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Why Did Jill Marie Jones Leave Girlfriends? Toni’s Exit Explained

Why Did Jill Marie Jones Leave Girlfriends? Toni’s Exit Explained

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Created by Mara Brock Akil, Girlfriends focused on the lives of four African-American women living in LA. Joan, Maya, Lynn, and Toni. The group appeared inseparable – until Toni left the series in Season 6.

A surprise that altered the show’s DNA, Toni leaving the show marked a clear before and after for Girlfriends.

When she left the series in 2006 after a fight between her and Ross’s characters, fan speculation ran wild. There were rumors that there was real-life tension between Jones and her co-stars, or that she left due to money issues.

Our guide below explains the truth behind Jill Marie Jones’s departure from Girlfriends and even what her former co-stars thought about her leaving. Keep reading to find out more!

Why Did Jill Marie Jones Leave Girlfriends?

Jill Marie Jones left Girlfriends because her contract ended, and she wanted to pursue a film career. It was not a disagreement with the cast or production and didn’t have anything to do with money.

Jones appeared on Girlfriends as Antoinette “Toni” Marie Childs-Garrett for the first six seasons, from 2000 to 2006. It was only her second acting role; her debut came earlier in 2000 with a small role on the show City Guys.

According to Jill Marie Jones, she signed a contract to appear on Girlfriends for six years. Once that contract was up, she chose not to renew.

Jill Marie Jones at the HTC Status Social, Paramount Studios, Hollywood, CA in 2011
Credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

“For me and my career, my contract was up after six seasons,” she said in 2007, “and there’s a whole film world that I wanted to experience and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Girlfriends only ran for three more years after Jill Marie Jones left, and she didn’t return during that time.

Later, she reiterated that she left the show of her own accord, according to Distractify. “”I left because I wanted to do movies,” she said.

“My contract was up after my sixth season and people forget that just like the network can choose whether or not to renew your contract, I can also choose and evaluate whether or not I want to come back.”

She also stressed it didn’t have to do with money. “I’ve never made a decision based on money. I was on the show for six years and I think that’s a good run.”

“There’s so much more I want to do in my career and so much more I want to know and learn, but my departure definitely had nothing to do with money.”

How The Girlfriends Cast Reacted to Jill Leaving

15 years after Jill Marie Jones left the show, her Girlfriends co-stars share their feelings about the situation.

In 2019, radio host Charlamagne tha God interviewed some of the cast of Girlfriends: Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White, and Jill Marie Jones. The four had a mini-reunion on the show Black-ish, whichstars Tracee Ellis Ross, who played Joan on Girlfriends.

Screenshot from the Black-ish Season 6 Girlfriends Reunion Featurette

Charlamagne brought up the fact that there was speculation that Jones left due to “beef” between her and the other women on the show.

It didn’t help that Jones’s character Toni left the show after having a huge fight with Ross’s character Joan. Joan missed the custody hearing regarding Toni’s daughter, Morgan.

In the end, Toni moved to New York so they could be closer to Morgan’s father, Todd. While Toni doesn’t reconcile with Joan, she is still friends with Maya and Lynn.

That tension only existed in the script, though, according to the Girlfriends cast. Not only did Jones reiterate that she left because her contract was up, but her former co-stars stood up for her as well.

“She made a choice that was right for her,” said Golden Brooks, who played Maya on Girlfriends. “That was her choice and we had to respect that.”

However, Jill Marie Jones did say in the interview that she regrets not talking to her castmates and fans about leaving the show. “If I could go back, I would definitely do things differently for sure.”

Watch the full interview below:

What Happened to Girlfriends after Toni Left?

After losing a core member of the cast, Girlfriends‘ viewership entered a steady decline in Season 7. From 3.4 million viewers in Season 6, the show took a plunge to 2.5 million in Season 7. 2007’s Season 8 was the show’s worst, with only 2.1 million viewers tuning in for the final season.

The 2007 writer’s strike also took a toll on the series. Together, the declining viewers, high production costs, and the strike led the show to an early grave. Girlfriends never aired its last nine episodes.

Toni from Girlfriends holding a baby

In the end, Girlfriends “ended” without a proper finale. Much like Toni never got any closure with Joan, fans were left without a series finale. Girlfriends lives on for its unique brand of comedy, but the ending is something that divides fans to this day.

What Happened to Jones After Leaving?

Jill Marie Jones has a strong career in television, starring in several popular series since leaving Girlfriends. She has played the titular Gillian in Gillian in Georgia (2010) and played a lead role alongside Bruce Campbell in Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-2016). Recently, she starred in Delilah (2021) and Monogamy (2018-2021). She also appeared in two episodes of The Chi (2023).