It’s been twenty years since the premiere of Girlfriends and one of its co-stars, Reggie Hayes, has some things to say.
Though the series delightfully centered Black women, Hayes’ “William Jerrowme Dent, Esq.” was a recurring staple in the lives of Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), Toni (Jill Marie Jones), Maya (Golden Brooks), and Lynn (Persia White). Recently relaunching on Netflix and sparking sheer nostalgic joy, Girlfriends is the talk of the town lately and we’re celebrating with live-tweets and intimate Zoom panels alike.
In the midst of that, however, Hayes hasn’t received steady work since the series ended and is now suffering from serious health issues. Shortly after the big Netflix news was announced, Hayes revealed he had been admitted to the hospital.
“Fuck you 2020. It’s just one step forward and two steps back this year,” Hayes wrote in an Instagram caption posted with his selfie, lying in a hospital bed.
“Sending LOTS OF LOVE and prayers your way,” co-star Jones wrote in the comments of the post.
As it turns out, the 51-year-old actor suffered congestive heart failure.
“We’re still not sure what’s going on, I gotta take more tests,” Hayes, a Chicago native, told Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz in a phone call. “But I have congestive heart failure and it was difficult to breathe. Here in L.A., the sky has been orange with smoke (because of wildfires) and it was just really terrible. So I was in the hospital overnight, they were having trouble getting my blood pressure back down. Seems like the more they look, the more problems they find. The good thing is, I don’t have the coronavirus.”
Chicago Tribune further reports:
Though he found success on Girlfriends, the last decade or so has been challenging. “It’s not my most proud time,” he said. Few TV actors make enough money to never have to work again, and Hayes said he wasn’t getting many opportunities when the show came to a close. “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.”
There had been talk of a Girlfriends spinoff starring Hayes, but that never materialized. “I was getting a lot of winks and nods about that, and it just didn’t work out.”
Naturally, Hayes also reminisced on Girlfriends and its impact. It is undoubtedly a sitcom that paved the way for future Black sitcoms, but the beloved 2000s sitcom created by Mara Brock Akil didn’t always get the flowers it truly deserved (nor did the notable network it aired on, UPN), as Hayes pointed out.
“There was definitely a lack of crossover into the general world of television,” Hayes said, noting that William is “like 90 percent” of him. “I always said I was the least important man on the least important show on the least important network on television. But it was such a blessing. It really changed my life. Of all the parts I could have played on TV, I think that was the best job I could have gotten.”