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.
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.
This article first appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of Billboard.