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Lifetime Greenlights Movie 'Abducted,' Starring Aunjanue Ellis, Keke Palmer, Sherri Shepherd

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 27, 2012 3:58 PM
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Aunjanue Ellis

It could just be that I've only now just started paying close attention, but it seems like Lifetime has been getting quite aggressive in the movie department - especially with regards to films that tell stories about black women.

There's the all-black cast remake of Steel Magnolias, the recent acquisition of Terry McMillan’s A Day Late And A Dollar Short which the network plans to adapt, the Mary J. Blige project which centers on the relationship between Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King called Parallel Lives, and there was Taraji P. Henson In Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story last year.

Has Lifetime ever had this many black-woman-centered movies within such a short period of time, or are they only now starting to realize that there's a market for those stories/films? Fans of the network, school me.

We can add to that list, the following new project that was announced this afternoon.

Here's the press release I received:


Movie Based On Headline-Catching, Dramatic True Story of a Young Woman Reunited With Her Biological Parents 23 Years After She Was Kidnapped To Air Later This Year

NEW YORK, NY (June 27, 2012) – Lifetime has green lit the Original Movie Abducted: The Carlina White Story, starring Aunjanue Ellis (The Help), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), and Emmy® Award winner Sherri Shepherd (30 Rock, The View) in the remarkable true story of Carlina White (Palmer), who after being abducted as an infant from a New York hospital, solved her own kidnapping and reunited with her biological parents 23 years later. Production will commence in Vancouver this week, with the movie slated to air later this year. The case is reported to be the first known infant abduction from a New York hospital.

In August of 1987, new parents Joy White (Shepherd) and Carl Tyson (Roger Cross, 24) took their 19-day old daughter Carlina to Harlem Hospital in New York with a high fever. Ann Pettway (Ellis), who had suffered a series of miscarriages and was desperate for a child of her own, posed as a hospital nurse and befriended Carlina’s parents, even offering to watch over their daughter. But shortly after Carlina was admitted, Pettway removed the child’s IV line, placed her in an oversized handbag, and walked out of the hospital with Carlina hidden from view. While Joy and Carl desperately searched for their daughter over the years, Pettway was raising Carlina as Nejdra “Netty” Nance in Bridgeport, Connecticut – a mere 45 miles from New York City. As Carlina grew older she began to suspect Pettway was not her birth mother and launched her own investigation. After contacting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Carlina was reunited with her biological parents in January 2011.

Abducted: The Carlina White Story will be produced by Pilgrim Studios (Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial In Italy), with Emmy Award winner Craig Piligian serving as executive producer. Mary Martin and Alan Gasmer also are executive producers. Emmy Award nominated actor/director Vondie Curtis Hall (Chicago Hope, ER) is directing the film, which was written by Elizabeth Hunter (Jumping the Broom, Sins of The Mother).

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  • julia | September 28, 2012 11:19 AMReply

    I love Aunjanue Ellis, She worked hard in school which was south pike in Magnolia Ms. I'm so happy she's getting oppurtunities to show what she can really do. Thank you

  • Donella | June 28, 2012 9:48 PMReply

    Always like Anjuane's work. She's sort of under the radar, but always delivers. First saw her in an independent film about four NY girls (one who commits suicide) that came out about the same time Kerry Washington did Our Song.

  • Orville | June 27, 2012 11:28 PMReply

    I think it is good didn't Taraji get an Emmy award nomination for her strong performance in Taken From Me? I think it is good that Lifetime is focusing on black women this means black actresses can get quality work. The great thing about television is it is a medium where black women can now be the leads and not just the sidekick of the white woman or her best friend. Glad to see Lifetime realizes there is an audience interested in the black female experience.

  • Mr. Dawber | June 28, 2012 4:19 PM

    Yep, Taraji was nominated.

  • LeonRaymond | June 27, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    The real deal is TAMBAY, take a look at who is the head of LIFETIME and you will see some names that are more conducive to make Black films happen. And I thought one of the execs was a former OWN executive. Who is now a strong player at LIFETIME. This is not a fad but that group of producers and such exerting their ideas and flexing!!!

  • Akimbo | June 27, 2012 4:41 PMReply

    Last month, the network debuted an original movie, Murder on the 13th Floor starring Tessa Thompson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tanisha Lynn, and Terrell Ransom Jr. It was like a futuristic Panic Room. Honestly, between 1-800 Missing, Strong Medicine, The Division, and Rita Rocks (off the top of my head) the network is no stranger to brown faces.

  • Critical Acclaim | June 27, 2012 4:18 PMReply

    smart. imagine if they started giving black female directors the chance to do stuff like ava, dee, victoria mahoney, whoever else. lifetime is still for women right? it would make sense if they are trying to start making more black movies to have our women make them. arron is right. they could have a good foothole if they do it right.

  • Arron Day | June 27, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    Well if Oprah and BET aren't going to...

  • Ghost | June 27, 2012 9:33 PM

    Yes both of them could take notes. I mean between Lifetime and Disney-it seems every black film they do gets high ratings for the day, week, month or is among the top rated ones-for the year or all time. Sooner or later we might see other networks do the same and give BET a run.

  • Donella | June 27, 2012 6:56 PM

    Oprah could learn a little something from this.

  • Vanessa | June 27, 2012 4:03 PMReply

    No, Lifetime has not always been like this. If you recall in 2010, Lifetime premiered their original 'Sins of The Mother' with Jill Scott and Nicole Beharie. They were taking a risk with this one. But gladly, that film was the second most watched film in the network behind their highest rated film "The Natalee Halloway story." So, they figured there's a market and there is..

  • misha | June 28, 2012 12:25 AM

    Ok, Vanessa. Not sure if I agree with your theory but I respect your insight. :)

  • Vanessa | June 27, 2012 8:46 PM

    I'm not arguing with you Miss Misha. I've never been an avid Lifetime watcher myself. But ever since that success, there's many more films with Black casts than previously. They're no longer spread out by a couple of years. Maybe it wasn't "risky," but if SOTM wouldn't have been that successful, I don't think we'd be seeing so many. Just my theory.

  • misha | June 27, 2012 8:40 PM

    Oh, Vanessa...there is no denying the success of SOTM. Just saying that it wasn't really a risk for Lifetime, considering that the network had found success marketing to and telling stories about black women in previous years.

  • Vanessa | June 27, 2012 8:21 PM

    From Lifetime Network's press release on 2-22-10:

    Building on its record-breaking year in 2009, Lifetime Movie Network continued to generate strong ratings with the premiere of its original movie Sins of the Mother last night. The film, starring famed R&B singer and actress Jill Scott, delivered a 1.0 among Women 18-34, 1.7 rating in Women 18-49, 2.0 in Women 25-54 and 2.3 in Women 18+, making it the second highest rated original movie in the key women demos in the network's 12 year history (behind the April 19, 2009, debut of Natalee Holloway). Sins of the Mother, which secured a 2.5 Household rating, also became Lifetime Movie Network's second most watched original movie ever in Women 18-34 (225,216), Women 18-49 (737,017), Women 25-54 (867,973), Women 18+ (1,813,163), Adults 18-34 (280,050), Adults 18-49 (944,461), Adults 25-54 (1,119,517), Households (1,902,170) and Total Viewers (2,647,388).

    2009 was the most watched year in Lifetime Movie Network's history in both Total Day and Primetime across Households, Total Viewers, Women 18-49, Women 25-54, Women 18+, Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49, Adults 25-54 and Adults 18+. Additionally, it was the network's highest rated year ever in Primetime among Households, Total Viewers and Adults 18+. Lifetime Movie Network began 2010 with the most watched week ever in its history, averaging the most Total Day viewers ever in the key demographics.

  • Vanessa | June 27, 2012 8:12 PM

    That's true Misha. I just feel like right after the success of Sins of The Mother, all these films started coming up on the regular.

  • misha | June 27, 2012 8:10 PM

    Typo. Should read: "so Lifetime's been at this for at least a decade."

  • misha | June 27, 2012 8:07 PM

    Well Vanessa, let's also remember that a few years before that, Lifetime premiered The Fantasia Barrino Story, which I believe at the time, was the 2nd most watched movie in the network's history. And a few years before that, the network premiered 1-800- Missing, starring Vivica Fox, so Lifetime's been at this for at least decade. Props to them for recognizing that black women love them some Lifetime, lol.

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