A star-studded film airing on TV One, “When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story” brings Blakely’s tragic tale to life onscreen. In 2002, 19-year-old stripper Blakely (portrayed by rapper and actress Niatia “Lil Mama” Kirkland) killed three men in two days with the help of her accomplice Ameshia Ervin.
When Love Kills unveils Blakely’s emotional backstory. This includes a tumultuous home life, her start in Atlanta strip clubs and teen motherhood. Blakely fights to keep it all together while also trying to look out for her mother, portrayed by Tami Roman (Basketball Wives).
Life in the strip club accelerates Blakely’s downward spiral. Viewers witness Blakely become entangled in a web of manipulation, lies and domestic violence. At the helm of her dive into a dangerous life of crime is a local pimp named Dino, portrayed by Lance Gross (House of Payne).
Blakely, 33, is now serving life without parole in a Georgia prison. Tasha Smith (For Better or Worse, Empire) makes her feature directorial debut. Smith tells the Los Angeles Sentinel she is most excited about the story, the talent and the ability to reach young women.
“Coming from New Jersey and having my experience in the strip clubs as a young girl, having challenges growing up and knowing that if I didn’t make the right choices, my life could have ended up on another path. That’s how I felt about Falicia Blakely while reading the script,” said Smith.
Smith mentioned a deeper connection to the subject of the film because of her past. In the film, Smith makes sure viewers are able to fully absorb Blakely’s background, genuine spirit, vulnerability and other relatable qualities despite her imperfect choices and the crimes she committed.
Smith continues, “I feel like I could have been her … growing up in a single-parent home, not having her father around, being vulnerable, being insecure, needing love, all of those things, I understand it.”
Smith knows there are other young women and young people in general who have those same feelings that could lead to similarly compromising situations.
Niatia “Lil Mama” Kirkland made her acting debut in 2013, starring as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in the VH1 Biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. The critically acclaimed film was the highest-rated television film of 2013 and highest-rated original film premiere in VH1 history, according to The Huffington Post.
This is Kirkland’s second role where she is tasked with bringing a real person to life onscreen. With Left Eye, she says it was much different because Lopes’ celebrity status gave her so much more to research, from interviews to performances and even Lopes’ own documentary.
As for her portrayal of Falicia Blakely in “When Love Kills,” she credits the script written by Cas Sigers-Beeders, paired with her own natural instincts. “I had to create character — based on truth, in the moment, and creating situations based on what I know happens,” said Kirkland.
Kirkland said the role pushed her out of her comfort zone. She worked hard to react genuinely as Blakely would have in the moment, feeling vulnerable while being manipulated mentally and also abused by a man. Kirkland shared with the Los Angeles Sentinel that Blakely did send her best wishes and how thankful she is that her story has taken form in film. “Although she feels bad about her actions as a young woman, she was happy that this story could help save some young women’s lives.”
The cast and crew had less than two weeks to film the movie. Director Tasha Smith is beyond excited with what God is preparing to do through the film. “God is about to do SOMETHING! God is going to use this movie to really speak to people … we do things out of our creative spirit, it’s a prophetic thing, our voices as artists are for a purpose; it’s not to just be lit on Instagram. It’s so that we can change lives and touch people. That’s what we use art for,” she said.
Smith is now craving more time in the director’s chair, adding it is much more challenging than acting but so rewarding. Smith told us something about herself that she wishes she had learned earlier, “I wish I knew how lovely I was because there was a time I didn’t. Sometimes the circumstances we’re living in can get in your head … your circumstances don’t determine your future and your purpose, love yourself and trust God.”
Smith runs The Tasha Smith Actors Workshop in Sherman Oaks. She invites aspiring actors to come in to audit the class. For more information on her classes, check out www.tsaw.com.
You can see When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story on TV One and TV One on Demand. Check your local listings.