Lifetime’s Brie Miranda Bryant Talks Producing ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ Giving Hope to Sexual Abuse Survivors

Starting Thursday, Lifetime started airing its three-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which highlighted a myriad of allegations made towards the mercurial singer relationship again to the early '90s. 

From his secret marriage to Aaliyah and his 2008 youngster pornography case (for which he was acquitted) to his rumored intercourse cult, R. Kelly's skeletons and muddy previous had been dropped at gentle by a bevy of ladies who graphically detailed their alleged previous relationships with him. Following the published, celebrities resembling Jada Pinkett-Smith, Meek Mill, Ne-Yo, John Legend and extra have lambasted Kelly for his alleged habits with minors and black girls and urged followers to boycott the singer totally.

Earlier Monday (Jan. 7), Entertainment Weekly reported that Surviving R. Kelly broke information for Lifetime with its debut episode garnering 1.9 million viewers. For Lifetime's senior vice chairman of authentic programming and the documentary's government producer, Brie Miranda Bryant, watching the docuseries spark a nationwide dialog about learn how to assist abused girls is a big victory for her and her workers.

"What I feel is shifting about it's that it's not one thing that simply lived inside the hours [it aired]; it's one thing that turned bigger than that and form of embedded itself into making a nationwide dialog," Bryant tells Billboard. "So, for us as a workforce, it's been an unbelievable privilege to have created content material that impacts tradition and says one thing after the hour is over. And I feel as a nation we're now recognizing that the influence that content material can have on tradition is extraordinarily highly effective and/or therapeutic. I feel the place we're proper now, it feels refreshing."

Billboard spoke to Bryant concerning the creation of Surviving R. Kelly, if the docuseries will assist oust R. Kelly from R&B glory, updates on among the alleged victims and why the method of therapeutic abused black girls is lastly turning into a dialog.

The first-night numbers for Surviving R. Kelly had been near 2 million viewers. Talk concerning the response you guys had after its three-night displaying.

We had been excited. Those scores had been actually for the primary evening, so I feel we solely bought higher from there, which is thrilling, however the suggestions has been outstanding. On Friday, I truly bought a name that there have been flyers being handed out for an enormous watch Twitter social gathering down in Atlanta for the finale. At the time, after I bought the information, I ended by a watch social gathering in Brooklyn that one in all our advocacy teams did and there have been greater than 50 girls that had been within the room having a dialog round it. So what I feel is shifting about it's that it's not one thing that simply lived inside the hours [it aired]; it's one thing that turned bigger than that and form of embedded itself into making a nationwide dialog. So, for us as a workforce, it's been an unbelievable privilege to have created content material that impacts tradition and says one thing after the hour is over. And I feel as a nation we're now recognizing that the influence that content material can have on tradition is extraordinarily highly effective and/or therapeutic. I feel the place are proper now, it feels refreshing. 

Several celebrities, most notably within the black group like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ne-Yo and Meek Mill, spoke out through the airing of the docuseries towards R. Kelly. How necessary is it for them and for us as a group to show that anger right into a type of motion, since we beforehand turned the opposite cheek when it got here to previous allegations made towards him?

I imply, I actually really feel that when placing collectively the doc as creators and for me -- as we form of determined what this regarded like -- what I noticed is that so lots of the survivors up to now and over the previous couple of many years have been screaming to the winds and nobody had heard them. So doing the timeline doc was actually necessary to deliver it again to love 1970 and hold it going from there. So the extra we put collectively the analysis and the extra folks that we talked to and the extra voices that we added into the mission -- initially, we began out with two to 3 survivors and we ended up with 54 members -- I actually thought it was going to be a 60-90 minute doc, if we had been fortunate. To go from that to go to a six-hour documentary that was as highly effective because it was is wonderful.

And I say that to additionally say that there's energy in numbers, proper? So, the extra voices that had been on this documentary, the extra plausible it turned for individuals at residence, the extra you simply needed to pay attention. Fifty 4 persons are saying actually the identical factor, however simply are talking about their very own experiences. It's arduous to not hear them. So having voices like John Legend, Chance the Rapper, Ava Duvernay, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union and Tarana Burke champion these survivors and say that it's okay to be damage, that's phenomenal. That's the stuff that we want. Whether individuals did it earlier than or after, I don't care, what I'm enthusiastic about is the dialog now. 

As not solely a lady however as a lady of coloration, how a lot of a task and ethical obligation did you're feeling weighed in your shoulders when creating this collection? 

I feel much more invested. You know, the #MeToo motion occurred, and it positively felt prefer it wasn't as inclusive because it wanted to be. So I noticed this as a possibility to form of fill that gap and I'm grateful that it did not directly turn into a catalyst for extra conversations.

Were you shocked to listen to R. Kelly noticed a spike in his streaming numbers following the premiere of the docuseries? 

Unfortunately, due to the entire analysis we've performed alongside the best way, I wasn't as shocked. What I used to be fortunately shocked about -- that I feel is definitely outstanding -- is that the intercourse abuse hotline surged. So individuals watched this documentary they usually had been seeking to get assist they usually had been seeking to be heard they usually had been seeking to take pleasure in self-care, which they need to. And so, my desire is to focus on the constructive of this. 

When information of R. Kelly threatening to sue Lifetime got here out simply earlier than the airing of the documentary, had been there any talks in any respect to pause the present, or had been you guys adamant about making this come out it doesn't matter what?

There's all the time conversations, however we had been adamant. What was reported on wasn't essentially what was communicated to Lifetime. So for us all the time being a platform for ladies -- and we instructed many tales like this from Flint to Elizabeth Smart -- it's what Lifetime does. It's a community. We do have this advocacy tenet. So there have been no questions internally whether or not or not we needed to transfer ahead with it, we knew we did. 

Do you suppose that the airing of the doc will assist deliver new expenses towards R. Kelly, and if not, what do you suppose it'll take for the tradition to completely cancel him?

That's query. I actually don't suppose I've the reply to that. I don't know what'll occur. I feel social media has proven us that there's some [people] upset and that there's a tremendous demand for accountability that must be addressed. And I feel simply outdoors of R. Kelly, it's transcended that. We're asking for greater than that. We're asking for justice for ladies usually and other people usually on the subject of sexual abuse. So is there one thing else that occurs with schooling reform? You know, there's different methods to influence, however that's my reply to that. 

Because of the success of Surviving R. Kelly, have you ever guys already considered maintaining the present intact and possibly changing it with one other artist or particular person with allegations of abuse?

We have had conversations. We're all the time having conversations on form of learn how to construct, however there's nothing as of but. I imply, this half for Lifetime usually is justice for ladies, interval. And that appears like loads of issues and is in loads of completely different areas. So, fairly frankly, our growth is broad. 

While many expressed outrage with reference to R. Kelly's alleged transgressions, there have been additionally followers nonetheless championing him. Were you in any respect shocked by this type of habits?

What Jada Pinkett stated, I feel she stated it finest and was most likely far more articulate. It's only a query of what does it take to make black women matter? What does it actually take? And I feel it's actually outdoors of simply black women; it's humanity, actually. It form of transcends that. I used to be requested a query like, "How do different individuals determine with this documentary outdoors of African-Americans?" and I feel it's a narrative about girls telling their truths and in believing them and listening to them. That's simply being human. That's being human, and I feel that's the dialog we have now to begin having. 

One constructive consequence that got here from the documentary was once you guys discovered one of many survivors, Dominique Gardner, and reunited her along with her mom, Michelle. Talk about that course of and the way a lot of an emotional toll that was for everybody concerned. 

[R. Kelly's] former assistant talked about Dominque's identify and I feel had additionally talked about that there was strain after TMZ and no matter else was coated with Joycelyn Savage. So by probability -- it was actually by probability -- we discovered by means of participant sources Michelle and we simply wished to interview her to say, "You're a mom in search of her daughter. We'd love to inform your story." We knew that we didn't have entry to Dominique and we additionally knew that she didn't have entry to Dominique.

When Michelle was coming to LA -- round that point that the TMZ factor broke the place they discovered Joycelyn within the streets saying, "Hey, I'm having a trip" -- that complete factor occurred and who occurred to be on the display screen subsequent to her was Dominique. Michelle, her mom, noticed that and was like, "I'm not going to do an interview with you. My daughter is in LA. I'm going to search out my daughter," and we stated, "Can we observe you doing that?" And that was it. That's the way it occurred. It was such an natural course of. It was such a thriller. We didn't know what was going to occur and it ended up being an enormous blessing for that household. We had been simply grateful to be part of it. 

With Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary -- the 2 women that stay separated from their households on the conclusion of the present -- are there any updates you possibly can present so far as their whereabouts?

Unfortunately, we haven't heard something but, however I'll say what has been useful -- and we all know this from the primary screening that we did -- is for individuals to maintain saying their names. I feel the extra we discuss them, the extra they've the prospect of listening to it, and that's what our psychiatrists have stated. I feel it was Dr. Candice Norcott that had stated, "The extra you say their names they usually hear from their dad and mom they usually hear that they're liked and somebody desires to listen to their voice, the extra it'll be more likely to occur." So we will solely hope, you realize? 

Did any of the ladies that participated within the docuseries obtain fee for his or her involvement? 

No, and with documentaries, there's charges for some supplies like photos or movies, protection for journey, such as you truly must fly them in, however they're not paid like actors and actresses. That doesn't occur. 

Fellow government producer, dream hampton, beforehand spoke on the variety of celebrities that refused to participate within the present, like JAY-Z and Dave Chappelle. In your opinion, do you're feeling the dearth of star energy hindered the present's true potential?

I don't. I feel it was an actual well-made documentary that was primarily based in these members' truths, and that's what we leaned into. I feel that's what everyone seems to be responding to, and I feel the entire members and the entire crew and producers on this community are simply grateful for the help in no matter method we bought it. So it's thrilling to have that now. 

TMZ is reporting that R. Kelly and his workforce are creating a website titled in response to among the allegations pinned towards him from the documentary. What are your ideas on that? 

I actually simply bought a textual content whereas I used to be on the cellphone with you and I haven't learn it. So I don't actually know what it's. For us, we simply wish to commend the survivors for his or her braveness and telling these tales. It was arduous for them to try this and simply as a group and a nation -- as everybody has been doing -- we will nonetheless prolong our arms round them. I feel it's necessary. I feel that's what you do for survivors. 

What would you say individually was your greatest win in creating this documentary? 

This one has been the largest privilege of my profession, for positive, however I feel as creators, you solely hope that you could influence tradition together with your content material and we did it. That's all you possibly can ask for. 

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