Last fall, when production halted on The Bernie Mac Show and delayed the sitcom's post-baseball season premiere by more than two months, the network cited its 46-year-old star's exhaustion as the reason for the shutdown. But Mac was suffering from something far more serious and intractable. In a statement issued by a spokesman, Mac has revealed that he suffers from sarcoidosis, a chronic immune disorder that has afflicted him for two decades, a disease that can inflame tissues (particularly in the lungs) and is sometimes fatal.
In October, Fox said that Mac had overworked himself throughout the summer, filming Ocean's Twelve and Guess Who (due out in March) and promoting his then-recent release Mr. 3000, Actually, his spokesman told Star magazine before issuing a public statement, the comic actor was hospitalized because ''he had double pneumonia which weakened his lungs and his entire immune system, and the sarcoidosis symptoms became pronounced.'' Mac publicist Matt Labov clarified the statement for E! Online, noting that sarcoidosis is a ''treatable illness and not [always] deadly.''
Mac said in his statement that he'll dedicate himself to educating others about the disease, which killed football star Reggie White last December. ''No one knows where sarcoidosis comes from or where it starts and there's no known cause for this condition that affects primarily minorities,'' he said. ''Over the years I've worked with several sarcoidosis patients at La Rabida Hospital in Chicago and I'll be devoting my summer to creating the Bernie Mac Foundation. Through my ongoing and private efforts, I'm organizing a golf tournament in Chicago and the proceeds will be given to different sarcoidosis organizations. I hope to announce further details about this soon.''
Fox told E! Online that Mac's health has gone back to normal, and that his ailment has caused no further delays in production. As Mac put it in his statement, ''I've had sarcoidosis since 1983 and it has not altered or limited my lifestyle. I still walk, play basketball and do normal things. Since sarcoidosis hasn't slowed me down, then it shouldn't be a concern for others.''