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Demetria McKinney Is Breakout Star of Controversial ‘Bobbi Kristina’ Movie

Left to Right: Hassan Johnson (Bobby Brown), Demetria McKinney (Whitney Houston), Joy Rovaris (Bobbi Kristina), Vivica A. Fox (Pat Houston) and Nadji Jeter (Nick Gordon). (Photo: TV One)

Bobby Brown’s legal action to prevent TV One from airing its original movie “Bobbi Kristina” October 8 may have failed, but, judging by the initial outcry against the film, Brown, who is portrayed by Hassan Johnson, wasn’t the only one who had issues with the film about the only child he and Whitney Houston had together. Those issues, however, didn’t keep “Bobbi Kristina,” which should break yet another TV One viewership record, from trending all night on Twitter, thanks to TV One airing the two-hour film three times back to back. The film about Bobbi Kristina, who died July 26, 2015 in Duluth, Georgia, following a tragic accident where she was found unconscious in a bathtub — eerily similar to how her mother died in Beverly Hills February 11, 2012 — was still trending the morning after it aired.

When the network hosted a media teleconference about three weeks prior to the film airing, without offering an advance screening of the film, TV One senior vice president of original programming & production D’Angela Proctor championed the merits of telling this story. “At the end of the day,” she said, “this is the story of a young girl who was looking for a boy to love her. To me, it is a quintessential love story gone wrong and, to be honest, it could have been anyone.

“She didn’t have to be Whitney Houston’s and Bobby Brown’s daughter,” Proctor continued. “She just happened to be Whitney Houston’s and Bobby Brown’s daughter, which added another layer of complexity to the relationship that she was seeking and also added a level of complexity to what she brought to the relationship with Nick Gordon.”

In her biggest role to date, Joy Rovaris won over lots of social media skeptics with her portrayal of Bobbi Kristina, or Krissi to those who knew her. “As a woman you love hard, and seeing love through Krissi’s eyes was a whole ‘nother world to me,” Rovaris shared. “I had to figure out a way to be Krissi in love with Nick so I had to see him through her eyes.”

As for Nadji Jeter, whose portrayal as Nick Gordon, Bobbi Kristina’s troubled “adopted” brother-turned-boyfriend, drew jeers on social media, he said he learned a lot about him from some of Krissi’s friends who were on set during filming. “I knew [about] Nick Gordon being really close to the family but not really his impact and effect on Krissi until I got around the people who really knew her,” he shared. One of Bobbi Kristina’s friends, Alexandria Reid, played the role of Britt in the film.

Vivica A. Fox also had a personal connection to the film beyond just playing Pat Houston, Whitney Houston’s sister-in-law, one-time business manager and Bobbi Kristina’s aunt. “It was very important for me to be a part of this project,” she shared, “because I knew the family, personally.” As a result, she was just as invested or more so as everyone involved in the mission “to humanize this family.”

Some of the biggest cheers of the night were for Demetria McKinney’s portrayal of Whitney Houston. @Miss_knockout tweeted, “i have so much respect for she’s the closest to whitney i seen yet she slayed both acting and singing!” @CeCeTyshay was also impressed and tweeted, “Demetria killin me with the Whitney-isms.”

For McKinney, who was introduced to audiences as Janine Payne in the Tyler Perry comedy series “House of Payne,” Whitney Houston was a great source of personal inspiration.

“She never met me, she never knew me,” she shared, “but being a person who has been homeless, being a person who came from a household where I was molested, there were different things I didn’t know how to emote and almost couldn’t get out of because that space was so dark, but her voice was literally able to bring me out of it.”

McKinney released her debut album “Officially Yours” on Friday, October 6th via eOne Music. Watch the music video for the single “Happy” below.

“Bobbi Kristina” screenwriter Rhonda Baraka said that her focus was “to make sure that we stayed true to Krissi.” Baraka, who is a mother herself, also admitted to being moved by Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina’s mother-daughter connection. “I was very intrigued about their bond,” she said.

Keeping it all together were executive producers Tracey Baker-Simmons and Wanda Shelley, who were behind 2005’s “Being Bobby Brown,” Bravo’s first breakout reality show, and “The Houstons: On Our Own,” which ran on Lifetime in 2012 and 2013. “We knew Krissi really since she was about 8 or 9 years old and we knew her as a young, loving and talented, really sweet actually, little girl,” shared Baker-Simmons. “And we really felt like her life story could really serve as a testimony to other young ladies.”

“Bobbi Kristina” airs again on TV One Tuesday, October 10 at 8 pm.

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