TMZ is reporting that Lee Thompson Young—best known for the title role on Disney Channel series The Famous Jett Jackson—was found dead this morning of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. For the past four seasons, Young had appeared as a main character on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles. When he didn’t show up for work, producers phoned his landlord to check on him, after which his body was discovered. Young was 29.
The Famous Jett Jackson was one of Disney Channel’s first hit series under the network's rebranded original programming arm when it began in 1998. It centered on a child actor who moves production of his hit spy show Silverstone from Los Angeles to North Carolina, in order to be closer to his estranged father. As a child actor from the south raised in a single-parent home, it was a role Young understood well enough, he even co-wrote an episode in its second season. Over the years, the show had guest-starring roles from Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, and Eartha Kitt, and its popularity eventually led to Young co-starring in Johnny Tsunami, one of the defining films of the Disney Channel Original Movie boom in 1999.
After Jett Jackson reached the 65-episode ceiling unofficially imposed on most series at Disney Channel and got its send-off television movie, Young went on to on several other television series, before landing his biggest film role in Peter Berg’s Friday Night Lights. As a running back who's scared of getting hit after being thrust into a starting spot, Young provided one of the many notable performances that made Berg’s feature a solid groundwork for the television series.
Roles followed thereafter on series like The Sarah Connor Chronicles, FlashForward, and the final season of Scrubs, and it seemed like Young was smoothly making the transition to working as an adult actor. Though his role on Rizzoli & Isles wasn’t glamorous, a regular spot on a successful cable show signaled he'd at least attained the kind of grown-up career many of his fellow Disney actors could not.
Young's publicist has issued a statement on his death, saying, "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."