Exclusive

Exclusive: Audra McDonald to Exit Private Practice

It looks like Private Practice‘s Addison is going to be in the market for a new BFF.

In what is by all indications is a completely amicable split, Audra McDonald is leaving the Thursday-night ABC drama at the end of the season to be closer to her family (including 10-year-old daughter Zoe) in New York. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve seen the last of her Private Practice character, Naomi.

Huh? Allow me to explain.

Although the four-time Tony-winning powerhouse will be losing her series-regular status, there’s a very good chance she’ll be back in a guest-star capacity next season.

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“I have spent four amazing years working with the best cast and crew on television at Private Practice,” McDonald tells TVLine exclusively. “Though I am stepping away from the series as a regular in order to spend more time in New York with my family, I am not closing the door on Private Practice or the character, Naomi. I am beyond grateful to [series creator] Shonda Rhimes, ABC, and the team behind the show.”

Rhimes in turn says, “We are so appreciative of Audra and her talents and look forward to having her return to Private Practice as often as possible. Audra has been a bicoastal commuter throughout our four seasons on the air, and, ultimately, we respect and appreciate her desire to spend more time with family in New York.”

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McDonald’s departure shouldn’t come as a complete shock to fans. For the past two seasons, the actress’ presence on the show has been scaled back as producers strived to mitigate her hellish cross-country trek.

Thoughts? Are you sad to see Naomi go? How do you think her reduced presence will be accounted for? And do you care to guess which Broadway revival McDonald should headline next? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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209 Comments
  1. Tom says:

    Honestly? I don’t know she’s there unless she actually speaks. If you ask me, she’s not gonna be missed, atleast not by me.

    • lorna says:

      While I hate Sam and Addison together, Naomi drove me nuts in s3. I cannot stand Amelia, however.

      • xav says:

        Oh man, every time she came on the screen talking about how she was literally going to kill her daughter…

        So terrible.

      • jnemom says:

        Uggh…..Amelia is the WORST!

        • slynn says:

          I agree Amelia literally has no point to the television show whatsoever. I do not understand the purpose of her role. As far as Naomi is concerned, she hasn’t been a huge part of the show as of late, so I don’t think her departure will be a huge loss.

          • T DAWG says:

            I think Amelia’s character is refreshing in a cast that is all attached with each other. Besides Sheldon she is the only single person after Naiomi leaves. Why does she have no purpose? Because she doesnt have a boyfriend on the show who’s also a doctor in the same practice?!

        • Jp says:

          Couldn’t agree more. I absolutely DO NOT buy her as a neurosurgeon and can’t believe she was cast. She really needs to go.

      • Lisa says:

        If you hate all the characters then why do you watch?

    • GN says:

      I thought she was great. Her character seemed like a smart person, often the only sensible, down-to-earth person when crap happened (like Charlotte getting raped). Sorry to hear she won’t be on the show much but her decision makes sense considering the amount of travel she had to do to be on the show.

    • m says:

      i will miss the character not the actress. Audra is a wonderful actress, but does NOT fit in with the cast. A smaller more feminine african american actress would work well.

      • Nicole says:

        What does “A smaller more feminine african american actress would work well” mean? She is a beautiful woman and fits perfect in the cast.

        • yvette says:

          I’m with you Nicole WHAT does it have to do with it!!*blank stare

          • britishfan says:

            Audra fits her character perfectly!!! U must not have grasped the tone of the show if you think Audra doesnt suit Naomi’s character….And plus her daughter in the show could not look more like her.

      • Beverly says:

        African American
        Women come in all shapes and sizes although that’s not the issue. Audra McDonald is clearly a healthy, toned and beautiful WOMAN. I enjoyed her character and I will miss watching her on the show.

      • Terri says:

        I’m with Nicole & Yvette. What does her size have to do with it? She’s beautiful, talented & seemed to be more ethical and down-to-earth than the rest of them. This just gives me more reason NOT to watch. The whole month+ hiatus during Christmas ans January. Thursday used to be my TN night with Grey’s & Private Practice. Now that I have done this long without new episodes, I’ve found other things to do on Thursday nights. Thank you

      • Yasmine says:

        what do you mean by that? Audra is perfect, in fact: the 1st Naomi (If you guys remember from the 1st crossover) SUUUCKED!!

      • Ms. J says:

        Oh what…a smaller, more feminine “white-like” African-american. Do acting skills carry no merit at all? McDonald is a wonderful actress!! R U?

      • Demi says:

        This is such an offensive comment. Audra is gorgeous. She has a fantastic body and is very feminine. Whoever wrote this is, frankly, an idiot. Not everyone in the world prefers women with tiny, boney, waif-like, little-girl-ish bodies…just ask my husband.

      • sue says:

        Audra is gorgeous! Beautiful face, body and very professional.She is an outstanding actress. She will be missed!

    • Diana says:

      Audra McDonald as Naomi and her wonderful acting opposite Taye Diggs was the best reason to watch this show. The entire cast is gonna suffer as a result of her intermittent appearances on the show. As a member of the original cast she made this show a success. Her relationship with Addison was a good as they portrayed best friends who are loving and honest towards one another as well respectful of each other professionally. I applaud Audra for putting her family first and I look forward to seeing her on Private Practice as often as possible. I’ll probably record the show and look at the episodes with Naomi in them. Because no one carries this show for me like Naomi, Addison, and Sam.

      • Tracye says:

        Correction. Audra is not an original cast member. For a few weeks her role was played by Merrin Dungee…formerly Kelly from “King of Queens”. Does anybody else remember that?

        • armani says:

          Merryn only did the back door pilot that was done as an episode of “greys anatomy”! audra has been with the series from day one!

        • Michelle says:

          Actually Merrin only appeared in two episodes and she was promptly replaced by Audra. I am a huge fan of both women. Audra for her concerts and broadway and Merrin for her comedic acting on king of queens and malcom in the middle. Merrin however was not a good fit for the dramatic acting needed for PP. I watched the show b/c I’m a fan of Audra … But I’ve been irritated by her role as a mere supporting character with no storyline of her own … But she’s making the best choice for her family which is admirable. I wish her the best and look forward to seeing her next broadway show!

      • Debbie says:

        I also love the character Naomie in the show and love her with Sam. I was hoping they’d reunite and was hopeful after the kiss in episode 16. Sam & Adi are a terrible match. Plus, I have to admit I love seeing how sculpted Audra’s arms are. I’m envious of the great shape she’s in. I’ll definitely miss her.

    • angela says:

      I love Audra as Naomi her character is level headed, kind, generous,I don’t think you should always just listen to what people say but how they say it…feel the vibes…..she would make an awesome friend in real life….as to her being smaller…why? She is perfect just the way she was made. I think her daughter is a lucky little girl, to have a Mom that cares so much for her.
      .

    • sj says:

      I regretted seeing her role scaled back. Now that she’ no longer on the show as a regular, I will stop looking at the show.

  2. Nick says:

    Four-Time Tony Winner!

    • John says:

      Seriously…who WINS four times?! It’s insane. But she is insanely good, so go figure…

      Audra, your fans are eagerly awaiting the next Original Cast Recording.

  3. Nicole says:

    I’m sad to see her go. She provides the best head of reason on the show. When she hugged Charlotte. *tear*

    • xav says:

      Thank goodness. She was an absolute drag on the show for most of last season, her character seeming to be actually insane. Plus they dropped her romantic storyline with Gabriel Fife, which was a highlight. Right now she’s not adding anything to the show so having her in a possible recurring capacity will make for much stronger storylines when she does return.

      • Becca says:

        Yeah that’s a good point, if they only have her for a few episodes next season then they’ll make those really count. And her relationship with Fife was really the only interesting thing for her character last season, it bugged me there was really no closure for that this season.

      • linda says:

        She hasn’t had much of a story line lately anyway. However, I’m happy to know she will return occasionally.

    • Marcy says:

      aww. i wanted her and sam to get back together!

  4. Jeff says:

    Definitely saw this coming…ever since that crap storyline with that old dude in Germany I could tell she wasn’t going to be on the show much longer. It is nice to know she’ll still be around for some appearances though.

  5. Mike says:

    As sad as I am to see her go, hopefully this means she will go back to Broadway!

    • sab says:

      AGREED.

      honestly, this is the best thing ever to happen to an actor stuck on one of Shonda Rhimes’s shows.. to be free!

      Audra McDonald is an extremely talented actress and her talents were pretty much put to waste on Private Practice. Every.single.actor.on that show is sadly written to waste. Paul Adelstein? Amy Brenneman? Kadee Strickland? and of course, Kate Walsh? All sadly wasted.

      Shonda Rhimes has reached her expiration date. Time for TV to axe her shows and make way for newer, better shows. Her actors deserve to be set free from doomed pointless storylines.

      anyway .. congratulations, Audra! We’ll surely see you be awesome on Broadway again.

  6. emmit west says:

    Very sad.

  7. Sarah says:

    Definitely don’t care. She is the least interesting character on the show.

      • Diana says:

        Disagree…..wholeheartedly disagree with this statement. She is an awesome actress as evidenced by four Tony awards.

        • Dave says:

          Well, I STRONGLY disagree with the first part of your statement, and TOTALLY agree with the second. Audra is a totally awesome actress on Broadway (I’ve seen most everything she’s done there), but her ROLE on Private Practice was a TRAGIC WASTE of her talent!

  8. Jamie says:

    I saw it coming when they hired Amelia. Amelia will be Addie’s new BFF. Best of Luck to Audra!

    • jnemom says:

      oh God help us…amelia? She’s so annoying.

      • Tasha Mack says:

        Why does everyone say Amelia’s annoying? I don’t find her the least bit annoying. On the contrary, I find that at times though she exudes some immaturity, she does make level-headed gestures e.g. relating to Addison, refusing to ‘go all the way’ with silly Cooper, in her work ethic,etc. She is just a girl who wants to have fun. Very down-to-earth, real and cute, in her own way.

        … and very often misunderstood. (like many young people today) Wait to you see her blossom!

  9. Tasha says:

    I’m not really surprised. I felt like she was being phased out this season, and to tell you the truth I am kinda over her high and mighty routines with Addison. She’s not a very good friend. On another note Amelia has filled Addison’s bff role this season really well, I really like her!

    • Jeannie says:

      Wouldn’t want a friend as judgmental as Naomi. 1st few seasons she was hot. But where does she get off telling Addison she had relationship issues…she must too if she’s divorced from the gorgeous Sam!!!

      • Mitzi says:

        @ Jeannie: Just a quick reminder about Naomi and Sam’s divorce. According to the back story on the pilot, Sam decided “…he just didn’t want to be married anymore.” In facet for much of the first two seasons Naomi was still in love with Sam and definitely unhappy about being divorced.

        • Jessica says:

          Right Jennie, I have no idea what they are talking about. Are we watching the same show b/c I’m lost lol. Addison is a tramp and if u remember what she did on Greys Anatomy to her ex which was slept with his BFF then slept with her BFF husband nothing should be said about Naomi not being a good BFF.. CONFUSED LIL PEOPLE

        • Charlie Sheen says:

          Well, that isn’t the whole story. Also, recall that: According to Sam, Naomi didn’t fight for them. She didn’t do ‘all she could’ to try to make it work. True, he wanted out (due to his gradual disenchantment from her after the whole episode in the surgery theater where he ‘intentionally’ let his molester patient die on the table) BUT like Naomi also said, ‘Why should I fight for this marriage when I am not sure we love each other any more?’ So, it is not just Sam’s fault per se. She too felt the love was gone hence the marriage not worth fighting for. I am not siding with Sam against Nae. Just saying that it takes two.

    • Erin says:

      Completely agree. She’s very judgmental yet claims to be friends (if not best) with Addison. No person would do that. If you don’t like a person as much as it comes off as her not liking Addison, then you normally aren’t friends.

      I’m iffy on Amelia, but I think it’s because I see her and still see Alice, lol.

      • Jessica says:

        What are you talking about not a good BFF,,,WTH are you all tripping off. Addison is not the GOOD BFF for sleeping with her man but you people do stuff like that.

    • Jackie says:

      She’s a very tolerant friend to Addison who likes to whore around with everyone, she went too far in fooling around with Sam. I would not want a BFF like Addison. As for Amelia, I hope she doesn’t last another season, I can’t stand her character, she’s just annoying.

    • TruthBTold says:

      NAOMI’s not a good friend??? You got it all twisted….since when is it ok to hook-up with your best friend’s ex-husband?!? Addison’s a bed-hoppin’ ho!!! I couldn’t stomach her on Grey’s!!!!

    • Blondo says:

      High and mighty??? Please, Addison is a who-bag! Glad someone finally told her so!

  10. David F says:

    I hope this means we’ll see Audra back on Broadway again!!! Audra’s fabulous talent has kinda been wasted on Private Practice.

  11. Mindy says:

    I liked her with SamN but that is no longer… I hope she is happy and finds her way back to Broadway. I like her character and will look forward to her guest star appearances.

  12. private_practice_biggest_fan says:

    I am so sad to hear that she is leaving! I dont know if I’m the only one but I really wanted Naomi and Sam to get back together! I think they would be a really cute couple but I wish her all the best and at least its for her to spend time with her family…

    • Ilaria_:26 says:

      Me too!!!

    • Mitzi says:

      You are not the only one. I wanted to see them get back together too.

    • Audra McDonald fan says:

      As did I…, I would have liked to see Sam and Naomi reunite. And for all of those previous comments that suggest that she’s judgmental towards Addison. HELLO!!! They’re best friends and now Addison (slutfully) and so easily is able to slip into the arms of her so-called best friends ex-hubby?!?!? Not a true friend in the least… I absolutely love how Naomi keeps it real w/Addison w/regards to Sam. She will be missed! I hope that she will return to Broadway and I wish (Audra) the very best…

      • Jessica says:

        RIGHT!! I’m with you and you know I had to say something on those previous comments about her lol…

      • Jessica says:

        Right!!! You know I am with you on this one and had to respond to those previous post about her. These folks are confused for real.

      • cristinalynn says:

        I agree. I also felt Sam and Naomi belonged together. They balance each other out personality wise. I do not think Sam and Addison belong together they do not fit, it feels uncomfortable every time I see them in bed together. Sam deserves better! He has always been such a great guy and Addison well I think she is too emotional and does not know right from wrong when it comes to relationships. Medicine yes she is a wonderful doctor but terrible when it comes to people skills. I am surprised that Naomi continued to stay friends with her after she got together with Sam. I personally would have shut her out of my life, it was not realistic.
        I wish Audra the very best and hope she finds a lot of happiness being with her family.

    • Carol says:

      Me too. I wish she and Sam could have gotten back together!

    • mzglorybe says:

      I think many wanted to see Naomi and Sam back together, but since they aren’t this new arrangement should work out just fine, with Audra making guest appearances as Naomi. She is one of the original founders of the practice and I’ve personally enjoyed her performance. She is a great actress and takes good physical care of herself, just look at her strong arms! She’s her own person :) you go, girl!

  13. JR says:

    She should do Miss Grace again in the revival of Annie they’re planning!!!!!

  14. Becca says:

    Yeah this doesn’t come as much of a surprise, she hasn’t really played a big role this season. It’s good they’re not completely getting rid of the character though.

  15. Anita says:

    I actually liked her. She was one of my favorites on PP and how she called on everyone’s action. This is sad. Will miss her.

  16. D. says:

    She won’t be hurting for work, that’s for sure.

  17. Naazneen says:

    Argh! Just means Addison has free reign to cheat with all Naomi’s ex’s. Boooo!

  18. Alex says:

    Maybe they should’ve stuck with Merrin Dungey from the original pilot. I do like Audra McDonald, though.

  19. Jasmine Hall says:

    I am going to miss her. She was the reason that I watched the show. This show will definitely be missing something when she leaves.

  20. Jill says:

    Here’s a question: why accept a job in LA if you’re not going to relocate there? I mean, now the writers have to write her out, then bring her back for what is surely going to be awkward episodes. I feel bad for the rest of the cast and crew.

    • John says:

      Lots of high-profile people live “bi-coastal”, and it’s very likely that Audra didn’t want to completely up-end her family’s New York life for what essentially would be an unknown amount of time. Acting jobs are hard that way. I remember when I was a kid my dad spent a year or two pretty much working in NYC as the rest of the family continued to live in South Florida, and he would fly in every weekend, just so we could have continuity with school, friendships, etc. It’s not completely unheard of or even very uncommon.

      • Elsa says:

        Which further supports the original post: if you can’t deal with the commute, why accept the assignment? If you accept the torrid life of the actor then live it fully not just when it’s convenient for you. No idea what’s keeping her in New York unless it’s a more lucrative assignment in the near future but I would not hesitate to move to LA along with the whole family not only because it’s just so much more awesome there but because it’s what I signed up for as an actor.

        Actors don’t always seem to have the capacity to realize what certain characters they play mean to their viewers and how they are letting them down by flaking out on their original commitment.

        • KT says:

          Well, apparently she has also acted in many Broadway productions and that is obviously based in New York. Also, perhaps she had no idea how popular PP would be when she first auditioned. It would have been foolish to relocate her entire family and life to CA only to find out that the show was then canceled.

  21. Ash says:

    She will definitely be missed. So sad.

  22. Jasmine Hall says:

    I hope that even if she is recurring they give her an awesome exit!!!

  23. Jasmine Hall says:

    Even though she is going to be recurring I hope that they give her an awesome exit!!

  24. brandon moore says:

    blind item revealed

  25. Amber says:

    Good for her. I can’t imagine leaving her daughter for months on end to film the show. I’ve been waiting for this announcement ever since I found out about her bicoastal commute.

  26. Bamagirl says:

    I’m disappointed that the character was never really allowed to experience true happiness. It’s quite sad actually because she’s a talented actress, but I don’t think we really got to see that. She spent most of her time being tormented for so many reasons. And, for the most part, she always seems to be fighting some kind of battle, be it internal or with her peers. I wish they could have developed her a bit more. They seemed to show her as one-dimensional and that’s too bad. I hope her character leaves on a happy note. She deserves to be happy. In real life, I’m sure this will be easier for her since she has been commuting all this time.

    • Elsa says:

      Have to agree with everything you wrote. The character has so much more potential than what was written for her.

    • MJ says:

      I think, ‘amicable split in order to spend more time with her family’ is merely Hollywood-speak for, ‘my talent was wasted, my (lack of a) storyline sucked and I can no longer justify the many, many hours I spend away from my family’.

      Really good roles for african american women are fairly nonexistent. Most network dramas (heck, most tv shows, period) don’t even attempt to give them storylines of their own or have them interact with the main plot in any meaningful way. What makes me sad is that GA and PP have probably done the best job of creating rich and interesting characters who happened to be black women; that I’ve seen in a long time.

      • Double D says:

        I agree with the latter part about black women on these shows but DISAGREE with your saying that her story line sucked. Like seriously? Her character in PP was close to real; she was usually rational and had a high sense of moral/ moral judgment(though her reaction to her daughter’s teen pregnancy was rather rather/ iffy…)Generally, Naomi played a loving, caring role. (the hug she gives Charlotte? classic! unforgettable) I think she will be missed on the show. As to whether or not her ‘choosing to spend more time with family’ is Hollywood-speak, that is left solely to your judgment. After all, what isn’t Hollywood-speak these days? :)

  27. Katie says:

    I’ll miss Audra as a regular. She’s no doubt an amazing actress, but I hate what the writers did to her from PrP S2 on. Naomi became selfish as she dated Sam’s friends then asked him for dating/sex advice (ugh), then she just left the practice all together for the upstairs practice abandoning her friends including Addison, not to mention her catty turn on a GA x/o ep where she ignored Sam, acted petty/childish to Meredith and generally came off unlikable, she was HORRIBLE to her daughter during her pregnancy/marriage SL and put all kinds of judgment on Addison for dating her ex Sam whom she had LONG ago let go of and proceeded to treat badly. Maybe in time, I will miss and like Naomi again, but I blame the writers for doing this to the Naomi character. I love Audra’s work and think she’s amazing. I wish her all the luck in the world because she’s awesome. As for Naomi’s turn on PP, maybe absence will make me feel differently about Naomi and repair what the writers did to her. I hope so anway.

  28. Chloe says:

    Me & my were just talking about Audra this week. My mom doesn’t watch pp but we were looking up Audra on YouTube & all her performances and my mom was like “Why is she even on a tv show? She belongs back on a broadway stage.” I don’t care about the Naomi character that much I’m just gonna miss Audra’s face. :( I hope they do give Naomi a decent send off this season because her character is not that great this season. So let’s see what happens. I wish Audra the best of luck. :) <3

  29. brynna says:

    Find this funny seeing as they recast the character after that ‘pilot’ episode four years ago. Shoulda stuck with the original Naomi…

  30. Shuayb says:

    Oh man, this sucks.
    But i think that they should just get someone else. They should get merrin dungey who played her in the backdoor pilot to come back. I like the character naomi and they need to give her a better storyline!!!

  31. Latoya says:

    Won’t miss her that’s for sure! The last time she brought anything to the show, was after Charlotte was raped. Other than that she’s just been a waste of space and a drag if you ask me.

  32. Lorie says:

    I won’t miss her at all.

  33. S. says:

    If I was a 4 times Tony winner and they gave a major arc to the talentless hack that is KaDee Strickland before they gave me one, I too would be leaving.

  34. Tony Forte says:

    How about a role for Audra on Smash? Assuming they film in NYC, that might be a great place for her to land.

  35. Rafaela says:

    Honestly? She’s too good for the show. 4 time tony winner, amazing voice, should be working on Broadway or maybe on cable Tv. I watch Shonda Rhyme’s series as choice for guilty pleasure. But I have to admit, they’re not that good to begin with… MO

  36. Trew says:

    As someone who live in NYC,
    I’m thrilled. She’s needed
    on Broadway! I can’t wait to
    see her perform again

  37. Kiki says:

    Oh no – does this mean that Fife won’t be back. He was the best thing about Naomi.

  38. Kristen says:

    I absolutely adore Audra, but this exit isn’t a surprise. Naomi has been “away” for the majority of the season, and while you noticed she was gone, her character had been pushed towards the back burner for some time, since they discovered Maya was pregnant really.

    What ever happened to Naomi and Fife? They were GREAT. I’m sad that never got resolved.

  39. K says:

    I live in NYC, so I’m happy we’re getting her back, and hope this means she’ll be starring in a Broadway show next season. I was starting to worry that being on a show was making her miss out on roles, and I’m glad she’ll have more of an opportunity now. But I will definitely miss her on PP…she was one of the main reasons I kept watching, and do think she adds something to the show that will be missing when she leaves. I hope they have her back at least a few times a year, but I definitely see this resulting in my slowly waning of the show. I do hope they at least give her a great storyline for the seonc half of the season and give her an awesome sendoff that is worthy of her talents. Maybe Fife can come back and they get married and move somewhere together. I liked him.

  40. BrianR says:

    Just replace her with the first Naomi who I liked better.

  41. Vicki says:

    I saw Audra in Houston several years ago in a one-woman opera. She is an amazing performer! I was really surprised that she took on an ensemble role in a TV show. She is definitely a stage presence! As to the other characters in the ensemble, I love them all except Amelia. She really gets on my nerves, and she doesn’t seem to fit.

  42. Shelby says:

    I’m sad to see her leave, but I respect her for wanting to be with her famIly. She always tweets about having to be on a plane all the time

  43. Ryan says:

    Well I think it’s a good move for her. Family is always number one.

  44. DJ says:

    Stupid Audra… Merrin Dungey was a great Naomi in the Grey’s episode that started this show. She would have been a less annoying actress and lived in LA so we wouldn’t have had to see the character reduced or leave completely. Thanks Taye Diggs for hiring his wife’s friend from Broadway who was a totally wrong fit! Hopefully Shonda will make Alex Kingston’s new character permanent. Sorry Merrin for the screw over, you shoulda never been recast!

  45. O says:

    She’ll definitely be missed!

  46. Neil says:

    Good for Audra, bad for the show. She’s the most talented actress on Private Practice. Too bad they never gave her the kind of storylines that would have allowed her to really flex her acting muscles. So much wasted potential. I hope they’ll give her a kick-ass exit story.

    I doubt I’ll be able to accept Amelia as Addison’s new BFF. She is way to immature. And something tells me I’ll find Addison and Sam even more unbearable once Naomi is gone.

  47. Patrick says:

    While I’m sure Audra is a lovely person, Naomi is kindof-a judgmental bore. I won’t miss the character, but best of luck to her back in NYC.

  48. Jeff in NC says:

    She’s a phenomenal talent and this sucks!
    Even tho Naomi had gotten a little too whiney lately.

  49. Kat says:

    I’m sad to see her go, but best wishes to her!

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