TV One’s sensational film When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story is a gripping tale about a young woman whose relationship with a violate man leads her down a path of destruction. With veteran actress Tasha Smith in the director’s chair, and Lil Mama and Lance Gross as Falicia Blakely and her boyfriend-turned-pimp Dino, respectively, When Love Kills will leave you riveted.

At this year’s American Black Film Festival, the film screened ahead of its Labor Day premiere. After the screening, was there to speak with Smith, Lil Mama, Gross and Tami Roman, whose beautiful work brought this heartbreaking true story to life.

EBONY: Tasha, how are you balancing your scheduling between both acting and directing at this point in your career?

Tasha Smith: I would say it’s just scheduling. I’m directing right now an episode of BET’s new show Tales, the episode “99 Problems.”

EBONY: How did you know that Falicia Blakely’s story was the story you needed to tell for your feature film debut?

TS: I was just so moved. Earlier today, somebody asked me what I would say to Falicia if I had the chance to speak to her. I would just say, “I forgive you, God forgives you, and now you have to forgive yourself.” There are so many young girls out there who have a story, and I just wanted to bring some compassion to it. So, that’s why it touched me, and I thought I would just do it some justice.

EBONY: Have you ever been Falicia? Have you ever been that girl?

TS: I have been that girl in some elements. I used to be a stripper; I have been in an abusive relationship before. I haven’t endured or had all of the experiences that Falicia had, but I’ve definitely had some of it.

EBONY: What were the pitfalls for you in directing a feature film?

TS: I don’t know if it’s pitfalls but it’s all a challenge, everything is a challenge. Just making the right decisions and dealing with the script and making the right time. Everything about making a film is challenging; nothing about it is easy. Even when the day goes smoothly, it’s still a challenging day. It is still a challenging experience. But it’s a blessing of an experience that I want over and over again.

Photo Credit: Getty/ Frederick M. Brown
Photo Credit: Getty/ Frederick M. Brown

EBONY: For Lance and Lil Mama, what was the bond that the pair of you had to create in order to trust one another to get through the most difficult scenes of the film?

Lance Gross: A little background: We’ve been friends for awhile now so, that was kind of the roots for us. We were already familiar with each other. But I feel like I got [her] to trust me. Right?

Lil Mama: Yeah. Most definitely.

LG: It was easy just because we had that base.

LM: I agree.

EBONY: Tami, what was the hardest part about playing Stacey for you? She’s a woman who, because of her own issues, has really built up a wall between herself and her daughter.

Tami Roman: I’m so not that. I have two daughters, and I pat myself on the back. I feel like they are my greatest accomplishment, and the only reason I can say that and testify to that is because I put the work in to be a great parent to my children. I feel like Stacey dropped the ball with Falicia, and that’s just the hard truth of it all. I think she was looking for something. I view When Love Kills as the ultimate love story. It’s warped, it’s twisted, it’s dysfunctional, but at the end of the day, it’s everybody’s personal journey toward love. Whatever they might be seeking, Falicia just aways wanted that, but [Stacey] couldn’t give what she didn’t know how to receive herself. So for me, that was the hardest part, to be in the scene and to act like I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. It was like, “Oh, my man is here, I gotta go.” That’s not Tami [Laughing]

LM: It was so funny because in between sconces, Tami was like, “I just want to be there for you.” I was like, “I’m OK.” But to know that I had that support system … . You guys have seen Lance play the good guy in films, and sometimes you see Tami going off on people, but that’s because she’s a very passionate woman. She’s a loyal woman, and when you’re loyal, and you have morals, you’re going to stand for something, you’re going to be confrontational with people who aren’t living under that. Then when you have someone who is as nice and as welcoming as Lance, he’s a gentleman. He’s going to make sure that the women on the set are OK, he’s going to make sure the guys have this code where they can protect us and protect each other. It really felt like a family. We all have a certain chemistry that made us feel comfortable.

EBONY: Why was it important for a female director to be at the head of this film, particularly for you, Lil Mama, because you had to be so vulnerable through the entire process?

LM: It’s funny, the first thing that comes to mind when you ask that is one day on set, and Lance will tell you, I had three scenes where I had to be intimate with male actors, and I was very, very emotional about it. I was talking to Lance, and I was like, “You know, I just feel like a h*e.” [Laughing] Lance was like, “Oh, it’s tough man.” [Laughing] But Tasha, even though she’s a compassionate person, she was like, “This is what you signed up for. You know that right?” Tasha is very straightforward, and she’s gonna tell you like it is. However, she still feels me. She’s still going to be patient to some degree to see where you are coming from. I think that she stands tall on her morals and her values and how she sees acting and the craft. So when you say a “female director,” it’s funny because she’s not really mushy, she’s not a mushy person. That’s what I love about Tasha, because she really challenged me to really jump off the clip.

EBONY: Wonderful, thank you all very much.

TV One’s When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story premieres Labor Day.