Judge Judy bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd opened up to Entertainment Weekly about his absence from the upcoming courtroom reality series, after appearing alongside Sheindlin, 78, since 1996 for the entirety of her first show’s 25-season run.
“My assumption is if you were going on to do something else, that you were at least going to ask me if I wanted to have the opportunity to audition for the role,” Byrd, 63, said, noting that he only heard about Judy Justice when she announced the show in March 2020.
Since production wrapped on the final season of Judge Judy in April, Byrd was focused on caring for his wife Makita Bond-Byrd, a longtime producer on the show, as she prepared to undergo brain surgery. She has since completed her third round of chemotherapy, and doctors successfully removed 95 percent of her tumor.
“I didn’t have time to think about or ask about Judy Justice. It wasn’t until July that I called the judge and asked, ‘Hey, should I look for something else or am I included in the Judy Justice project?'” Byrd recounted.
“She informed me I was not being asked to come along on the project. I didn’t inquire as to why, that’s her choice. But she did inform me that, fundamentally, I was priced out as the new bailiff on her new show. My salary would have been too much. I was curious: How would she know? She didn’t ask me. She didn’t give me an opportunity to have accepted a lower salary.”
Although he said the call “ended pleasantly enough,” Byrd still felt left out. “I don’t think she understood how confused and dismayed I was after being there for 25 years, from the beginning of her career, and not being at least given the opportunity to say whether or not I wanted to continue that relationship,” he explained.
Byrd has since set his sights on other opportunities, including a recent guest spot on The Bold and the Beautiful, in addition to voiceover roles.
“I’m like, ‘If I did something wrong or offended you or brought shame to the show, or if was involved in numerous scandals in the 25 years we were together, I might understand why you didn’t want to bother in the end,'” Byrd said. “That’s just the way it went. I just know that god has something else for me.”
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The first trailer for Judy Justice dropped last month, revealing her new bailiff Kevin Rasco, whom she called “one of the warmest people.” Byrd also noted that Rasco provided personal security for Sheindlin during Judge Judy.
Sheindlin has since released a statement about Byrd’s absence from the show. “Byrd is terrific and we had a great 25-year run,” she said, according to EW. “This is a whole new program with a whole new cast and an exciting energy.”
Judy Justice premieres Nov. 1 on Amazon’s IMDb TV, with new episodes airing every weekday.