by Onicia Muller (@OniciaMuller)
Cas Sigers-Beedles is a screenwriter, producer, and co-owns Nina Holiday Entertainment (Girlfriends Getaway 1 & 2 and Sugar Mommas) with Terri J. Vaughn. LA Screenwriter sat down with Cas to discuss the artist’s journey and how to humanize villainous characters.
Cas discovered the story for When Love Kills through a news article. At the time, she was working for an art studio where her photographer friend did visual work for a major Atlanta strip club.
“I would see all the babies come in with their babies.” The dancers asked Cas to watch their kids while they took photos. “They all had these crazy stories. They were way too young to dance. They all had fake IDs. It was this whole crazy world that I was not accustomed to. …When I read Falicia’s story, I realized she was just like these other girls.”
Falicia Blakely was a 19-year-old African American girl who committed triple homicide. She became the first woman and the youngest person to get the death penalty in the State of Georgia.
In fulfilling Nina Holiday’s mission of sharing great, female-focused stories from the African American diaspora, Cas began corresponding with Falicia.
It took six months to write the first draft. Cas then contacted Ian Burke to shop the script. Unfortunately, potential investors didn’t bite. “Everyone felt like the story was so hard and it was just too street and too gritty. At the time we were still in the aftermath of Love Jones (1997). People wanted to see nice black couples looking beautiful on TV. …And here I came with this torrid, triple homicide with this girl. No one is buying that.”
Cas kept in touch with Falicia through her sentencing and they developed a true friendship. She rewrote the script several times. Between 2008 and 2012 the film was no longer Cas’ focus. She started other film projects and produced a documentary series for BET.
In 2015, Cas was shooting Girlfriends Getaway 2 in Puerto Rico for TV One. Tia Smith (TV One’s Senior Director of Original Programming) told Cas about the success of the channel’s crime show. When Tia mentioned Falicia Blakley and possibly turning an episode into a movie, Cas revealed she knew Falicia and would email the script.
It was a divine moment. “I had already said, ‘When it comes back around, it’s going to be effortless. I’m not even going to worry about it’. Had I pitched it three years before the crime show, it probably would never have gotten made. They would have said it was a little harsh for TV One.”
Cas says the long wait put the entire artist’s journey into perspective. “We are so eager to make things happen but this business requires so many people. …Once all the parts line up, it is as effortless as a mention. It’s as effortless as having martinis in Puerto Rico, a name popping up out of the blue, and let’s go make a movie.”
The story wasn’t just about a woman who killed and robbed three men. Humanizing a villainous character starts with empathy and research. Cas eventually saw the world through Falicia’s eyes.
“Imagine someone who never had anything in life. She never had a great relationship with her mom. …Now here’s this prince charming. He dated her for a year before any of the craziness popped off. He sold her this dream and she fell hard. …This is a very common story with a lot of young girls. …Falicia was the extreme of that, but she definitely was not an anomaly.”
Falicia’s biggest desire is for people to learn from her. Now in her thirties, she desires for her character to be relatable, not a monster.
Cas and Tia agreed that a female director could relate to being so in love that you’d do something unspeakable. “We’ve all had it — not to that degree because we didn’t have those backgrounds — but we’ve all been in relationships where we stayed in them too long …I felt like a female director could bring that out. I would see [Lil Mama] on set and [Tasha Smith] would whisper in her ear, and the character would completely change around. [Lil Mama] just embodied Falicia’s spirit.”
When Love Kills premieres Monday, August 28, at 9 p.m. ET on TV One.
Created on St Maarten. Based in Chicago. Onicia writes, says funny things, and enjoys hanging with creative minds. You can read her weekly column, Just Be Funny in The Daily Herald’s Weekender or on her blog. She pays her bills as a creative project manager. Find her online at OniciaMuller.com or @OniciaMuller