Danielle Deadwyler, Kim Fields, Malinda Williams and Jackie Long Star in the Inspirational Drama Premiering Saturday, February 18 at 7 PM ET Exclusively on GMC
ATLANTA, GA. January 27, 2012 – GMC TV, America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family entertainment, presents the original GMC World Premiere Movie A Cross to Bear, starring newcomer Danielle Deadwyler, award-winning veteran actress and director Kim Fields (“Living Single,” “The Facts of Life”), NAACP Image Award© nominee Malinda Williams (Idlewild, “Soul Food”), and Jackie Long (Soul Men, “Love that Girl!”). The inspirational drama about a young girl’s long road to redemption makes its world television premiere on Saturday, February 18th at 7:00 PM ET, with encore telecasts 9:00 PM and 11:00 PM.
Based on an original screenplay written by Cas Sigers Beedles and Terri J. Vaughn, A Cross to Bear tells the unflinching and inspiring story of Erica (Deadwyler), a would-be dancer with no family connections who finds herself fighting alcoholism and living on the streets with her newborn child after being left by her boyfriend. One ill-fated night, she takes refuge from the cold in an empty building with a handful of other homeless people and her life is shattered. Traumatized and now living at the home of Joan (Fields)—a former nurse who has dedicated her life to helping women like Erica, Tina (Tamika Tanner) and Fae (Williams) get back on their feet, Erica struggles to forge a new path for herself. As the cause of Erica’s personal hell is revealed, slowly, with the help of Joan’s unique brand of tough love and the friendship of Tina, a former crack baby, and the guidance of other women who have found new beginnings at Joan’s House, Erica finds the will to live and learns the redemptive power of forgiveness.
A Nina Holiday Entertainment Production, A Cross to Bear also features appearances by Angie Stone (The Fighting Temptations, “Lincoln Heights”), Kenny Lattimore (“The Young and the Restless”), Lecrae Moore and Karon Riley (“35 and Ticking”). The film is produced by Sigers Beedles, Terri J. Vaughn (“Meet the Browns,” “The Steve Harvey Show”) and Tandria Potts (“As Written: Chrisette Michele”), with Shandra McDonald-Bradford co-producing. Tandria Potts also directed the film.
“One of the things that drew me to this script was that it doesn’t sugar-coat the road to redemption,” says GMC Vice Chairman Brad Siegel. “It doesn’t pull any punches. The main characters, through their own choices, get into some very dark and difficult situations and they’re the ones who have to take a step towards the light. That can be hard and it doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. The script reflects that very honestly. I’m confident this story will resonate with a wide viewership, because each of us has our cross to bear and can empathize with others in difficult situations.”
Producer and screenwriter Cas Sigers Beedles originally penned the script for A Cross to Bear with the idea that her producing partner, Terri J. Vaughn would play the lead role of Erica. “When I first read it I just cried, cried, cried,” Vaughn recalls. It took her and Sigers Beedles nearly six years, through various false starts and disappointments, to finally bring the story to the screen. Although Vaughn’s passion for the script never wavered, when the project recently picked up steam again, acting in it was no longer part of the plan so Vaughn stepped behind the scenes in the role of Producer. “Cas and I wanted to develop a powerful story that would give strong actors of color challenging roles to highlight their talent and vast range,” she says. “As for the part of Erica, I wanted to create the opportunity for a young, up-and-coming actress to shine.”
That emerging talent turned out to be newcomer Danielle Deadwyler, whom Vaughn and Sigers Beedles knew from stage productions in Atlanta. “Even without any film or TV experience, I just knew she was an amazing actress,” Sigers Beedles says.
The filmmakers initially envisioned Deadwyler in the role of Tina, a key character who was born of a mother addicted to crack. But all that changed after a table read in which another newcomer, Tamika Tanner, was filling in for an actress who didn’t show up that day. Tanner nailed the role of Tina and was cast on the spot. “When she read it, I fell in love with her as Tina,” Sigers Beedles recalls. “She stole the show right there. We put her on camera, we worked with her and she did me proud. But I still wanted to include Danielle in the project.”
As it turned out, the actress who was to have played Erica ended up not being available, so the filmmakers were able to move Danielle into the lead role. “The role of Erica is the type of role an actor gets well into their career and I feel extremely blessed to be able to represent this character at this time in my career,” says Deadwyler. “It provided me the opportunity as an actress to convey a wide range of emotions onscreen and to really give dimension to a very complicated young woman’s story.”
For the character of Joan, who dispenses tough love to the girls that live in her home in an effort to help them turn their lives around, the filmmakers turned to the award-winning veteran comedic actress-turned-filmmaker Kim Fields, who had not acted for many years choosing roles behind the camera instead of in front of it. Vaughn had absolute confidence in Fields’ ability to pull of the complex and nuanced role of a woman haunted by a deep secret which serves as her motivation for the good that she does in the community.
“Most people just know her as ‘Tootie’ from ‘The Facts of Life’ and ‘Regine’ from ‘Living Single,’” Vaughn says. “People want to put you in a box, but I knew that on the other side of those comedy chops was a powerful dramatic actor. She’s an amazing actress, period.”
“Joan is a very complicated person and represents a type of person I admire greatly; someone who can truly give selflessly for the benefit of others,” says Kim Fields. “This story is one that needed to be told and in a way that can serve as a catalyst, not only for young people at risk but, for the rest of us who have something to offer that can make a difference in a person’s life.”
Vaughn says it was her experience as an actress that allowed her to take calculated risks in the casting process. “I have a different sensitivity than an executive would have,” she explains. “I’m able to see and know where we can stretch people, and I’m so happy I trusted my instincts. I’m happy to be able to create a vehicle for all the actors to show themselves in a totally different light than we’ve seen them before.”
“It’s not often you find quality figures like the ones representing the women in “A Cross to Bear”. When I read this script, I was so taken aback. I could feel the strength of Joan as well as the turmoil she and the other characters were experiencing and could really see the need for getting this message out there. This is a project I am extremely proud to be a part of because it allows you to do work that can make a difference,” adds Fields.
Actress Malinda Williams echoed the sentiment. “I applaud Cas and Terri for creating this story and GMC for making it,” says Williams. “It’s a brave film that presents hard realities and reaps great rewards. It’s so easy for one to give up when they feel they’ve lost everything, and that’s an everyday reality for so many people. This film reminds us that the road back up is difficult but meaningful and worth the work to reclaim your life.”
Leslie Chesloff, GMC’s executive vice president of programming, says what grabbed her most about the script was the relationships among the three main characters. “The story turns on the inter-generational relationships between Erica, Joan and Tina. Even though none of them is initially aware of it, they each have endured a deep loss that binds them together. The way their destinies are woven together is very true to life, yet not at all predictable.”
Destiny seems to have also played a role in bringing director and producer Tandria Potts to the project. Writer-producer Cas Sigers Beedles was meeting with Potts about another project when she decided to show her the script for A Cross to Bear. “When I read it, I was drawn in right away,” says Potts. “The story is moving and extremely well-told, but it’s the characters that make it a unique piece. They are each so fully developed and compelling in their own way. And we were extremely fortunate to get such an amazing cast to bring them to life.”
Adds GMC’s Siegel: “There was definitely an element of serendipity in how this project came together. Terri Vaughn and Tandria Potts each had a prior relationship with GMC, but neither of them was aware of it when they decided to work together on this film. Then, when they brought the script to us, it definitely had that feeling of something that was meant to be.”
Chesloff agrees: “We knew we wanted to do something else with Terri but we didn’t know what it was going to be. When we met with her and Tandria, there was all this excitement and sense of shared purpose. This project is right in GMC’s wheelhouse and we’re thrilled with the way it’s turned out.”
GMC Network Presents a Clean Energy Entertainment and Nina Holiday Entertainment production “A CROSS TO BEAR” starring Danielle Deadwyler, Kim Fields, Malinda Williams, Tamika Tanner, Jackie Long, Angie Stone, Kenny Lattimore, Lecrae Moore and Karon Riley. Original Music by Travon Potts. Scored Music by Kenneth Lampl. Casting by Ann Wittenberg. Editor is Adrian Lovell. Director of photography is Samm Wallace. Producers are Cas Sigers Beedles, Terri J. Vaughn and Tandria Potts, with Shandra McDonald-Bradford co-producing. Screenplay by Cas Sigers Beedles. Directed by Tandria Potts.
GMC (www.watchGMCtv.com) is America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to GMC for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” In 2011, GMC was the second fastest growing ad supported cable network in total day households and A18-49. GMC can be seen in over 51 million homes on various cable systems around the country, as well as DISH Network on channel 188, DIRECTV on channel 338 and Verizon FiOS on channel 224. Follow GMC TV on Facebook at http://facebook.com/gmctv and on Twitter @gmctv or http://twitter.com/gmctv.