When the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” debuted four years ago, R. Kelly was a free man. The R&B singer’s career has long been dogged by allegations of abusing underage girls, which first surfaced in the early ’90s, but he was one of the most successful hitmakers of that decade and the 2000s. Also during that time, Kelly was briefly jailed and stood trial for 21 counts of child pornography in 2002. He was acquitted in 2008.
Kelly’s run-ins with the justice system damaged her career as an artist, but did not end it. It wasn’t until “Surviving R. Kelly” premiered in early 2019 that public opinion began to shift. The series was greenlit in October 2017 before the initial impact of the #MeToo movement, and was the first programming event of the #MeToo era to give survivors a voice, finally bringing justice from screens to courts of law. The series centers around the stories of black women, an underrepresented group in social justice.
Today, Kelly is serving a 30-year prison sentence in 2022 after pleading guilty to racketeering and sex trafficking charges. Kelly was also convicted of three counts of child pornography for filming the sexual abuse of her then 14-year-old. -year-old goddess daughter. He still faces charges in other jurisdictions.
The third and final installment of “Surviving R. Kelly” centers around the trial that put Kelly behind bars, following the survivors and their families as they prepare to testify in high-profile court cases. New episodes also focus on journalists who covered the trial, as well as other legal and trauma experts.
“At the start of this installment we are in a very different place than when we started this journey four years ago. He’s facing some very serious crimes,” said executive producer Jesse Daniels, who has been involved with “Surviving R. Kelly” since its inception and was actively involved in the development of the groundbreaking series.
In 2017, Daniels read a BuzzFeed article written by Jim Derogatis, who linked a 2000 report in the Chicago Sun-Times that R. Kelly broke the dam, which is widely credited as the first domino to fall in Kelly’s empire. Despite those reports and video evidence, which were at the center of R. Kelly’s 2008 trial, the criminal justice system took decades to catch up with Derogatis’ investigative work and survivors’ accounts. “I remember the story made an impact, but after that, nothing really happened,” Daniels said of the 2017 article. At that time, Daniels spoke to his fellow producers and asked why nothing happened. With that, “Surviving R. Kelly” was born. “It was motivation and inspiration to investigate further,” he says.
And Kelly’s accusers say he kept them as sex slaves, essentially part of a cult, locked in his home without access to their family or the outside world. He would groom young women and men who aspired to be singers and record them while he forced them to perform sexual acts. A six-week trial in 2022 revealed how R. Kelly used employees and intermediaries to lure fans and hopeful singers into sexually abusive and controlling situations, including locking them in rooms without food or giving them access to bathrooms for the day.
During his 2022 federal trial in New York, “surviving R. Kelly” was mentioned 150 times in the courtroom.
In the first installment of “Surviving R. Kelly,” the victims’ parents talk about trying to get their daughters home. But one family is still fighting. Joycelyn Savage was 19 when she met Kelly, and the two were reportedly engaged. Last year, he published a book in which he said that he r. is carrying Kelly’s child, and last month, she posted a photo of the newborn to announce that she welcomed a new baby with inmate R. Kelly, though her attorney denied the claim.
Savage’s parents are featured heavily in “Surviving R. Kelly”, emotionally discussing their struggle to reconnect with their daughter. The final installment also introduces a new anonymous accuser who gives a harrowing account of being drugged and raped by R. Kelly. The episodes reveal that R. Kelly abused young boys and R. Kelly and then-15-year-old Aaliyah offer new details of their widely speculated marriage and annulment.
“Surviving R. Kelly” spoke with executive producer Jesse Daniels diversity About the final installment.
And what kind of impact do you think the docuseries has had on Kelly’s legal case?
When we started talking about survival and family, the world was a very different place. This was pre #MeTo movement [and] Survivors worried that they would not be heard or believed. As they say, howling in the wind. Where we are now in the third part, which is the beginning of a trial where R. Kelly has faced many, many allegations that are linked to our survivors’ complaints. I can’t speak for our survivors, but I believe they finally heard and believed.
No doubt “surviving R. Kelly” had an effect on the charge. But we also have to give a real nod to the journalists who have been following the story for so many years – journalists like Jim DeRogatis who has been on this story for over 30 years, and who attended the trial day after day; It is not an easy task to report. We owe it to them to keep the story alive and give survivors a platform, it’s not just “Survivor R. Kelly”, many people have contributed to it.
At what stage did the producers decide to make the third installment?
After the first part, we said that it was. But as we continue to connect with our survivors, we begin to hear about the stress and toll of preparing for this trial and muster the courage to take the stand. We understand that it’s hard enough for a survivor to tell their story on camera, but to do so again while facing your abuser and his legal team is absolutely terrifying and incredibly brave. We really realized that we had a whole new story to tell here.
Part three has been announced as the final installment, but R. Kelly still faces more charges. Do you have any plans to produce more?
For us, this is it. And. Everything Kelly faces is a minor footnote compared to the New York federal trial and the Illinois federal trial. I’m talking to our survivors and their families today, and many of them are successfully working to turn a page in their personal lives. It was a really tough time for them. Their journey through the trial was incredibly difficult. They feel ready to move on to the next chapter and so do we.
did Do you reach out to R Kelly for an interview?
Legally, we have to. Each season, we reach out with a list of grievances and provide an opportunity to talk about them, whether through written responses or interviews.
It’s obviously a series focused on survivors, but no. Was there a creative interest in having Kelly sit on camera and actually hear from him, and not just as a legal checkpoint?
It is a story that gives survivors a platform to speak, but as producers, we try our best to remain neutral in the storytelling and therefore, we believe in giving a 360-degree look at what has happened in the last 30 years. incredibly important. We certainly do our best to reach out to anyone and everyone involved, be it him or her camp.
You have extensive interviews with the parents of the survivors, and the common thread in this installment is that they all got their daughters back, except Jay.oycelyn’s parents who are in completely different situations. Do you think they had the intention of sitting for an interview?
That’s a good question. At the very beginning of “Surviving R. Kelly,” we had several parents who were still trying to communicate with their daughters, and now, at the beginning of episode three, for the first time, we actually see the parents sitting together in front of the camera, which was Incredibly emotional. Sadly, the Savages were the only family that did not contact their daughter. I can’t say how they are feeling right now, but my heart goes out to their families.
Joycelyn said she fathered R. Kelly’s child, which her attorney denied. I’m not sure if you’ve been in contact with the family, but do you have any more information about that situation?
All I can say is that my heart goes out to them. I can’t comment further on what’s going on there, as I’ve been keeping up with the day-to-day as much as possible.
The New York trial revealed that R. Kelly abused not only women, but young men as well. This installment discusses those allegations and you have an expert who says that R. Kelly’s story spans from sexual abuse to victimization Why was it important to include that?
Our goal was to create a real 360-degree look at what happened on each day of the trial, and this is certainly a large chapter of the trial where the male victims testified. This is certainly something we have heard in the past, but not in the context of this trial. We feel compelled to tell the entire arc of the trial and every detail we can.
This installment goes deep into R. Kelly’s marriage to Aaliyah at age 15. And what part did Aaliyah play in the overall story of Kelly’s abuse?
Aaliyah Jane Doe #1 in New York Federal Trial. That alone speaks volumes. We really tried to tell that story about Aaliyah respectfully, and simply because she was Jane Doe #1 in this trial, there was no moving away from that. I’m paraphrasing here, but in this installment, Jim DeRogatis says that Aaliyah’s name was brought up for the first time in a court of law in one of the biggest scandals in popular music history. I agree with him.
Did you have any concerns about exploiting Aaliyah’s story, since she’s not here to comment on what’s being said about her?
Of course. Each time we had a lot of conversations about how to tell Aaliyah’s story because we really wanted to be respectful of her legacy. But what he went through, we can’t turn our backs on, so his story is brought up again sadly, but now in a court of law, we decided to try really hard to retell what happened in that courtroom. Be concerned about Aaliyah as respectfully as possible.
Something that was revealed in the trial, but not widely reported, was that R. Kelly used the NDA to silence all the women he preyed on, including Aaliyah. You provide more information on R. Kelly’s use of NDAs in this series, which has not been discussed much before.
I’m glad you picked that one. It’s a very important detail, but it’s also a very cool takeaway from the trial.
The series covers the various scaring attempts that the survivors and their families share. In late 2018, a gun threat was called in at the premiere of “Surviving R. Kelly,” which was widely expected at the time to be from a member of R. Kelly’s team trying to shut down the premiere screening. Just this past month, his former manager, Donnell Russell, was sentenced to a year in prison for that firing threat. Did it feel like a full-circle moment that he was sentenced to as this final installment came out?
I don’t feel comfortable speaking to actual complaints, but I can say personally, that night was one of the scariest nights of my life and my biggest concern that night was that it was supposed to be a night to honor our survivors. . , and instead, they were traumatized again.
what Do you hope that viewers will learn from the complexities of surviving sexual abuse by watching it?
We tried to break down how hard it is to leave an abusive situation and then how hard it is to heal from an abusive situation. That conversation, in every single chapter, is one of the most important themes to talk about because we believe the audience at home can learn from it and hopefully, we can start conversations about it at home.