Media Teleconference with Tasha Smith, Lil Mama and Lance Gross, from TV ONE Original Movie, 'Wh
The real-crime saga is premiering on August 28, 2017 at 9:00 P.M ET on TV ONE
"We accept the love we think we deserve."
The real-crime saga is premiering on August 28, 2017 at 9:00 P.M ET on TV ONE.
It’s true, love can lift you to the highest point of life, but it can also bury you at the pit of repulsion if you aren't careful.
Falicia learned that lesson the hard way. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Already a mother by the age of 16, Falicia did what she could to make ends meet, so she started stripping at one of the nightclubs in Atlanta, Georgia.
Being an exotic dancer probably wasn't an ideal job, but in her unsuspecting little eyes, the money was good, and it was just enough to take care of her two-year-old son.
One night, Falicia met Michael Berry at the same nightclub where she worked. Michael appeared to be the hustler-type, who seemed somewhat attentive to her, so she took him to the back and gave him a private lap dance. From their initial encounter, the couple couldn't get enough of each other.
Falicia thought Michael was the answer to her wildest dreams, and her hot ticket out of the slums.
Boy, was she wrong.
Michael lured Falicia into a life of prostitution and drugs. Her love for him, turned into a putrid desperation and fearfulness.
Who knows, maybe she believed death was her only way out of the mess.
Falicia Blakely (left) and Pumpkin (right).
Falicia Blakely is currently serving life in prison for committing three murders from August 15 to August 16, 2002.
Michael Berry ordered the hit for Falicia to rob and kill Raymond Goodwin (34), Claudell Christmas (35), and Lemetrius Twitty (29) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Falicia recruited fellow stripper, Ameshia 'Pumpkin' Ervin (22) for the two-day killing spree.
The police arrested the girls hours later, while driving the car of one of the slain men.
Michael Berry walked away from the crimes unscathed and fully exonerated without so much as a glimpse of being at the scene of the crimes.
To no avail, attorneys would argue about his involvement during court proceedings, but without exculpatory evidence, it still wasn’t enough to drum up an indictment.
TV ONE hand-selected a preeminent lineup of actors to take audiences inside the life of Falicia Blakely.
Lance Gross (Dino), Niatia 'Lil' Mama Kirkland (Falicia Blakely), Tami Roman (Staci), Tiffany Black (Pumpkin), Big Freeda (Tam), Lil Zane (DJ Pierre), Floyd Mayweather (Punch) and Walter Fauntleroy (“Q”)
Tia Smith is Executive in charge of production, for TV ONE true-crime drama(s), ' For My Man.' The show is a short presentation of The Falicia Blakely Story, which is how the movie took form.
Smith said that the story was powerful in it’s on rights, but the narrative haunted her.
“She was so young, and in a position to be exposed to many elements, that some people are, and some people aren’t at this age. To get caught up in a world, when incited by love, she [Falicia] made some choices that she’s literally dealing with today. Obviously, the victims and their families just couldn’t get over that. You have this young girl who’s facing all this time, and much like what we tried to do with the series, the entry point is love.
When I’m green-lighting a different story, that is the foundation. Ideally, all of us have been in love, which makes it relatable; however, we just have not made some of the extreme choices based on love,” she explained.
Smith continued to elaborate that while Falicia is living out her days in prison, she is also HIV positive, and the story is heartbreaking for a young woman to get caught up by love in such a horrific way.
D'Angela Proctor said that it’s important to build on the success of the station. They wanted to follow the course for the Unsung franchise, which would follow 'Love Under New Management: Micky Howard Story.'
TV ONE selected 'For My Man,' and turned it into a scripted production, with Tasha Smith as Executive Director.
Per Proctor, Smith has a top-tier acting school, and not to mention the fact that she could humanize with Falicia Blakely, so that the character could be brought to non-prejudice life.
Actress and Director, Tasha Smith said that when she learned about the story, she connected with it.
Smith came from an Urban environment. “I have been a stripper,” she laughed.
“Coming from Camden, New Jersey, and just growing up in an environment of strip clubs, pimps, people, and stuff… I just felt like I would be able to bring a heart and humanity to this character. A lot of times, people don’t understand what people’s struggles are, what their emotional upbringing is, (and) what can cause them to end up in the situations that they may end up in. I just felt like, we needed to have empathy for the Falicia Blakely’s of the world. I had a real passion, a real compassion for her experience, for her, the family, the victims and their families. I just wanted to help bring some heart and humanity to that story.”
Smith said she would not have been able to accomplish the brilliant production without Niatia, 'Lil Mama' Kirkland, and the courage of Lance Gross, as well as the production team, to breathe life into the factual characters.
Niatia ‘Lil Mama’ Kirkland allowed vulnerability and transformation, so that she could embody Falicia Blakely.
“It was such a joy to work with her (Niatia) and the talent. We worked so hard on this character, day and night. I never left from her side and she never left mine. You can’t ask for a better teammate onset.
Lance Gross—first of all, Lance Gross is like a brother to me, and we’ve worked together over the years in acting class. I always feel like, as a coach, it’s a collaboration. It’s like, we fit and we breakdown characters. We breakdown scenes. We’ve been through the thick of it. Lance, and I, have had some very beautiful moments in class that I’ll never forget. I’ve seen him go places that I feel the world still has not experienced as a talent, so when I got an opportunity to work with Lance on this, I already knew what was going to happen. I got a chance to see him do things that people have never seen him do. It was a wonderful experience to see Dino come alive, and to see his [Lance Gross] courage and his strength. For Lance Gross to be evil… it’s so crazy.
He’ll smile when I say cut. He’s so charming—when I say action, and then he turns into this dark soul that’s abusive and insane.”
When Love Kills: Behind the scenes with Director Tasha Smith
Agreeing with Smith’s praises, Gross controlled his character like a puppet master. He turned evil on and off without flinching, and his scenes were dynamically displayed. Even during silent moments, his facial expressions harvested benevolence and terror like never before.
Smith went on to to say that it was exciting to work with both actors.
Lil Mama casted with Lee Daniels as Ameshia Ervin (Pumpkin), before the movie went into production—but they called her back about leading role, Falicia Blakely.
“I was afraid to play her because it’s like the opposite of my brand. I don’t endorse stripping,” Lil Mama shared. “I’m new to film, so it was definitely a risk for me. When I thought about how desperate young women are all over the country and all over the world, [who are] in need of a voice of someone who can help them— and minister to them through acting, I knew that I was chosen for a reason. When I went into the audition, I was still in the phases of not really wanting the role, not thinking I would get it. Out of all the things I auditioned for in that season, that was the role I got, and when I spoke to my dad about it, he let me know how important it was for me to play the role. I did it.”
Lil Mama said she felt inspired to do the role because of her sister.
“To play a sixteen-year-old girl who is a baby—even though a sixteen-year-old girl may feel that they know it all, they own the world and they run the world, they are children. For a child to meet someone 11-years her senior, who is more mature, and should be for that matter; that knows more than she knows, has more experience and can get into her head, it’s a scary thing. Although Falicia committed crimes along the way. She’s a victimizer, but she’s also a victim. I felt like it was very important to put it out there of who she is.
Recently, I sat and thought about the years that’s been passing… she’s only thirty-three or thirty-four right now, and that made me really sad because she’s a very young woman, and she has to spend the rest of her life in prison because of choices she made as a child. So, as important as it was for me in the beginning to play this role, it’s more important to me now that it’s about to premiere—to really help young women and really defuse the situations like these, by preventing young women who are in the streets, who may not have their mother or father in their life.
Falicia’ s mom [played by Tami Roman] was there, but she wasn’t really there. There were moments where she needed to talk, but she wasn’t there to raise her, to uplift her, and to help her know who she was. This is real. I know young women who deal with this every day, and her situation, the one we displayed in the movie. With that being said, that’s why this movie is important to me, and I hope to use my voice in a way to help young women, and prevent young women from getting in situations like these, and to be a voice for women who are in them already.”
While Lil Mama transferred exceptional energy into her role, it’s safe to say that there probably wasn’t another actor that could facilitate the needs of Falicia Blakely better than Lil Mama. She was cute and curious. She allowed her character to stalk on the corners of discernment, but never fully taking heed to the burning red flags surrounding her and Dino’s relationship. As White stated, Lil Mama embraced vulnerability during awkward scenes that would send a novice into immediate panic.
She shared both innocence and maturity. Her character ensued captivation in an admirable way.
Lil Mama and Lance Gross’s chemistry dangled dangerously on the fine lines of erotica and mystery, while bouncing from melancholy to sanguine.
Lance Gross delved into a darkened place when transforming into Dino— his character reminded viewers of Denzel in Training Day, coupled with Laurence Fishburn in What’s Love Got to Do with It. You wanted nothing more than to see his demise throughout the whole feature. Grappling at the feelings of women scorned, Lance Gross played the predatory part till the bitter end.
Lance Gross said that he always dreamed of doing a role like Dino. He said he was fearful but also excited to do it.
“I had a long talk with God. I had a long talk with my family, just letting them know that I needed to tap out, that I needed to separate myself from Lance Gross, and just embody Dino. I couldn’t get in touch with Dino, so I made phone calls to anybody I knew that was in that life. I was calling peeps from Las Vegas, from Oakland, anybody that I knew who would connect me to this life. I was just picking their brains apart. I think I worked about 9 or 10 days in Atlanta and I let my wife know, ‘It’s gonna be a different side for me. I’m gonna disconnect. Of course, I will be totally respectful to you.' I didn’t want to talk to my daughter a lot because I didn’t want to get pulled out of Dino. I knew that it was important to have strong scene-objectives when playing Dino. I knew that I needed to make Lil Mama love me, or Falicia, love me, because with love you can do anything.
Mental manipulation is a powerful drug. If you’re in love with somebody and you trust somebody, you can get them to do whatever you want them to do. I don’t care how strong you are, so I knew that was very important. I just had to dive in. There were times that I would choke onset, but I knew that I had to stay invested in this character because it was so different from who I am. I was in the trailers before shooting the scene, just catching the vibe. I knew I couldn’t mess this up.”
As for her co-star, Lance Gross shared, his role steered closely to dynamic and freighting, all at once. As a father of a young daughter, it was important to hear his feelings about the role and how it affects him as a dad now that his beautiful baby is being brought up in this generation of uncertainty.
“It’s very scary. It’s kinda like a reality check, and you don’t have that fear until you actually have a daughter of your own. My thing is just being the best father I can be. I always joke with my wife. 'I wanna show my daughter everything that I can show her, and she doesn’t have to get it anywhere else.' As a man, I want to show her what it’s like to be loved by my wife, the right way, and just how a woman is supposed to be treated. You know, with the roles I take, I always ask myself, ‘What good is the audience getting from the roles I’m playing?’
Lance Gross pictured with beautiful wife
When I approached this, I was just trying to find the good in Dino, but you know, you are not supposed to judge your character. While I was working, I never did that. I really wanted to show all women the consequences of being in an abusive relationship. I wanted them to be able to relate to it by seeing a relationship that isn’t necessarily theirs, but like an out-of-body experience. Just to look at this, and step away from the situation like this, because it’s no good for anybody— and that was important for me."
As we wrap the dialogue for Interrupted Blogs, the only thing left to say is: Don’t forget to tune in August 28, 2017 9 P.M ET, and then again at 11:PM ET on Channel TV ONE
We definitely would like to thank cast members for their transparency during the media conference, in addition to TV ONE for the opportunity.