Toni Braxton Talks Lifetime Biopic 'Unbreak My Heart': 'A Little Bruised But Still Here'
The TV movie premieres Saturday.
Toni Braxton will formally join the biopic ranks when Lifetime premieres Unbreak My Heart on Saturday (8 p.m. ET/PT). Starring Lex Scott Davis as Braxton and drawn from the R&B/pop singer’s 2011 autobiography Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir, the telecast traverses the highs and lows of Braxton’s iconic career.
Signed in the early ‘90s to Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds’ LaFace Records, Braxton charted a string of hits (including “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” “Seven Whole Days” and “Un-Break My Heart”), won multiple Grammy Awards and also battled her way back from bankruptcy and health issues.
That warts-and-all honesty is exactly what Braxton -- who doubled as the authorized biopic’s executive producer -- sought. “It was important to keep it vulnerable and honest, a compelling but loving story,” Braxton explains. “But I didn’t want to be a victim. It was just as important to talk about things I’d done to hurt others either knowingly or unknowingly.”
In the midst of sharing additional Unbreak My Heart tidbits, Braxton also chatted about tagging along with sister Tamar to the upcoming Grammy Awards, why Rihanna is her “favorite” and being determined to enjoy her career from this point forward “without feeling guilty.”
How many songs are used: Maybe 12 songs from the first couple of albums. All the songs had to be re-sung because of licensing fees.
The easiest part of the filming: Making sure I stayed away. [Laughs] I didn’t feel like I would be objective enough. It’s hard sitting and watching someone portray you. Lex did an incredible job. But I thought if I was there, I would mess her all up. And the girls playing my sisters are just as great, too. I was only there for the shot at the very end where Lei morphs into me currently.
Her duties as executive producer: EP’s work hard for the money. You think their name is on there just because … but no way. It’s a lot of work. I was very involved in the pre- and post-production and in finalizing the actors. I was also involved in selecting Lexi’s costumes because I wanted them to be authentic and organic. A lot of the costumes she’s wearing are all my costumes with the exception of the very last one. That’s how I knew she was perfect. She could fit every single costume.
What she wants fans to take away from the biopic: People read the headlines and see the big captions, but no one reads the story. I’m hoping this will give them the backstory. It’s therapeutic for me as well. There were some stories that I wanted to talk about and I wanted people to see my side of it. It’s a very honest movie for me.
The one thing she learned about herself in the process: I learned that I care too much about what other people think. It was like wow, I really cared a lot. I sacrificed my own happiness for other people to be happy. Uh, that’s not good. I mean life is a lot about giving and taking, but I feel that I should have enjoyed myself a lot more in my career without feeling guilty. I think everyone can look back at their life and say ah, I should have done that differently; I should have been happier about that. Now I see the movie and go whoa. I remember thinking that I was never going to get past this or that point. But here I am. A little bruised along the way but still here. I feel very proud of myself.
Plans to attend the Grammys: I think I might go with Tamar this year [who is nominated for best R&B performance for “If I don’t Have You”]. That would be fun. I’m so excited for her and really hoping that she wins this time. She was disappointed that she didn’t win [in 2014]. I told her it was okay to be disappointed and that she would be nominated again. And she is.
Helping to set the fashion-forward pace at the Grammys: When I was young and the boobies were up higher and skin was tighter … yeah, I did all that. But I love Rihanna. She’s my favorite of all the young ladies. I love her spirit, freedom, fashion and her music. I’m proud that people look at me and say maybe Toni Braxton had something to do with that, too.
Her next music project: I’ll have something solo coming out this year. But Babyface and I are definitely going to do something else together again. We’re like Peaches & Herb, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. We’re just taking a little break. I probably won’t tour until the spring. Maybe some private dates. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the ride. I didn’t relish it the first time. This biopic for me is like [starting out with] my very first album. I’m going to have fun, smile and be happier.
Unbreak My Heart premieres Saturday on Lifetime and will rebroadcast on Sunday and Jan. 31.