Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the first African American performer to play Jean Valjean in Broadway’s Les Miserables, died tragically on Friday, Aug. 28.

RIP Kyle Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste, 21, made his Broadway debut in Les Miserables playing Constable and Courfeyrac and acting as the Jean Valjean understudy. As Jean Valjean, Jean-Baptiste made history as the youngest actor to portray the role on Broadway and the first African American to do so.

According to police, Jean-Baptiste died after falling from the fourth-floor fire escape of his mother’s Brooklyn apartment. Reports suggest the accident occurred when the actor stood up and lost his footing, falling backwards into the street. “The entire Les Miserables family is shocked and devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle, a remarkable young talent and tremendous person who made magic — and history — in his Broadway debut. We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time,” the Les Miserables production said in a statement.

On Saturday night, the cast of Les Mis paid tribute to Jean-Baptiste, led by the show’s current Jean Valjean, Ramin Karimloo. “He was like a tornado of energy, and only 21 at this point. He was a good buddy of mine and…he was already headed towards his second Broadway show and this kid was going to be a star. He was a one man band. He had a lot of moxie, and he wanted to sprint before he could crawl, but let me tell you what, his stride could keep it,” Karimloo remembered fondly. “It’s just a very sad day for us, so I want to celebrate his life and to celebrate in what little time he was here, how much he accomplished. I’ll tell you what, we’re all standing now, we’d like to continue to the standing ovation for him because I guarantee you it was going to happen a dozen times over in his career,” Karimloo added.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ansel Elgort Remember Kyle Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste was a rising star in the Broadway world. Following his historic turn in Les Mis, he was invited to perform the “Confrontation” with Lin-Manuel Miranda as part of the Broadway star’s #Ham4Ham performances, which are put on for audiences gathered outside the theater in hopes to get tickets to Hamilton.

Many in the Broadway community have expressed their condolences on Twitter, as well as celebrities and the actor’s former classmate, Ansel Elgort. Elgort and Jean-Baptiste were classmates at New York’s LaGuardia high school, and both acted in a school production of Hairspray. Elgort remembered Jean-Baptiste in a series of tweets, writing, “What I remember most above his talent was his warmth to everyone.”

Celebrities Remember Kyle Jean-Baptiste

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