Jeffrey Hayden became interested in the entertainment industry while at college at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill after studying radio and theater production. He subsequently moved home to New York City and obtained a job in the program testing division on NBC in the 1940s. There he met several writers and producers whom he pitched a sitcom which eventually became The Billy Bean Show on ABC. It was during this time that Hayden studied at the Actors Studio with Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg which greatly impacted his work with actors. From there Hayden went on to direct several NBC musical & variety series such as Stop the Music, Your Show of Shows, and The Bert Parks Show, along with various theater productions throughout New York City.
In the mid-1950s Hayden moved to Los Angeles and directed the game show The Big Payoff which opened CBS’ new Television City. During this time Hayden also directed the shows Omnibus, Goodyear Playhouse, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Milton Berle Show, and The Loretta Young Show. In 1957 Hayden directed his first and only feature, Vintage, in 1957 in France. In 1960 Hayden directed his first scripted series, when he helmed an episode of Lassie. This led to a career directing scripted television including episodes of more than 60 series, including Johnny Staccato, Leave It To Beaver, Surfside 6, The Donna Reed Show, The Lloyd Bridges Show, Dennis the Menace, 77 Sunset Strip; McKeever & the Colonel, Route 66, The Andy Griffith Show, Peyton Place, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Shane, Batman, That Girl, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: The Bold Ones, Alias Smith and Jones, Ironside, Space Academy, The Incredible Hulk, Palmerstown, U.S.A, The Bad News Bears, Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., Santa Barbara, Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, Cagney & Lacey, and In The Heat of The Night.
In the 1990s, along with his wife, Academy Award-winning actress Eva Marie Saint, Hayden directed and produced two documentaries, Primary Colors: The Story of Corita (1991) and Children in America’s Schools with Bill Moyers (1996).
A champion of directors’ rights, Hayden was one of the founding members of the Directors Guild’s Creative Rights Committee in 1964, fighting for such issues as the Director’s Cut, an office for the director, and working hours.