There’s been a lot of talk about the classic Black sitcom Girlfriends, that starred Tracee Ellis Ross and has gotten new life on Netflix as part of its “Strong Black Lead” initiative. While the mostly woman led cast has seemingly reunited around fans embracing the show anew, there’s one face missing – that of Reggie Hayes, one of the only male leads on the hit show.
Star of Girlfriends, Tracee Ellis Ross graduated into the next tier of television success, with the securement of an overall deal with ABC Signature, her “home studio” that produces the show she currently toplines, Black-ish. Under her own banner of Joy Mill Entertainment, Ross will develop and produce content with ABC Signature under a multi-year deal with the Disney Television Studios company, still managing to benefit from her early success in TV.
“I love sharing stories and using storytelling as a way to connect and celebrate humanity,” Ross said. “As an actor, I’ve had the joy of inhabiting nuanced and dynamic roles. As an executive producer, I am able to build stories, gather creatives and shape worlds as a way to illuminate different realities.”
“This deal continues my journey as a storyteller and content creator,” Ross continued. “I am thrilled to finally be sharing the news and expanding this part of my artistry at my home studio, ABC Signature.”
Mara Brock Akil, creator and showrunner behind Girlfriends and other shows like The Game and Being Mary Jane, has also leveled up in the years since her show was a hit on the now-defunct UPN Network. The deal was announced right as Girlfriends hit Netflix this year, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show at the same time.
While Girlfriends was still on the air, Akil created spinoff The Game, which ran on the CW for three seasons before being canceled when the network got out of the half-hour comedy business. The show was later resurrected by BET where it aired for six more seasons.
In all that time however, we’ve not seen actor Reggie Hayes, who played the character of “William” on the hit show 20 years ago. Life hasn’t been as glamorous or active for the actor like it has been for other co-stars and the rekindled success of the show has brought him back into the limelight.
Working his way up the Hollywood chain, Hayes’ landing of the role on the UPN show definitely changed his life. But when the show ended, he found himself at a crossroads. “I had starred on this long running show but I wasn’t Matt LeBlanc or one of the other kids from ‘Friends’ who had doors opening for them after their show ended. Pretty much, I was just another guy.”
The years after the show ended changed his life, but in other ways he didn’t anticipate. “Those were pretty awful years. I made it work with my little residual checks for a year and then I ended up moving into my sister’s garage for six years.”
Hayes was just recently admitted to the hospital while his old cast mates were celebrating the release of the show that made them stars, dealing with some medical issues. “We’re still not sure what’s going on, I gotta take more tests,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “But I have congestive heart failure and it was difficult to breathe.”
While acting work still seems to be the elusive goal, for many actors like him and others, Hayes seems to have found some peace over the years with his run on the hit show. He’s no longer with his sister, has found some “nice roommates and moved to the Valley and I started to work a little more,” he said.
“And with ‘Girlfriends’ on Netflix and everybody talking about it again, it’s a really nice warm feeling.”