THE SECRET SHE KEPT

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP AND GEORGE PRINGLE

So excited to have the opportunity to not only visit the set of The Secret She Kept to speak with this amazing ensemble, but also dial into a Tele-Press Conference with Kyla Pratt, Kelita Smith, Gavin Houston, Vanessa Williams, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Rhonda Baraka, and D’Angela Proctor. The Secret She Kept premieres on Sunday, July, 10 at 7 pm on TV One.

CAST:

Tia Jiles: Kyla Pratt (One on One, Proud Family, Recovery Road)
Virginia Jiles: Kelita Smith (Bernie Mac, Z Nation)
Lance Kingston: Gavin Houston (The Haves and the Have Nots)
Beverly Kingston: Vanessa Williams (Soul Food)

AUTHOR: Reshonda Tate Billingsley
CREATIVE PRODUCER AND SCREENWRITER: Rhonda Baraka
SVP of Original Programming for TV and EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: D’Angela Proctor

ABOUT THE SECRET SHE KEPT:

The Secret She Kept is a book written by award-winning author ReShonda Tate Billingsley that touches on mental health awareness, especially in the Black community.

This is a great film that touches on a subject that the black community does not like to deal with. This film gives a no-barred look at how our community handles the taboo of mental illness. A lot of you are used to Kyla Pratt as the child star but get ready to see Kyla Pratt in a way that you have never seen her before. Amazing job and you will feel every emotion and hopefully this film will spark a conversation in your family.

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KYLA PRATT: “It was difficult playing this role because I was experiencing family mental issues of my own during the time. I wanted to make sure that I gave Tia justice. In terms of mental health, there are lots of things that are overlooked. Maybe there is a deeper rooted problem. Our mental health affects everything in our lives. We as a community tend to brush stuff under the rug and not deal with it. I loved being a part of something that will make a difference.”

How Trying Was it to Play Tia: “It was very trying playing Tia. I pulled emotions from being away from my kids and family for the 1st time. Everyday Tia was crying or screaming so it was great to have a cast where we could laugh about things after the scenes.”

Did Your Role on Recovery Road Prepare You for This Role: “Definitely did assist in this role. It upped my confidence as an actress. It allowed me to be free and not worry about being confident about taking on a dramatic role. It helped me be more comfortable and ready for this role. It’s funny the steps that you take to prepare, I needed that role on Recovery Road. If I had gotten this role before Recovery Road I wouldn’t have been ready emotionally to bring everything to this character.”

Final Thoughts: “Deciding to be a part of something like this was challenging at first. But, then I realized that I can be a part of something that people can see. There was a lot of pressure on for this role and this was nothing to play with. So glad this was a short shoot because it was very taxing on my mind, and if it was taxing on my mind and I was just acting, imagine a person that is really going through this.”

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KELITA SMITH: “You want a character and you want a piece that you can care about. This is a great story and I found moments that may not have been written but could give breath to. Virginia was protecting the shame and in protecting the shame you can come off callous. She was loving her daughter the best way she could.”

VANESSA WILLIAMS: “Sometimes trying to stay sane in a lot of insane situations in my life. Kyla’s character was very highly functional but suffered from a mental illness. All of us need a moment on the couch. When trauma strikes you need to get help and lay on the couch. It’s one of those things that is pervasive in our culture and in our community. You need to call on Jesus and get to a doctor.”

Have you Ever Sought Out Help: “Seeking help in the artistic and creative community is more prevalent than in a regular community. A lot of people don’t want to be vulnerable in that area. I always want to play a character that is vulnerable. Looking at your mental landscape I believe is the strongest thing you can do. In therapy, you get a release and you realize that I’m not crazy but this situation is crazy. It would be better to get help or you will become a basket case.”

How Did You Prepare for this Role: “I’ve played moms before and I have my own kids. This subject matter I know about because my family suffers from it. You have to be aware of the signs that you may miss. It was great to be invited onto this project and not have to audition and your previous work can speak for you.”

Are You Still Seeking Therapy: “I am currently not seeking therapy but saw a therapist in my early 20’s. A lot of things can keep you away from therapy, mainly the cost. I was fortunate to be in a program at the time where I could be on a payment plan and not have to pay everything up front. I also saw a therapist when I first got to L.A. to be able to help me deal with all the good things that were happening in my life.”

Final Thoughts: “Looking forward to assisting in keeping this conversation going. Terrie Williams has a book that deals with this issue, and BeBe Moore Campbell’s organization is out there. I am all about being an advocate for our mental health.”

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GAVIN HOUSTON: “You find out what everything means to you when something is challenged. A good friend of mine was going through mental issues while we were filming this and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know much about this subject. It’s easy when you’re sick you go to the hospital, but what do you do in this situation? Then I had to realize that this is an illness as well and needs to be treated as such.”

RESHONDA BILLINGSLEY: “This is a subject that is not discussed in the Black community. There is a stigma for us to always be strong Black women. There is also a lack of Black mental health professionals which makes it a challenge. I wanted to write this. Many of my family members have experienced and are experiencing mental health issues. I wanted to de-stigmatize it.”

What Are the Questions That We Should Ask: “Take a look around, look at your family and friends. It is important to open the eyes of not only those that are suffering from mental illness but also those that surround them so they can be encouraging for them to get help. They will play a role in healing. It is all about educating ourselves. I specifically did not want Lance to leave, we don’t leave people when they have cancer so why leave during a mental illness.”

“They had dated for 2 years and he had no clue that she had a mental illness. It’s important to know who you are with before you marry them. But, also to stay with them after the fact. You have to ask the right questions when you are choosing a mate. We run background checks for jobs why not for a mate.”

Final Thoughts: “It’s so special. As an author, it is a dream come true to have your work on the screen. When I heard Kyla was going to be a part of this I was like PENNY PROUD, then my daughter said go watch Recovery Road and then, I watched one episode and I said she got this. It was as if I had written these characters for each of these actors specifically.”

RHONDA BARAKA: “Reshonda was so generous and so giving to allow me to make changes to her baby. Everything about the film was intentional, down to the lighting and the paint.”

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D’ANGELA PROCTOR: “What we do for a living in television is more important in my opinion than brain surgery. We do heart surgery. We do heart and mind transplants. We’re healers globally. It’s an awesome responsibility. It’s an awesome challenge at the same time. But, we take it on in full force because it has to be done. At this moment, and at this time I am honored to have the awesome responsibility to heal our people through art.”

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Terrie Williams
The Personal Touch
382 Central Park West – 17U
New York, NY 10025
212-316-0305
Email: tmwns@terriewilliams.com
Website: http://www.theterriewilliamsagency.com

BeBe Moore Campbell Organization
NAMI (worldwide organization that offers lots of resources to assist in destroying the stigma and how to get help.)
3803 N. Fairfax Drive
Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203
703-524-7600

Atlanta chapter
http://www.naminorthsideatlanta.org

Georgia Crisis and Access Line:
1-800-715-4225
http://www.mygcal.com

Peer Support “Warm Line”:
1-888-945-1414

NAMI National Helpline (Monday-Friday 10-6)
1-800-950-6264

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