Moesha and Girlfriends were both viewer favorites during their run on the urban network, UPN. Both shows told the stories of African American women and families, with a specific emphasis on friendship dynamics. Though they appealed to two different audiences, viewers of all ages could relate to at least one character. Aside from them airing on the same network, there were also instances where the storylines and the characters from each show overlapped.
‘Moesha’ was writer and producer Mara Brock Akil’s first real gig – she later created ‘Girlfriends’
Akil got her first writing job on the short-lived FOX sitcom South Central. After the series was canceled, the co-creator of South Central hired Akil as a member of his writing team when he tapped to lead the stories behind Moesha. Akil wrote and produced several episodes of Moesha throughout its six-year run and she credits her experience on the show with teaching her how to craft a sitcom.
Simultaneously, she began working on her own show. She took some of the same elements from Moesha and incorporated them into the Girlfriends series. Both were big hits for the network and Girlfriends debuted just two years before Moesha ended.
Both were set in the Leimert Park section of LA
While Moesha was a coming-of-age story of a Black teenage girl in LA, the same setting was used in the early seasons of Girlfriends for the character of Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks). Wilkes’ life differed from the women in her friendship circle. Not only was she the youngest, but she was the only with a family as a young wife and mother. She was also at a different economic and career level than the rest.
Wilkes worked as the legal secretary to her friend Joan Clayton, who introduced her to the other two women, Toni Childs and Lynn Searcy. While Childs and Clayton owned their own homes in the Beverly Hills and Santa Monica sections of the city, Wilkes lived in an apartment with her family in the Leimert Park section.
Akil made the decision to show that Black women from different backgrounds and who are at different stages of their lives can still connect on a deep level. The other women were instrumental in Wilkes’ growth. By the end of the series, she was a successful New York Times best-selling author and lived in LA suburbia.
Golden Brooks appeared in both ‘Girlfriends’ and ‘Moesha’
Brooks’ character turned out to not only be neighbors to the Mitchell family on Moesha, but when Moesha’s brother Dorian finds his birth mother, it’s discovered that Wilkes is his aunt. Brooks appeared in a season 6 episode of Moesha to try and tame Dorian’s half brother and sister when he first meets them.
She was also unaware that Dorian was her nephew, as her sister’s pregnancy with Dorian was kept secret from the family. Instead, Dorian was introduced to Wilkes as a friend to the family.
Shar Jackson appeared in both ‘Moesha’ and ‘Girlfriends’
Jackson starred as one of Moesha’s best friends Niecy. She later made a guest appearance on an episode of Girlfriends where she overhears Clayton complaining about having to compete with the exes of her boyfriend, whom Joan discovers is a forever sex addict. Niecy gives Joan advice while dining at a restaurant at an adjacent table.