‘Wendy Williams Show’ Producer Speaks Out on Host’s Diagnosis: “There Were Early Signs”

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The Wendy Williams Show‘s co-executive producer is reflecting on working with her former talk show host following the news of her diagnosis being made public. Suzanne Bass says there were early signs pointing to what has now been publicly revealed to be primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia diagnosis (FTD).

“You can go back and see the show, and there’s really long periods of quietness where she’s not speaking,” Bass told People, two days after a press release was sent out, claiming to be from her care team, announcing Williams’ diagnosis, which impacts language, communication behavior and cognitive function. “And you’re thinking, ‘What’s happening?’ There were early signs [of something wrong] where you’re grasping for words, having a hard time collecting your thoughts and remembering things. Maybe that’s what was happening back then.”

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The Wendy Williams Show ran for 14 seasons from 2008 to 2022. The show relied on a rotating group of hosts for the entire final season, as Williams was absent from her eponymous series while dealing with health issues, which were then described as a case of COVID-19 and ongoing complications from Graves’ disease, an immune disorder. Williams first sparked fears for her health in 2017, when she fainted live on-air during a Halloween episode. As The Hollywood Reporter detailed in an August 2022 cover story, longtime producers Debmar-Mercury made the decision to pull the plug following a concerning 2021 Zoom session with Williams.

Bass told People that there has been a glimmer of hope since Williams went off the air that she would make a comeback, but that “since this diagnosis, that seems impossible. It makes me very sad.”

Bass said she has only spoken with Williams a few times since the talk show ended, and Williams would struggle to remember things during their calls.

“I do know it takes time to diagnose conditions like this,” she said. “To have this sort of diagnosis, there’s some finality to it.”

Williams’ diagnosis was made public two days ahead of the release of Where Is Wendy Williams?, a devastating Lifetime docuseries centered on the former talk show host and her declining health. The documentary, which counts Williams as an executive producer, began as a project to document her comeback but quickly evolved into a different piece.

Bass, along with the other producers of The Wendy Williams Show, declined to participate in the four-part docuseries, which aired across two nights last weekend.

“We were hopeful that Wendy’s story would be redeeming and we’d be able to document this journey. But as we filmed, it became evident that this wasn’t really going to be a career comeback story, that this was going to be a deeper story, and that there was something ultimately disturbing going on in Wendy’s life,” producer Mark Ford told THR in an interview after the doc’s release. “It got to a point where we were more worried about what would happen to Wendy if we stopped filming then if we continued.”

Executive producer Erica Hanson told THR they reached out to the producers at The Wendy Williams Show but that they did not want to participate.

Where Is Wendy Williams? concludes by raising more questions, as Williams whereabouts remain unknown to both the public and her family. She is said to be in an undisclosed facility where her cognitive issues are allegedly being treated. The producers last spoke with their subject, who has been under a court-appointed guardianship since 2022, in April 2023 when they finished filming.

Williams’ son, Kevin Hunter Jr., who is also a credited executive producer on Where Is Wendy Williams?, said in the documentary that he was told in the fall of 2021 that Williams’ condition was explained by doctors as alcohol-induced dementia.

Ford told THR, “If we had known that Wendy had dementia going into it, no one would’ve rolled a camera.”

However, he said that, while they haven’t spoken directly to Williams since wrapping, “We’ve been checking in with her through her manager Will [Selby, also a credited executive producer on the doc], who has spoken to her many times in the ensuing months. And he echoes what you see in the documentary that she is sounding and doing better, and she is getting the right care. So that’s one thing that we’re very relieved about, that we left her in a better place than we found her.”

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