The opioid epidemic continues the shatter the lives of many families. Millions have been affected by the lack of resources presented to those suffering. The crisis has sparked a national conversation on how the government handles addicts. Actress, director, and producer Victoria Rowell has taken the role to uncover the effects of opioid addiction.
Her new mini-series, Jacqueline and Jilly, will showcase the many stories of families dealing with opioid addiction. We spoke with Rowell about her activism and using her art to tell stories.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL NEWSPAPER: What made you want to get involved with this type of project on opioid addiction?
ROWELL: Everyone should be concerned because it’s a health crisis. We have over a hundred people dying a day. There are opioids being manufactured so strong, they are toxic by the touch. Law enforcement are wearing masks and gloves because they are ten thousand times the strength of morphine. We all should be concerned. This should be as critical as AIDS or Ebola.
LAS: Do we explore those trends in the movie?
ROWELL: Yes, it’s a story about opioid addiction affecting a black family in Virginia and how they feel as black people not wanting to air their dirty laundry. It’s also about a family that is healing together.
LAS: Has your history impacted the decision in roles you pursue?
ROWELL: I saw a lot of injustice in foster care. I saw injustice with the elderly having difficulty buying medication and other things. So, when I came to Hollywood and saw the grandeur of injustice and the lack of economic inclusion, I spoke up. I told CBS and Viacom that their core audiences are black women between 18 and 54. You have to make it your business to speak up. Look in the mirror and see who you are. Be interested in fixing the problems. People care when you speak on your experiences. I don’t think you should shy away from who you are. I still have a level of intellectual concern of recognizing the disparity for minorities due to my experience in foster care.
LAS: Why do you think a lot of artists don’t speak about certain issues?
ROWELL: I don’t know. I can’t even answer that question. I still don’t understand why people can’t find their courage. For a long time, women were afraid to speak up so they won’t be punished. Now the Me Too movement is changing that. We see what happens when women and men dare to speak out. It happened to me suing CBS and Sony for their horrific retaliations against me for speaking out of lack of inclusion for minorities.
LAS: What was the process of creating Jacqueline and Jilly?
ROWELL: It was a collaborative effort with the Virginia film office, board of tourism, DC film office, and the government office. It took a village to make this film. It will have a limited theatrical release. As a result of turning over every stone, I’m also grateful the Commission of the Arts & Humanities will be under the banner too.. You need to do the footwork and I’m not afraid of work.
Jacqueline and Jilly also stars Richard Brooks, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Nikko Austen Smith, and Shannon Wallace. The six-part series will release in selected theaters with AMCI.