Wendy Williams on Her Involvement With Aaliyah Biopic: 'Lifetime Needed to Tell This Story Correctly'
"TV is where it's at," says the talk show host-turned-executive producer
No stranger to controversy, talk show host Wendy Williams, 50, stepped in as an executive producer of Lifetime's Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, which premieres Nov. 15. The problem-plagued biopic, starring Alexandra Shipp as the late singer, has been rocked by casting issues and family push-back, but, Williams explains, the show must go on.
Why did you become involved?
Lifetime needed to tell this story correctly. Fans won't say, "Oh, my God, how could you disgrace her memory?" And nosy people like me who want to find out things will also be fine.
What kinds of things?
Her upbringing. How did she meet R. Kelly? What did her parents say when their 15-year-old baby girl brought home a 28-year-old man? Aaliyah was a take-charge young lady with strong opinions about her career. This movie tells all those stories without being distasteful.
Are more Wendy Williams productions on tap?
This is the biggest production we've done so far. We produced the 2014 Oxygen series Celebrities Undercover. A theatrical film is always a thought. But television shouldn't be overlooked. Lifetime will also air the Whitney Houston story. The family is up in arms because they feel it should be on the big screen. Five years ago, I would have said the same thing. But TV is where it's at.
In December, I play a pastor in a movie [The Santa Con] produced by Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her mother’s production company for Lifetime. A grifter who gets out of jail is looking for redemption and he wanders into my church. I play a nice Christian lady.
As a first-time host for the Soul Train Awards, what can viewers expect?
I do things from the place of being funny and entertaining. And what I hope to bring to Soul Train [Nov. 30] is my exact personality. I know I’m going to be in a roomful of “Hot Topics.” And if I see you [in the audience], it will be “Oh, how you doin’? Please stop looking at me like that. Get over it. I’m over it. I apologize for whatever it is you think that I said."
How are things going with the talk show?
We're in our sixth season and have been renewed through 2017-18. That feels really good. The ratings this season have been stellar, thank God, and I don't take it for granted. When I started the show, I told my husband, "I don’t know how long this is going to last, but here’s when I want the train to stop." That’s between me and him. And I'm still sticking with that particular number. Hopefully, we’ll make it right to that stopping point.