The film marks the feature-length directorial debut for Tasha Smith and stars Niatia “Lil’ Mama” Kirkland, Lance Gross, and Tami Roman, with special appearances from Big Freedia, Lil Zane, and Floyd Mayweather. The project is the network’s first original movie inspired by an episode of TV One‘s original true crime series, “For My Man.”
When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story tells the tragic story of Falicia Blakely, a teen mom from Atlanta who grows up in the fast-lane. When she becomes an exotic dancer, she attracts the attention of local pimp and predator, Dino. His empty promises of a life together turn Falicia into a pawn in his dangerous games; and she’s forced to prove her love for him at the expense of innocent lives.
“I totally did not see myself playing an exotic dancer, but it was so much more to the story,” says Niatia “Lil’ Mama” Kirkland of taking on the role. “I pulled from the truth of women all around the world who have been victims and not known that they were victims of society. This is what’s so amazing about acting – allowing myself to be as vulnerable as I would be in that moment, just to actually live through the character and become Falicia. I want to do her justice, and so I tapped into truth to tell her story.”
In playing Dino, a modern day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde who uses Falicia‘s desire to be loved for his gain, Gross says he had to “dive all the way in.”
“This is a role nobody’s ever seen me in – they’re used to me being the nice guy,” says the actor, who is known for his roles in Tyler Perry’s House of Pain and Temptation. “I want the audience to know that you really have to be conscious of the decisions that you make, because there’s consequences that come along with it.”
Tami Roman portrays Stacey, Falicia‘s alcoholic mother who has jumped in and out of her daughter’s life, exposing her to too much too soon.
Roman said she had to reflect back deeply into her own relationship with her mother as a teenager in order to understand how to play the character.
“At the age of 13 [my mother] sent me to live with my grandmother. By 15 she came to get me, and at that point we became best friends because she had finally gotten herself together,” she recalls. “And I think that is where I tried to become my mom [in this role].”
Each actor transforms into their characters under the directorial leadership of Tasha Smith, whose goal was to challenge each actor to dig deep to relate to their character, while creating a suspenseful, high-stakes drama on screen. In addition to directing and producing, Smith is a multifaceted actress whose work brings style and intensity to the subjects she plays on the big and small screens.
“I feel like it’s my calling to inspire other actors to pursue their purpose in the heart, and that’s why to have the opportunity to direct and to work with actors on that level – I love it. I’m in heaven,” says Smith on stepping behind the camera for the first time.
When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story is written by industry veteran Cas Sigers-Beedles, who previously wrote and executive produced the TV One movies Welcome to the Family and Girlfriends Getaway 1 & 2. The film is produced for TV One by Eric Tomosunas, Keith Neal and James Seppelfrick of Swirl Films.