This weekend BOSSIP lost a friend of the site, “The Talk” executive producer and showrunner Heather Gray, who passed in Los Angeles Saturday after “bravely battling an unforgiving disease,” according to CBS. She was only 50-years-old.
Gray started working with “The Talk” midway through the show’s first season as a senior supervising producer before being promoted to co-executive producer the following season, then executive producer in August 2019. In her time at “The Talk” Gray earned Daytime Emmy Awards for best talk show, entertainment, in 2016 and 2018, as well as an NAACP Image Award in 2016.
BOSSIP’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden worked with Heather when she was invited to be on “The Talk” for their Top Talker segment several times and wanted to share a few words in memory of her, which we’ve shared below:
Sunday I learned that one of my personal heroines passed away, a woman named Heather Gray, who is the reason I know the thrill of live TV. I’ll never forget being surprised by an email from Heather’s assistant back in 2017 asking if I would come from Atlanta to Los Angeles to do their Top Talker segment. At the time I had some on camera experience — but I’d never done live TV. Heather and her team at “The Talk” made the whole experience very special for me. From start to finish, every person I encountered at the show was kind, respectful and made me feel valued. Especially Heather. I’ll never forget after that first appearance five years ago, feeling something shift inside me as I sat in front of the live audience, speaking the words I’d memorized from an index card that morning, literally basking in the studio light. It went by so quickly but I felt so accomplished, especially as the segment producer walking me back to my dressing room paused at the studio door so I could meet Heather who complimented me on my work and asked that I stay in touch before I was whisked away. It was only at that meeting that I realized that Gray was a Black woman.
There aren’t a ton of Black female showrunners, and for Gray to hold that role at network television for so long says a lot about what an incredible job she did. The beautiful thing about her was that she was so kind and down-to-earth, but you could really see the thought she put into helping people find their light and share their stories. It was reflected in the diversity of the hosts and the diversity of the guests and the diversity of the staff. Every time I stepped on the CBS lot I felt happy to be there and that was Heather’s doing. I’ll forever be grateful to her because it was really that opportunity that she gave me that helped me understand what I was capable of. She’s the reason I discovered how exhilarating television can be and she gave me that opportunity over and over again, making sure that I knew to reach out whenever I’d be in Los Angeles so that we could schedule more appearances.
I was on “The Talk” six times before COVID hit and the show went virtual. There’s so many things I feel grateful for that came from that experience — I developed a great relationship with Sheryl Underwood thanks to my appearances, I also had a chance to meet and get to know one of my favorite rapper/actresses, Eve, thanks to Heather. I remember interviewing Eve during the pandemic and how she specifically credited Heather for making sure she had a chance to address people taking comments she’d made out of context. The sisterhood that I felt after meeting Heather is something I’ve heard echoed by others who knew her and something I felt was also reflected in the statement CBS’ network executives sent to the staff and crew.
A letter praising Gray’s contributions to the show was sent to The Talk staff and crew from CBS president and CEO George Cheeks, CBS Studios president David Stapf, CBS Network Entertainment president Kelly Kahl, CBS Network Entertainment senior executive vp programming Thom Sherman, CBS Network Entertainment executive vp current programs Amy Reisenbach and CBS Network Entertainment senior vp daytime programs Laurie Seidman. Read it in full below:
Dear Talk Family,
On behalf of all of us at CBS, we want to extend our deep condolences to you for the painful loss of our beloved Heather. She was an inspiration to us all, living and thriving while bravely battling an unforgiving disease. She showed us what true courage looks like.
Heather has been the heart and soul of “The Talk” from day one. Her brilliance as an innovative producer was only outmatched by her huge smile and infectious laugh. She was an admired, beloved mama bear of your family and a leader that all looked up to. Her contributions to the success of the show are immeasurable, but more importantly, she was a boss that proved you can lead with kindness, caring and friendship. Heather was everyone’s friend, everyone’s champion, everyone’s favorite person on the set. We will miss her terribly.
We recognize and share the pain and shock you are feeling at this moment, as well as the grief you will feel in the days ahead. While the show is starting its hiatus as of August 1 (Monday), we do not want you to grieve and mourn alone. The set will be open, and HR will have staff and grief counseling available in person and by phone. HR support will be on site as well. We understand how difficult this will be for all of you and want you to all know, that we are here for you.
George, Kelly, David, Thom, Amy, Laurie
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Heather’s loved ones.