'That Girl Lay Lay' creator's wife announces end of series after David A. Arnold's death

“That Girl Lay Lay,” the Nickelodeon buddy comedy series, will show its final episodes Wednesday, less than two years after the death of creator David A. Arnold.

Arnold’s wife, Julie Harkness Arnold, announced the final episodes Tuesday in an emotional Instagram post, taking stock of her husband’s legacy and the effect he‘d had on the show, cast and crew. She also thanked the creatives behind the series for “seeing David’s vision through” over the teen sitcom’s two seasons.

“It is with gratitude for all of this, that I announced [sic] that ‘That Girl Lay Lay’ will air its Final Episodes on Wednesday March 20th,” she wrote, sharing a series of photos from the show that she said were on her late husband’s phone. “Although my heart is heavy, I will forever treasure being a part of something that was important to David and that he loved. 46 Episodes. Top Ten on Netflix. Image Awards and Emmy nominated. I celebrate these triumphs. Thank you, fans!”

A Nickelodeon spokesperson for the series confirmed to The Times that production was indeed ending after 46 episodes, saying in a statement Wednesday that “we are incredibly grateful to the cast and crew for their immeasurable contributions on the production.”

Actor, writer, showrunner and veteran stand-up comedian David A. Arnold died in September 2022 at age 54 of natural causes, according to his family. Arnold was a huge presence in the L.A. comedy scene, with a career that included packed stand-up shows and appearances on Comedy Central and BET. He produced and wrote for Netflix’s “Fuller House” and Nickelodeon’s “Side Hustle” and penned scripts for the movie “Meet the Browns” and the sitcoms “House of Payne” and “The Rickey Smiley Show.”

In a statement following his death, Nickelodeon described Arnold as “an immense talent and a gifted storyteller with a wide range of fans, from adults through his stand-up, to kids and families through the Nickelodeon show he created and executive produced.”

“When David died … we lost our creator and our soul,” his wife wrote Tuesday. “Our family had been anchored by David. He had given us the courage to test the bounds of what was possible. He left us with scripts and ideas he had already written. But he also left us broken from losing him.

“I’m amazed by what happened next,” she added, crediting “Lay Lay” writers John D. Beck and Ron Hart and producer Will Packer for their continued work.

“In their immense pain, the crew-the cast dug deep and continued to create the vision that David had put in place. Beck and Hart were unbelievable. Knowing they were already hurting … they rallied EVERYONE together and led us. Thank you, Ron and John … for being my brothers and doing the extraordinary despite your own grief. Thank you, Will Packer, for seeing David and enlisting him to take on ‘That Girl Lay Lay.’ Thank you, Will Packer, Nickelodeon, Ron, John and TGLL Fam for all you have done for David, for me and the girls.”

Arnold added Tuesday that her husband had been approached by Packer in July 2020 — at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — to create a show “that dealt with science, an underdog and a friendship between two African American girls.” The teen series follows Lay Lay (Alaya High), an avatar from an affirmation app who magically comes to life after her best friend Sadie (Gabrielle Nevaeh) wishes on a star.

“The show was for Nickelodeon. Since very few African Americans had become a Showrunner, Creator and Executive Producer of their own series, the show’s story mirrored David’s own journey of friendships and being an underdog,” she wrote.

“‘That Girl Lay Lay’ filmed its first episode in April of 2021. This show was a haven for those who are exceptional and even masters at what they do. From wardrobe, to crafty, to stagehands, these experts created not only a phenomenal show but a family. If you ask the cast and crew one word to describe their experience at ‘That Girl Lay Lay’- that word would be FAMILY,’” she said.

Julie Arnold also described watching the show’s child stars “grow up in front of our eyes” and how they “created a bond that extended far beyond the professional.” She went on to recognize the stars by name, including High, Nevaeh, Peyton R. Perrine III, Tommy Hobson, Tiffany Daniels, Elijah M. Cooper and Caleb Brown.

“They had adventures, parties, movie nights, and more. That bond contributed to the MAGIC that culminated onstage. From Gaby’s comedic timing to Tommy and Tiffany’s phenomenal chemistry. From Elijah’s charm to Caleb’s charisma, the performances were consistently MAGIC,” she said. “The writers were always finding the right beats, the producers staying invested and committed to the process of creating, our directors tapping into our essence week after week, our Nick execs loving and supporting how the show was evolving. Our recurring actors who made our show click. Our crew pushing bounds and creating set pieces, outfits, hairstyles, and music that were often unexpected and always first-rate. Our editors making Lay Lay’s magic come to life. And last, but not least, our Lay! She brought a triple threat force that was undeniable and lovable. Watching her grow up and evolve as a creative, intelligent, genius … right in front of us.”

The show’s titular star replied to the post with an emotional tribute too.

“It’s so much I want to say, so may [sic] feelings when I have to travel back and think about this amazing journey, I just want to say thank you thank you to everyone that helped me become me,” High wrote. “It was very difficult days and even more when David passed. I went through a lot mentally but every single person that had a hand in TGLL made sure I kept my head and spirit high. Real tears! Love y’all all!”

Packer added: “He was the fearless leader who showed each and every one of us how to create something truly special without compromise. J you continue to be the rock upon which we all stand as we reach for heights he challenged us to attain. It was the honor of a lifetime to work with you both.”

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