‘Girlfriends’: Tracee Ellis-Ross Is ‘A Better Person’ Because of Her Castmates

In 2000, a new series premiered on UPN that was unlike anything else on TV at the time. Girlfriends was a heartfelt comedy about a group of four friends–the difference between it and other sitcoms was that the four lead roles were played by Black women

Tracee Ellis Ross smiling in front of a white background
Tracee Ellis Ross | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The show’s creator, Mara Brock Akil, wanted to provide the representation for Black women that was missing from TV’s most popular sitcoms at the time. The series garnered a huge fan following and went on to have eight highly successful seasons. The cast grew into a family, and the women feel like their relationship helped them grow personally as well as professionally. 

The ‘Girlfriends’ cast reunited for its 20th anniversary

Girlfriends debuted in September 2000, at a time when shows like Friends and Sex and the City were ruling the prime time scene. Those shows–like many others at the time–had predominantly white casts. Screenwriter and producer Mara Brock Akil noticed this and set out to create a series that represented Black women and their stories, according to Glamour.

The series had eight seasons, with 170 episodes filled with relatable personal and professional struggles. The story revolved around four women and their incredible friendship. Viewers fell in love with the characters, eagerly joining them each week to see what their journey brought next. 

Last September, the girls reunited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show. Tracee Ellis Ross, Jill Marie Jones, Golden Brooks, and Persia White talked about their favorite memories from the show and the close-knit friendship they developed while working together. 

The series was recently available for streaming on Netflix, along with several other classic Black sitcoms. The addition of these sitcoms is a part of Netflix’s ‘Strong Black Lead’ platform. All 172 episodes of Girlfriends, plus Moesha, The Parkers, Sister Sister, and others are now available on Netflix. 

The cast members agree that the time spent together made them better people

When the ladies reunited to celebrate over Zoom, they asked ET to debut the get-together. The ET exclusive captured the warmth and closeness of the women as they looked back at the series, and recalled the first time they met. They were immediately thrown into a photoshoot together, effortlessly making it seem as if they’d been friends forever. 

They laughed as they talked about their various hairstyles throughout the years–“You could tell what we were going through by our hairstyles.” Some of the cast members even started out the series with braces. Although they were invisible, White says they still looked a bit odd, “you could tell something was off.”

All four women agree that they have become a family over the years. Brooks says that they’ve grown together and “We have come into our own. I have so many moments with each and every one of you that I can say, ‘That made me a better person.'” 

ET met the cast of Girlfriends right in the beginning, when they visited the set and interviewed the women in season one. They visited the set again in 2006, when Ross discussed her thoughts on the show’s success. Ross said:

“The thing that’s beautiful to me about Girlfriends is our comedy is based in character. It’s not based in shtick and that keeps the show alive and is the reason that after seven years there’s still a story.”

A writers’ strike and high expenses brought ‘Girlfriends’ to an abrupt end

In 2008, Girlfriends was abruptly canceled. There were several factors that led to the show’s cancellation, including the writers’ strike that was impacting a lot of TV shows at the time. The network also changed from UPN to the CW around that time, and there were concerns that the series was too expensive to keep going. 

Girlfriends had also seen a sharp decline in viewers after Jill Marie Jones’ departure after season six, according to Nicki Swift. The actor decided to leave the series when her contract was up because she wanted to focus on films instead of television. Fans were disappointed with her replacement, Monica, and the show suffered. At its peak in season two, the show had 4.2 million viewers. By the last season, that number was down to 2.1 million viewers. 

RELATED: ‘Girlfriends’: Will the Show Be Revived?