If you enjoy true crime podcasts and murder mysteries, then you’ll love “Truth Be Told” (streaming on Apple TV+). Currently, in its third season, the series follows investigative journalist, Poppy Scoville played by Oscar Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer as she uses her platform to solve crimes, one podcast episode at a time.
The plot of season three is extremely relevant as it shows the stark contrasts in law enforcement’s response time as well as the lack of media coverage when Black girls go missing as opposed to when Caucasian girls go missing.
This season also tackles the intricacies of human trafficking and challenges the assumption that victims of trafficking are strictly drug addicts or prostitutes from broken homes. “Truth Be Told” insightfully illustrates how even a straight-A, star student from an affluent two-parent household can unknowingly fall victim to sex trafficking.
Actress Mychala Lee who plays Trini Killebrew is at the epicenter of this season’s intense storyline. Trini is unknowingly groomed to be trafficked initially through expensive gifts from her boyfriend that aren’t age appropriate for a high school girl. Trini’s boyfriend also gets her to take suggestive photos and encourages her to sneak out of her house where she soon finds herself forced into compromising situations against her will.
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The “Truth Be Told” audience will also be challenged to reimagine the stereotypical depiction of a “pimp.” Actor Isaiah Jarel plays Trey, a seemingly wholesome teen who uses his position as a camp counselor to gain the trust of unsuspecting young girls.
As one of Mychala Lee’s scene partners, Jarel shared his experience working with Lee. “She plays her role so well it’s like, ‘Wow.’ Being on set with her, she’s so humble and so sweet, she welcomed me with open arms.”
The Chicago native added, “Mychala’s career is going to go far. I’m excited to have had the opportunity to share the screen with her before she blows up and becomes this big star.”
Ahead of the season finale, Lee spoke with the L.A. Sentinel regarding how she prepared for this role, how she’s grown as an actress, and what brings her joy outside of acting. While some may consider “Truth Be Told” an anthology series, the throughline between seasons has been the Killebrew family including Trini’s parents, Markus Killebrew, a former detective and long-time friend of Poppy, played by Mekhi Phifer, and Zarina Killebrew, Markus’ wife played by Merle Dandridge. Lee shares that season two set the stage for Trini’s behaviors to change in season three.
“[The writers] sprinkled in easter eggs in season two. It started with Trini getting a boyfriend and sneaking out. But I think the main disconnect is this idea of perfectionism and Trini having to live up to expectations that her parents put on her as well as expectations that she put on herself which is so difficult and impossible to live up to because no one is perfect. That as well as her parents’ separation, them getting back together and having a baby on the way has kind of led to Trini seeking love and validation in places outside of herself and her parents.
“And when you’re that desperate for love, attention, and quality time you can sometimes seek it in the wrong places and I think that’s exactly what happened with Trini. She has great parents, they’re not to blame, it was just a lack of communication regarding what was happening in all of their lives and as a family unit.”
Lee entrenched herself in research around human trafficking to prepare for the situations that her character was slated to experience this season. She shares, “There are a lot of stereotypes that happen in the media, so a part of the process was me speaking to professionals and advocates in sex trafficking organizations. I was really hoping that the dialogue was accurate, and that words that were outdated weren’t used and I’m proud to see that we demonstrated as accurately as we could how it can happen while also advocating for people to be more educated and aware of it.”
Lee also shared what she gleaned from her co-stars, many of whom took time to ensure that she was tending to her mental health outside of filming. “I still pinch myself when I watch myself in scenes with Octavia Spencer, Mekhi Phifer, Merle Dandridge, and all of my amazingly talented co-stars. I really admire their integrity, their kindness, and their authenticity. Everyone, especially Merle and Octavia, took the time to check in on me because this was a very traumatic experience as an actress.
“Tapping into the things that Trini goes through is intense and they were always checking in to make sure that I was taking care of myself as a human first. Sometimes we forget that we’re human before we’re anything else. It taught me a lot to see how much they reached out because they felt it was important to make sure I was taking care of myself at the end of the day.”
While this season of “Truth Be Told” may be winding down, Lee’s slate of TV and film projects is ramping up with her next project being the Disney+ series, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” premiering later this year. You can also find Lee alongside legendary artists turned actors Queen Latifah and Ludacris in the Netflix film, “End of the Road” (2022). Speaking of multi-hyphenate artists, Lee revealed that she may be releasing music soon and she’s currently learning how to play the piano.
When asked if having so many multifaceted co-stars has inspired her to write, direct, and produce in any projects of her own? Lee shares, “Absolutely. Especially watching Octavia as the executive producer and star of ‘Truth Be Told,’ it’s definitely inspired me to continue to act as well as write, direct, and produce projects that truly matter, truly have a message, and are relevant to this day and age just like this season of ‘Truth Be Told.’
“I have lots of ideas that will hopefully come to fruition in the future but for now, I just want to get this message across and continue whatever work I can in the movement. Even after this season is over, being an advocate for survivors of trafficking, is work that I want to continue doing.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24 hours a day: (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.