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In Memoriam: Alaina Reed Hall

18 December 2009 71 Comments

Information is still developing, but Alaina Reed Hall passed away on December 17 at the age of sixty-three. The cause of her death has not yet been officially reported but the actress, best known for her roles as Rose Holloway on 227 and Olivia on Sesame Street, has been very public about her ongoing battle with breast cancer. She participated in the documentary “Breast Cancer Examined: An African-American Perspective,” to commemorate 2009 National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and share her courageous approach to fighting the disease.


Born Bernice Ruth Reed in Ohio, Alaina Reed began her career in early 70s theater, appearing in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions such as Chicago, Hair, and Eubie. In 1976 she landed the role of Sesame Street‘s Olivia. From then until 1988 Reed presented children with one of the earliest depictions of positive black womanhood, demonstrated the warmth of adult sibling relationships with her brother Gordon, and straight up taught us letters and how to count. In 1985 Reed joined the original cast of 227 as Rose Lee, one of my favorite black sitcom characters ever. Rose was sassy but sensitive, responsible but mischievous, and always good for showcasing Reed’s excellent singing voice through some wacky plot device like a church choir solo or random sing-off that would somehow keep everyone in the building from being evicted.

Kevin Peter Hall (the 7’2″ actor who portrayed Harry in Harry and The Hendersons and Predator in the movies of the same name) guest starred as Rose’s love interest on 227 and in 1988 the two began a real-life relationship, marrying both on the show and in real life. Sadly, he passed away in 1991 from complications of AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion. 227 was canceled that same year but the now Alaina Reed Hall continued to act until her death, steadily appearing on sitcoms such as A Different World, Friends, Ally McBeal, and making the best of a recurring role on the short-lived series Cleghorne. She also returned to her theater roots with a one-woman show, “Alaina at the Bijou.”

The clip I’ve chosen is a great snapshot of Rose Holloway from 227 – it’s got a little neck-wagging but also the requisite girlfriend hug at the end. We lost a true legend!


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