Veteran media personality Wendy Williams brings her epic life journey to TV screens with her new project, “Wendy Williams: The Movie,” premiering on Lifetime Jan. 30. But she doesn’t stop there. Williams follows the movie with a feature-length documentary where she speaks directly to the camera about her life — from celebrity feuds to her marriage to her childhood and traumas she’s never before revealed.
In the movie, Ciera Payton takes on the role of the iconic talk show host opposite Morroco Omari, who plays Williams’ ex-husband Kevin Hunter. Payton dished on what it was like to play the role, including the scenes that were hardest to film. “It’s just so layered. From the miscarriages to the relationship to the drug use — none of it was easy at all to film and to live and step into,” Payton said.
She recalled filming some of the drug scenes as being particularly challenging and chilling due to experiencing her own father’s struggle with substance abuse while growing up. “I always had a lot of compassion and empathy for my father and people who have gone through that, but I also had my judgments around it too as we all do,” Payton admitted. “So to live in a character’s shoes and to also live in Wendy Williams’ shoes doing that stuff, it kind of filled in a lot of questions around it for me personally.”
Omari cites a scene where a doctor tells Williams her baby was stillborn as one of the most difficult to film. “That was a heavy day,” remembers Omari. “To live in that and to get that news. And we had to do that take over and over again,” he said, adding that at the end of filming that day, he had to sit and decompress.
Another tricky aspect of filming was portraying the tumultuous relationship between Williams and her now ex husband Kevin Hunter. “One of the big things that we spoke about with this relationship is that without a doubt there had to be some love there at the beginning at least,” Payton said. Williams and Hunter had their relationship sour very publicly amid infidelity allegations, ultimately ending in divorce in 2019. “We just wanted to be really respectful and mindful of the fact that these are two people,” Payton said. “I was just basically trying to tell the truth and show this love story and not have any judgment of this character like ‘Oh I’m playing the bad guy,’ ” Omari added.
The double feature comes to Lifetime on Jan. 30.