’s such a tragedy that he died so young,’ and ‘Drug addiction: the worst, right?’ it didn’t make much impact.

[Apart from the fact that at a trivia night I went to, Cory Monteith was the answer to a question, which was “What deceased television star’s last tweets were about Sharknado?” and I felt really irritated because I felt like the trivia guy was being a bit insensitive (he even joked, “He was probably already high at the time”–um, yeah, I think the guy who died soon after of a drug overdose was probably high at the time–yukkity yuk yuk yuk!). And also, I really don’t want to think about the fact that EVERY TWEET COULD BE YOUR LAST TWEET, because if we thought like that, no one would tweet about stuff like Sharknado because they’d be too busy worrying that each tweet would be their last legacy to the world, and that would be a shame.]

I know, I know, I’m rambling:


Tara Reid Is Really Confused About Sharks

 Gif from here.


But, the other day, I heard that Lee Thompson Young, who played Sergeant Frost on my guilty-pleasure show, TNT’s lady-buddy-cop procedural Rizzoli and Isles, had died. He was only 29, and it appears to be suicide: self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a total bummer.

I have many conflicting feelings, among them feeling obscurely peeved for Rizzoli and Isles that he was listed everywhere as “Disney child star” or “The Famous Jett Jackson Star” or “Former Child Star” as if he hadn’t done anything since. Clearly he was battling some serious demons, but it’s not like he was a burnout who hadn’t worked since he was a Disney kid.

Yes, when I started watching R and I, the actor looked familiar in a way I couldn’t place, so I looked it up, and yes, indeed, went “huh!” that he was on that Disney show where he played a child star who stared in a TV show (VERY META AND PROTO-HANNAH MONTANA). But I never really watched The Famous Jett Jackson as a kid, only flipped past it a few times and always thought that the kid actor seemed a little smug.



(I would suggest watching some of the above clip, though. It’s kind of retrospectively amazing/heartbreaking).


Right away, I liked Young much better on Rizzoli and Isles. He played a supporting role, and did well with it–he didn’t have much to go on, but he managed to make what he did get work for him. His character was smart and endearingly dorky and just radiated a sort of calming, supportive energy whenever he was forced to give massive exposition dumps or solve the answer to any technology problem that plot called for (“I typed on the computer for awhile and found the answer we’re looking for!”).


Computer has all the answers

Everybody calm down: the computer has all of the answers


The thing is, Rizzoli and Isles is not a great show. It’s not even a good show. Which makes it a little awkward in some ways to talk about the tragic death of an actor on it. I can’t wax lyrical about how much the show means to me, and how much his performances meant to me, and all the ground he and the show broke, and the great legacy that they left behind, because that would be super disingenuous.

I, like most people, watch Rizzoli and Isles to watch Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander (I first typed that as “Sasha Grey”) bicker and make goo-goo eyes at each other and pretend in my head that they’re a crime-solving lesbian couple. I mostly watch it to read After Ellen’s sub-text recaps. (They’re funny! Go read them! And the writer calls herself Dorothy Snarker, which is perfect)


Angie Harmon as Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as Maura Isle have SEX IN THE FACE

Angie Harmon as Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as Maura Isles have SEX IN THE FACE

The appeal of Rizzoli and Isles ain’t subtle. Harmon is tough-talking working class cop Jane Rizzoli, with a brusque manner and a soft spot for kids! She likes beer and sports! Sasha Alexander-Grey is Maura Isles, a brilliant but socially awkward scientist medical examiner! They’re opposites but they’re best friends! It’s like Bones but different because they’re both ladies! And they’re totally gay for each other but sometimes Angie Harmon sometimes gets pissy when people point this out because she doesn’t want to be the man in the lesbian relationship or something. Sasha Alexander is a bit more gracious.



So, it feels odd and hypocritical to write seriously about a very real tragedy in the context of a show that I watch for the pretty ladies and ruthlessly mock in my brain. But I feel surprisingly real show-related-feelings about this death. 

Of course you don’t need any real reason to feel a twinge at an untimely death.  But the degree of my upset surprised me, in that I’ll really miss Young’s presence on the show. I didn’t realize how fond I’d grown of him and Rizzoli and Isles.

I tried to break it down, and here’s what I came up with:

Reasons Why I Was Exceptionally Fond of Lee Thompson Young’s character, Detective Frost

1. He was a supporting male character on a show with two female leads. 

This is really unusual in television. I mean, it’s unusual to have a female lead, period, but to have two, and to have them essentially paired with each other, rather than a dude? And to back them…lots of supportive fellows!

During each show, Jane Rizzoli orders around her supporting team of Frost and Korsak (I mean, she’s not technically the boss…but c’mon, she is, really). And now her younger brother Frankie contributes, too. It’s cool to see a typically male-dominated situation in the which the women take the lead, and the men are for the most part nothing but supportive and awesome about it.

Crack supporting team of Frost, Frankie and Korsak plus bonus robot

Crack supporting team of Frost, Frankie and Korsak plus bonus robot


2. His character was endearingly vulnerable. 

None of the characters on this show are exactly complex. They have a few characteristics that are pointed out over and over again. They are basically a walking clump of tics.


But I appreciated that Frost’s character was neither a typical tough guy nor a clichéd nerd. He liked robots and computers, sports and guns.

…And it was a running thing that he puked when he saw dead bodies.

It was sort of refreshing to see a  “masculine”-type-character-dude struggle with something like that. In one episode, iron-stomached medical examiner Maura Isles tries to get him over his phobia by exposing him to more dead bodies, and he just pukes more (again, nice gender reversal, to have the über-femme be the one who has ice in her veins about this kind of thing).

In the latest few episodes, he was getting over it, thanks to some help from Frankie. Which brings me to…

3. Frost brought the man-love.


Not necessarily in a homoerotic way (though that would have been nice…) but Frost’s friendly bickering with Korsak and Frankie was always rather delightful. “Friendly bickering” is basically what the show does best and most of it is between Maura and Jane. Frost was like “Why do the only the women get to do the delightful friendly bickering? Watch me do it too!” His friendship with Frankie was developing to be quite endearing, and it’s sad that’s over.

4. Young brought a subtle comedy to small moments that I appreciated. 

For instance, the last-episode-but-one (4.08) was an incredibly boring episode called “Cold as Ice” (someone gets killed at a hockey rink and Maura’s half-sister that she gave a kidney to comes to stay and the big drama is that she doesn’t clean the kitchen and …sorry, what was that? I dozed off). Frost had literally the only moment in the entire episode that I liked.

Korsak finds out they’ve discovered a car in Boston Harbor. Asked if he wants to go do boring interviews, Frost says, “I’d rather watch the big crane pull the car out of the ocean. Is that so wrong?”


frost sheepish


My reaction is Korsak’s reaction:


korsak smiles

Be more adorable, I dare you


At the harbor, there’s a cool shot from inside the water logged car…


cool under water shots

And as we see the big crane pull the car out of the ocean…


big crane pulls the car out of the ocean


…through a spray of water, Frost grins and says, “This is so cool.”

Which basically made me realize the ultimate reason I will miss Young/Frost…

5. The very fact that Rizzoli and Isles is not a very good crime show means that its entire appeal rest on such small character moments. 

I don’t watch Rizzoli and Isles for the gripping crime thrillers. I don’t watch it to see morally complex characters grow and change. I watch it to see cute ladies bicker in an adorable way.

AND, I’ve just realized, I watch it because the surprisingly solid supportive cast really brings it when it comes to small moments of comedy or characterization.

Lee Thompson Young deserves kudos for taking the small moments he was given, and creating something entertaining and human out of them. He never really get enough screen time or credit, and I was always thinking he deserved a starring role on a better show somewhere, and figured that he was young enough and handsome enough that it would probably happen.

I can’t imagine what kind of pain Lee Thompson Young was in when he took his own life and I don’t presume to. I do know a little bit about being gripped by despair, and my experience of despair makes me profoundly grateful for moments when we can appreciate the random offerings of life, be it a wet car or a silly TV show.

So, I will just say: thanks Frost, for making me smile when the giant crane pulled the car out of the ocean.

It’s the little things.


this is so cool