If you’ve been getting your life re-watching episodes of Girlfriends now that the full seasons are available on Netflix, you may have wondered what has become of actor Reginald Hayes, who played the lovable William Dent on the series. While the rest of the ladies have continued to work in front of the camera, with Tracee Ellis Ross skyrocketing to fame thanks to Blackish, Hayes hasn’t been so lucky. The 51-year-old actor did an interview with the Chicago Tribune recently and talked about his recent stay in the hospital for congestive heart failure after he alarmed fans with this picture of himself days ago:
“We’re still not sure what’s going on, I gotta take more tests. But I have congestive heart failure and it was difficult to breathe,” he told the publication. “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.”
The conversation then turned to his career, which he admits has stalled, and in turn, has impacted his living situation since the series ended in 2008. Talk of a spin-off involving his character, as well as a movie based on the show, both went nowhere.
“I had started a complete rebuild on my house and all of a sudden I didn’t have a job,” he said. “But the house was on an amazing piece of land and I was able to sell it and break even. So I moved from a house on the hill down to a little bungalow in a sketchy area and people would come by: ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Those were pretty awful years. I made it work with my little residual checks for a year and then I ended up moving into my sister’s garage for six years.”
Hayes said that trying to foray into different kinds of work when acting jobs dried up was difficult, noting the Geoffrey Owens situation of the former Cosby Show actor being exposed while trying to make ends meet working at Trader Joe’s.
“It’s hard, you can’t even get a day job because people come in and take pictures of you and put it on the internet,” he said.
“I tried being a bouncer for a while, and everyone in the club wanted their picture taken with me,” he said. “I’m 6′2” but everybody knows I’m like a mouse; once you know me, you know I’m a pushover. So that didn’t work out. I also tried being a furniture mover, but I was in my 40s so that only lasted a couple of days. My back never would have survived it.”
Hayes said that looking back at how things played out for him, he wishes he would have done some things differently during his years on the show.
“I’m not complaining about my lot in life,” he said. “But I was never really a very important person in the world, you know? Here I am, this Black guy who’s kinda nice and most of my friends were white and I just kind of hung out on the periphery. No one really gave a damn. I was never the center of attention before and no one really cared what I said. And then all of a sudden, I was on this show and it went to my head. And then it disappears and it’s like, God, I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I’d had more time to ease into it. That you have to save your money. And you need to develop good friendships with people that aren’t going to just go away. Try to find people who aren’t just after you for your money. And maybe pursue other interests.”
But his story isn’t as downcast as it sounds. He didn’t clarify what kind of work he is doing now, but he is working ” a little more” and moved into a place in the Valley with roommates he likes. And with Girlfriends on Netflix now, he said it’s “like a second birthday.” He looks at his work on the series differently nowadays.
“I couldn’t watch myself on the show when I was on it; I think I had only watched 10 episodes when it ended,” he said. “Your weight goes up and down, or you don’t have your contact lenses in one day your eye goes kind of wonky — it’s just hard to watch. But now I look back on it and it’s a love affair.”
He said the appreciation people have for the show to this day, and the excitement over its streaming arrival give him a “really nice warm feeling,” calling the show 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,” he said. “Looking back, I’m pretty proud of myself.”
MadameNoire talked to Reggie back in 2012. Check out what he had to say about missing the ladies of Girlfriends, dealing with loneliness after the series ended and what he thinks people loved most about the show.