Vivica A. Fox Talks Directorial Debut, Her Most Challenging Role, And Which Of Her Classic Films She Wished She Directed

Her film, ‘First Lady Of BMF: The Tonesa Welch Story,’ streams on BET+ on October 5.

Vivica A. Fox is a household name in front of the camera. Still, it looks like the seasoned actress is testing her skill sets behind the lens as she is set to make her directorial debut for the BET+ biopic film First Lady Of BMF: The Tonesa Welch Story, which details the wild ​​true-life story of Tonesa Welch, “a middle-class woman, raised in 1980s Detroit, who becomes seduced by the limelight and adventure of being in the drug game,” according to the synopsis.

“Tonesa meets H, an older, sophisticated head of a drug organization who gives her a taste of the good life. But when H gets locked up, Tonesa forges a new path with a young, trusted confidante (Southwest T). Together, they build a notorious drug empire that puts Tonesa on a path of crime, drugs, infidelity, deception, and redemption.”

Welch, Fox, and executive producer Tressa Smallwood chat with about the hardest parts to film for the series, the importance of including the struggles of job employment after imprisonment, and which one of Fox’s movies she would’ve loved to have directed. What was the hardest part of filming the project, and is there a part you wish was in the film?

Welch: The hardest part for me was filming the domestic violence scenes and watching the violence unfold. A part of my story I wish was included was adding more to the courtroom scene – when I was sentenced, the judge gave me 57 months and hit the gavel, making me feel like it would be 57 years. My mom had walked up to the judge and asked the judge if she could do my sentence for me.

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Fox: A mother’s love. For your directorial debut, you did a great job. What was the best part of directing the film? Is there a film you wish you could’ve directed and why?

Fox: Whew, this is a good and loaded question, Ty. The best part of this was watching my actors perform, Tobias Truvillion would come in, know his lines, and would have moments for me to see. Sometimes, I would forget to say cut because, as an actor, I was enamored with his acting and the different moments he found for us while doing it quickly. We shot this film in 14 days. Also, watching the legendary Leon perform was great – my cast was amazing. If I could direct any of my movies, it would be Two Can Play That Game. I love me some Chante and I would’ve done the thing because it’s such a classic. I couldn’t have done Set It Up because playing Frankie while directing would’ve been too much for me [laughs]. Why was it important to include the struggles of former prisoners finding jobs once released from prison, and what’s one thing you would like to see implemented to assist them in finding work?

Smallwood: It was important because when Tonesa shared the story of when she got out of prison, we said this is what people are going through now. Tonesa is now going into the prisons and implementing programs to put in place to change that. While this is a biopic and we want people to learn something from it, we also want to have people think about what we can do as next steps after watching this film. The message is that no matter where you are in life or what you've been through, you can change and seek help – you can seek redemption. Tonesa is showing other women with her programs now what they can do when they get out of prison, help them, and lead that change. Vivica mentioned in the Sherri series that Tonesa’s character on BMF has been portrayed inaccurately. Can you share some of the inaccuracies in the series that you cleaned up in the film?

Welch: One of the inaccuracies is how the series says Southwest T was still in high school when we got together, and I was still with my husband, which is inaccurate. I had an uncle who asked me about this, and people in my DMs calling me a pedophile, and it wasn’t accurate – it touched my soul because that didn’t happen. Also, I was just a girlfriend I was a very intricate part of the business. I didn’t like how I was portrayed as a girl chasing this man around, cheating behind my husband – I knew it wasn’t accurate. It makes me think, would you have done that if I were a man? I worked hard to be the woman I am today, and while we understand there will be some highlights and fabrications, they stretched it too far.

Fox: I remember when we first began our meetings – the main goal was to tell Tonesa’s story and have a look and feel down pact and make it as accurate as possible. We understand they used their political license, but it was important to everyone involved to make sure we did the film as accurately as possible. In stories, sometimes they take different licenses and create their versions. Out of all the films you’ve participated in, which film challenged you the most as an actress and why?

Fox: Why Do Fools Fall In Love? challenged me the most because we had to wear prosthetics. My character aged in the film, but kissing [Larenz Tate] wasn't a challenge. The scenes where his character killed my dog or the the scene with no dialogue between [Halle Berry] and I which is now a classic scene. As an actress, it was my most challenging role.

You can stream First Lady Of BMF: The Tonesa Welch Story on October 5th on BET+.

Ty Cole is an LA-based entertainment reporter and writer for who covers all things pop culture, entertainment, and lifestyle. Follow his latest musings on Twitter @IamTyCole.

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