×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Elizabeth Smart on Bringing Her Story to TV: ‘I’m Proud of It, But I Hate It at the Same Time’

Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 and became a national story at the age of 14.

Fifteen years later, Smart is bringing her story to television with two different programming events: “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” a Lifetime movie on which she’s an executive producer, and a two-part documentary special, “Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography,” which will air on both Lifetime and A&E.

“I will say that is the best and worst movie I’ve ever seen,” Smart said Friday on a panel for A+E Networks at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. “It was so well done. It was accurate, but at the same time, part of me will be happy if I never have to see it again. I’m very proud of it, but I hate it at the same time.”

Producing a movie about her life story brought back tough memories from her abduction, but Smart says she was strong enough to engage in the film and biography special because so much time had passed. She hopes that the TV projects will help others learn, and especially help victims of kidnapping and abuse.

“When I came home, I swore myself up and down that I wouldn’t write a book, I wouldn’t do a movie. I wanted it all to disappear, I wanted it all to go away,” Smart recalled. “For years, I felt that way, but little by little, I started to become more involved in advocacy and meeting more survivors and people who were involved in similar things … it’s kind of my world now, and I realized I have an opportunity. I have a unique opportunity to share my story because there are so many survivors out there who struggle every day … they feel like no one understands what they’re going through. … I feel like I need to speak out because I can.”

“While her story has been in the media for so many years, it’s never been told properly,” an executive producer said. “For 15 years, everyone has been telling her story for her.”

“I Am Elizabeth Smart” stars Alana Boden as Smart, and Deirdre Lovejoy and Skeet Ulrich as her abductors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Seeing Ulrich for the first time in full hair and makeup was an eerie experience for Smart, who said he looked just like the man who kidnapped her.

“I was sitting there looking at him going, ‘You look like the devil and you look like the worst human being I know.’ It was a really surreal experience, but I’m really glad I am a part of it,” Smart said. For Ulrich, it’s the most difficult role he’s had to play in his life, and he admits to having nightmares through the entire shoot. Ulrich was given access to all 200 pages of Mitchell’s psych analysis from the time he was on trial, to ensure accuracy in the portrayal.

The room of reporters asked Smart many questions about her experience — everyone’s worst nightmare — and was taken aback by her bravery and courage to be able to speak candidly about her abduction and recovery.

Smart explained that when she first returned home, she immediately wanted to see her friends and go back to her school, but then realized she couldn’t just bounce back to normalcy. Aside from overcoming the horror of being kidnapped, the then-teenager had to adjust to life as a public figure — something she says has never gotten easier.

“I’d go to the grocery store and would have people approach me all the time. I go to Costco now, and what should be 45 minutes, turns into an hour and 20 minutes,” she shares. “That was the hardest part of re-adjusting to life was having everyone feel like they know me and me not knowing anyone … that was my biggest struggle coming home.”

Now happily married and a mother of two, Smart has dedicated her life to helping other survivors and becoming an activist to prevent child abductions. At the end of the panel, she took a moment to urge everyone to turn on their Amber Alert setting on their phones, which has helped save 800 abducted children just this year. (Smart told the audience that every year, half a million children disappear.)

“No child deserved to go through what I went through. No child deserves to be taken, to be raped, to be murdered,” she said.

For Smart, the A+E Networks projects didn’t bring closure to her situation, but she is hopeful they will help inform others.

“For me, closure happened the day that I was rescued. Closure happened the day that they got their sentencing,” she said. “I couldn’t have been involved, I couldn’t have endorsed making a project like this the day after I was rescued. That was something I was all too happy to run away from. Coming back to it now, now I can. It was a process. It was a long and very thought-out decision.

More TV

  • Why Canadian Comedy 'Workin' Moms' is

    Why Canadian Comedy 'Workin' Moms' is Seeking the 'Netflix Effect'

    In terms of accolades, “Workin’ Moms” is at the top of the Canadian food chain. In two-and-a-half seasons the half-hour scripted comedy has garnered an International Emmy nomination, a dozen Canadian Screen Award nominations, and a 20% higher audience retention rate than the average series on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Meanwhile in its 2017 [...]

  • Brooke Shields Eva Longoria

    Brooke Shields, Jade Payton Join CW Pilot 'Glamorous,' Eva Longoria to Direct

    CW’s pilot “Glamorous” has cast two key roles and found its director. Brooke Shields and Jade Payton have been cast in the pilot, while Eva Longoria has come onboard to direct, Variety has learned. The pilot follows a gender non-conforming recent high school graduate who lands the gig of a lifetime interning at a cosmetics company [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett's Bail Set at $100,000, Must Surrender Passport

    UPDATED: A Chicago judge set a $100,000 bond for Jussie Smollett on Thursday, as the “Empire” actor made his first court appearance. Smollett faces one felony count of filing a false police report. Police allege that Smollett staged a Jan. 29 attack, telling detectives that he was accosted by two men who used racial and [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Accuses HBO of

    Michael Jackson Estate Sues HBO for Non-Disparagement Contract Breach

    The estate of Michael Jackson sued HBO on Thursday, accusing the cable channel of violating a non-disparagement clause by agreeing to run “Leaving Neverland,” a documentary accusing Jackson of sexual abuse. The suit seeks to compel HBO to litigate the matter in a public arbitration process, and claims that the estate could be awarded $100 [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Hoax: Robin Roberts Calls

    Robin Roberts Calls Jussie Smollett Hoax a 'Setback For Race Relations'

    A week after her candid interview with Jussie Smollett about the actor’s alleged attack, “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts has reacted to news of Smollett’s arrest. In a turn of events, Smollett was taken into police custody Thursday and is being charged with filing a false police report. “This touches all the buttons,” Roberts said [...]

  • Mindy Kaling Kate Spade

    Mindy Kaling Exits Universal for New Overall Deal at Warner Bros. TV

    Mindy Kaling is departing Universal Television after more than a decade at the studio. The “Mindy Project” creator has signed a new six-year overall deal at Warner Bros. Television. Under the deal, Kaling will develop, write and produce new television projects for all platforms, including broadcast, cable channels, and streaming. According to sources, Kaling stands [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content