Fresh off her Oscar win for “Fences”, Viola Davis is back in the courtroom and no, not as Annalise Keating. Instead of defending clients in her Emmy Award winning series, “How To Get Away With Murder”, Davis is the judge and the jury in her new film, “Custody”. The TV movie recently aired on the network that knows how to pull on your heartstrings, Lifetime. Inspired by a colleague who works as a family court judge, director and screenwriter James Lapine “…went down to family court and literally sat down next to her on the bench and became engrossed in the place. After spending a few months watching the arena I was so touched and moved by it that I decided to write something about it.” The film didn’t come fruition overnight, in an EPK courtesy of Lifetime, Lapine shares that “Custody” “…is a very personal project” that took several years for the script to be take form and become the Lifetime entity that recently trended on social media.
In her role as Judge Martha Schulman, Davis is placed in the uncomfortable position of deciding the fate of a young woman, Sarah Diaz (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who because in the way she chose to discipline her child, she loses both children and becomes engulfed within in a custody case where she along side her lawyer Ally Fisher (Hayden Panettiere) fight to get them back.
Davis shares how she decided to sign on to star in the film which is also executive produced by she and her husband’s company, JuVee Productions, “We were handed the project through Lapine agent he said, ‘it’s a great script.’ Skeptical she replied, “I know a great script when I read it’ and “Custody” was great script! It was familiar script. The characters were very much realized. The situation for me was very much heart racing maybe because I have a child and I’m a mother. The script came to us and I felt like I had to attach my name to it.”
Set in New York, Lapine makes the city a character as he shows the various socioeconomic conditions of the judge, Diaz who’s an immigrant and Fisher, a privileged young attorney.
On making the material her own the Oscar, Tony and Emmy Award winning actress shared, “The greatest experience on set has been working with James Lapine and getting to know him as a writer/director. I think it’s a great thing when the writer takes his work and hands it over to the actor to then interpret.”
While there have been many films, especially on Lifetime that tackle the plight of a single mother, Davis shares what she believes to be the film’s key differentiating factor
“I know this very ‘kumbaya’ but with this movie, the theme is we’re all drinking from the same filthy swill. Whether we’re in the position of the judge, jury, the executioner or the person who’s being executed, somehow, we’re all in this human experience together where we’re all either getting into a mess, coming out of a mess or about to go into a mess.
Echoing similar sentiments the film’s Unit Production Manager, Katie Mustard adds “In America [specifically] New York City, there are a lot of great laws in place that are there to protect children from falling thru the cracks. This film shines a light on the instances when a system goes to far and while it has good intentions, doesn’t work and that’s important to look at right now because “Custody’ exposes how on one level a child can actually still fall through the cracks in a way that’s not meant to happen.
Lapine summarizes the takeaway of “Custody” from his perspective in saying, “The heart of the film is about family, parenting, the choices we make and how a mistake can send you down the wrong path if you’re not careful.”
Visit MyLifetime.com to watch “Custody” online.