There’s nothing worse than tuning into your favorite show to discover that one of your favorite cast members won’t be returning for the new season. Remember when Toni didn’t return for the fourth season of “Girlfriends”? Or when the youngest daughter on “Family Matters,” Judy, went upstairs and never came back down? I had to manage my own significant cast change last year in my real-life documentary/drama/comedy series “The Girlfriendship.”
My character was on set in Manhattan on an early Sunday morning in August when she finally mustered up the courage to open up an email from one of her series regulars. The email had been sitting in her inbox for a week and the uncomfortable silence that preceded its arrival had been lingering for nearly a month. Things had been somewhat challenging for her and one of her co-stars after she was offered a can’t-miss character arc in New York. They had rough seasons before, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be solved by food, laughter, or one of their legendary debates. She didn’t know how this current plot point would resolve itself, but she wasn’t expecting the cold, merciless finale that was now glaring at her from her iPhone. She politely excused herself from her early morning meeting and she calmly walked out of the Midtown skyscraper where she was and into the sweltering August heat. All she could think to do at that moment was to thrust her body into the oncoming throng of tourists and locals. As she began walking down the street, she was unfazed by the stench of debris and urine radiating from the sidewalk. She could barely see the pavement in front of her as eyes began to quickly fill with tears. She walked exactly one block before she completely collapsed into sorrow outside of a bustling Duane Reed drugstore. She couldn’t believe that nearly a decade of friendship was now over.
Out of all the relationships that I have cultivated thus far in my adulthood, inviting great women into “The Girlfriendship” has been incredibly important to me. Although I deeply yearned to be in romantic relationships as I matured, what I attracted the most in my life during my late 20s and early 30s were outstanding women who reflected the best in me and challenged me to come out of my sheltered, bookish, Baltimorean, church girl shell. As I blossomed into a vibrant social bumblebee, there were always rotating cast members in “The Girlfriendship.” Some cast members were great for career and professional advice. Others were good for a trip to Macy’s or the MAC. Through trial and error, I discovered that some cast members were better as reoccurring characters and others for rare guest appearances.
This particular cast member had more than earned her right to be a series regular in “The Girlfriendship.” When we met, we were both overgrown girls yearning to burst into our womanhood. Through a series of great meals and discussions, we learned that our vast differences created this complex yet cohesive foundation to build our characters.
As we both began to shed our girlhood cocoons and emerge into our womanity, our bond grew stronger and the starring role that we played in each other’s life became even more important. We laughed together, cried together, fought others and each other together, fell in and out of love with great and not-so-great men together, and, most importantly, we learned to love, honor, revere, and respect the women staring back at us into the mirror together.
I knew that my relocation from DC to New York would require character and scenery adjustments on both of our parts, but I didn’t expect our show to end so abruptly. It felt like I got a sudden notice that our show wasn’t going to be renewed for the fall season and there wasn’t any room for negotiations to bring our cast back together.
As I review the ratings for the 2014 season of “The Girlfriendship,” I have to say that it’s been an extraordinary season with auditioning new members for the New York cast, setting up key shots around Brooklyn and Manhattan, creating new plot lines for me as an entrepreneur and writer, and discovering that I can put one heck of a romantic spell on West Indian men.
But it hurts some days to to look back and see the place where her dressing room once was is now gone. I so desperately want to write in a scene where I can call and catch her up on my character’s developments, most notably the confidence that she always wanted me have. But I know that I can’t, so I don’t.
In the following passage from one of my favorite devotionals Acts of Faith, my beloved Iyanla Vanzant eloquently explains the transition and mindset to take on for changing cast members. She says,
When people come into your life for a season, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But only for a season. In the same way that leaves must fall from the trees, or the moon becomes full and then disappears, your seasonal relationships will end at the divinely appointed time. When that time comes, there is nothing you can say or do to make it work. There is no one you can blame. You cannot fix it. You cannot explain it. The harder you clutch, the worse it will feel. When the end of a season comes in a love relationship, the only thing for you to do is let go.
She was a damn good cast member and my character wouldn’t be as rich or full without her. Some days I let my heart break that she’s no longer a series regular. But there are other days that I can take out our DVD box set, relieve one of our epic reruns, and become utterly grateful that for nearly 10 seasons she graced my life with wisdom, joy, love, and honesty like no one ever could.