Kyle Jean-Baptiste, who made history as the first African-American actor as well as the youngest ever to be cast as the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway, died Friday evening after a four-story fall from a Brooklyn fire escape. He was 21.
"Yesterday, a young man who was kind, thoughtful, respectful, confident and vulnerable, left our world. He was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend," Jean-Baptiste's family shared in a statement to Broadway World. "With a smile 'yay wide,' a heart worn on his sleeve, and a song always on his lips, he walked with us for 21 years."
"To say he will be missed would be an understatement," the statement continued. "Our pain has no boundaries. Kyle Xavier Seth Jean-Baptiste has left an indelible mark on all of our lives. His talent was boundless and his light was so bright. We are grateful for each and every day we got to spend with him. His energy will live on in each of us."
Following the Saturday matinee performance of Les Miserables, the cast paid tribute to the young star after curtain call.
“Thank you very much. If we could just have a few more minutes of your time? Sadly this morning, a very talented member of our company and a future rising star of this community passed away,” Ramin Karaloo, the show's current Jean Valjean, informed the audience. "Kyle Jean-Baptise, who understudied Jean Valjean and passed away this morning, was a dear friend to us. We wanted to give our condolences and our time and respect to the privacy of his family -- we also want to dedicate this performance to him, to this good friend of ours, Kyle Jean-Baptiste."
Jean-Baptiste was born on December 3, 1993 in New York, New York. His last performance as Jean -- a role that marked his Broadway debut -- was Thursday, as he was leaving the role to join the Broadway production of The Color Purple on September 6.
Before and after shot. Today is my last performance as Valjean on Broadway. What an incredible experience. I've learned and grown so much. Grateful for the people I've met and this opportunity. I will never forget it. Dedicating this performance to someone special to me. They know who they are. Also sending love to everyone who supported me. Family friends etc. Until next time ..Kyle signing out...saudade❤️✌🏿️ #onedaymore#valjeanout#24601 @lesmizbway
Jean-Baptiste's friends, family and Broadway peers took to social media to mourn the loss of the young actor after hearing the heartbreaking news.
Ansel Elgot, who attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan and performed with Jean-Baptiste, paid his respects in a series of tweets. “I played opposite Kyle Jean-Baptiste in Hairspray in high school at Laguardia,” The Fault In Our Stars actor wrote. “What I remember most above his talent was his warmth.”
I played opposite Kyle Jean-Baptiste in hairspray in highschool at Laguardia. What I remember most above his talent was his warmth— Ansel Elgort (@AnselElgort) August 29, 2015
To everyone. He went on to make history being the first black actor to play Jean Valjean on Broadway in lesmiz. Rest in peace brother.— Ansel Elgort (@AnselElgort) August 29, 2015
This tragedy shows that people can go in an instant, while we are here we must chase our dreams. Kyle did and he made history.— Ansel Elgort (@AnselElgort) August 29, 2015
Tony-award winner Audra McDonald’s tweet was short, simply stating the news was “heartbreaking.”
Heartbreaking. Condolences to his friends and family. https://t.co/VNuqQ1Z14r— Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) August 29, 2015
Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of Broadway’s Hamilton, posted a similar tweet:
Unimaginable. In shock. He was just here. https://t.co/6bKLdF4PP2— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) August 29, 2015
Singer Josh Groban said, “He was just getting started. So sad.”
He was just getting started. So sad. My condolences as well to family and cast. https://t.co/1q6r0wmG1f— josh groban (@joshgroban) August 29, 2015
Broadway veteran Kristin Chenoweth also tweeted the sad news.
RIP Kyle Jean-Baptiste. My love and hugs to his family. And the cast of @LesMiserables— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) August 29, 2015
Here’s a look at more condolences from celebrity fans and friends:
The lights on Broadway are dimmer tonight as we lost one of our own. RIP Kyle Jean-Baptiste.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 30, 2015
I was so delighted by this. I'm so sad to hear of his passing. R.I.P. Kyle-Jean Baptiste. https://t.co/xO18NB62B8— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) August 29, 2015
R.I.P. Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Gone way too soon. All my thoughts & prayers are with his family & the cast of @LesMizBway.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) August 29, 2015
Very sad. Prayers going out to the family of Kyle Jean-Baptiste. Hug someone you love extra tight.... http://t.co/iSInuUA9SJ— Billy Porter (@theebillyporter) August 29, 2015
My heart is heavy learning that a bright light has been dimmed. Kyle-Jean Baptiste @BaptisteKyle Lord, bring him home— Norm Lewis (@normlewis777) August 30, 2015
Here's a look at some other stars we lost this past year: