Before Tracee Ellis Ross was the adored Rainbow on black-ish, she was the quirky and stylish Joan Clayton on Girlfriends that so many of us loved. Girlfriends was a sitcom that showcased four friends living in L.A. and navigating dating and friendships. The series which premiered in the fall of 2000 has had a lasting impact on the Black community thanks to its relatable characters and notable one-liners. After eight seasons, however, the beloved series ended abruptly with no explanation and no closure for fans.
Since then, many fans have called on the cast and its creator Mara Brock Akil for a proper exit, but unfortunately, nothing has been done about the situation. After 14 years, people are still talking about Girlfriends, and in an interview with Deadline, Tracee shed a little more light on what occurred during the time of its cancellation. "Our last episode that we shot was during the writers’ strike and I actually directed it,” she said. “It was my first time directing--it was not fun because it was really bizarre, it was surreal. But then we just kinda faded away."
She added, “We had 13 more episodes to do–we never did them. We didn’t have a wrap party. We didn’t know we were ending. The last moment wasn’t with all our writers and everybody. It was not sort of a ceremonial end.”
In 2019, the Girlfriends cast Tracee, Jill Marie Jones (Toni), Golden Brooks (Maya), and Persia White (Lynn) reunited for a special interview with Charlamagne Tha God after coming together to appear on black-ish. They all reflected on their time on the hit sitcom and of course, spoke about how it ended. Tracee shared that the lack of support outside of the Black community didn’t help when the show became canceled.
“Our show I don’t think was as important to them as it was to our community,” she said. “Girlfriends and our crew, the cast had so much diversity. We were led by Mara Brock Akil, by a Black woman, our writers’ room was majority Black women, our crew, our director of photography was a Black man…and it changed the way I go forward in my career because it was such an assumption and that’s not the way it is everywhere.”
The final episode showed Tracee’s character Joan get proposed to after years of failed relationships which made up the bulk of her storyline. And while fans were rooting for Joan to finally get her happy ending, they were robbed of a wedding. But Tracee has a different take on how her character’s storyline would have ended.
“So this is also maybe a little controversial for the fans. I don’t think that Joan has gotten married,” she said. “I think that Joan is actually happy in herself. I don’t think she’s had a child, and I don’t think she’s gotten married. And I think that it sets the example of 'It’s okay, the happy ending does not mean that you ride off with a man on a horse.' And I think that Joan might have given up a lot of her money stuff, and is living kind of moderately in her world and she’s just happy, and maybe her friends are her thing.”
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