Shannon Tavarez

Young actress in 'Lion King'

Shannon Tavarez, an 11-year-old girl who starred on Broadway in "The Lion King" and whose battle with leukemia won the hearts of many, died Monday at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She died of acute myelogenous leukemia, a type of leukemia common among adults but rare among children.

Tavarez, who played the young lion Nala, received an umbilical-cord blood transplant in August. The procedure was performed as an alternative to a bone marrow transplant because a strong bone marrow match could not be found.

The search for a match was especially daunting because Tavarez's mother is African American and her father is Latino, from the Dominican Republic. For bone marrow transplants, minorities and those of mixed ancestry have a more difficult time finding good matches because there aren't as many people from those groups signed up as potential donors.

Tavarez was forced to quit the show in April. She beat out hundreds of other hopefuls last year to earn her spot playing Nala, the childhood pal and eventual girlfriend of Simba, hero of "The Lion King." She split the role with another girl, performing four shows a week for six months.

In a hospital interview after being diagnosed, the young actress from the New York borough of Queens talked about her love for the theater.

"It's an indescribable feeling, being on stage," she said. "I portray this character with fears, but who is so tough. I feel like that's who I am."

Singers Alicia Keys, Rihanna and 50 Cent campaigned to help find a bone marrow donor, and cast members held bone marrow registration drives outside the Minskoff Theatre, home to the musical.

Denise Borino-Quinn

Mafia wife on 'The Sopranos'

Denise Borino-Quinn, 46, who unexpectedly won a role as a mafia wife on "The Sopranos" after she attended an open casting call, died Oct. 27 at a hospital in Morristown, N.J., after battling liver cancer.

A New Jersey native, Borino-Quinn had no acting experience when she was hired in 2000 to play Ginny Sacrimoni, the mafia wife with a weight problem on the HBO cable TV series. The character quickly became popular with fans and was featured in an October 2002 episode.

Borino-Quinn had attended the casting call mostly to support a childhood friend and was shocked when she was hired.

"It has been the greatest ride of my life. I found my niche," Borino-Quinn said in a 2006 Times article. "This is something I'm good at. I don't look at it as work."

When she wasn't acting, Borino-Quinn was employed as a legal secretary and office manager at a law firm in New Brunswick, N.J.

Her husband, Luke Quinn Jr., died in March.

Liang Congjie

Environmental activist in China