×

‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Producers on the Lifetime Doc’s Ripple Effect

The ripple effect of “Surviving R. Kelly” continues to widen more than a week after the documentary aired on Lifetime, renewing public interest — and outrage — over the litany of sexual abuse allegations against the R&B artist.

Lady Gaga and Phoenix have apologized for working with him. Chance the Rapper and other artists are said to be pulling their musical collaborations from streaming platforms. More accusers have reportedly stepped forward.

“The feedback has just been remarkable and completely unexpected that it’s sort of become as big as it has,” said Lifetime’s Brie Miranda Bryant, an executive producer and the network’s senior VP of unscripted development and programming. “(It’s) certainly transcended the doc itself.”

The six-part series brought in an average of 2.1 million total viewers in the live-plus-same-day figures, high ratings for Lifetime. But its impact goes beyond the numbers.

Jesse Daniels, another executive producer of the documentary, said that since the series aired, there’s been an increase in callers reaching out to abuse helplines. Calls to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline spiked 20% following the airing of the documentary, according to NBC News.

The national dialogue that it has ignited likely wouldn’t have happened without the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, indicated Bryant, calling post-documentary talk the “next step” of an “inclusive conversation” that crosses gender lines.

“It’s men and women talking about sexual violence in general and talking about how they talk to each other and how they talk to their kids and how kids are talking to kids,” she told Variety. “When you have the privilege to make content that impacts culture, it really can only do so organically, and the hard work of this documentary was a trigger for those conversations, so again, just a privilege for us.”

And perhaps most significantly, the documentary appears to have spurred a wave of potential legal action against Kelly. A criminal investigation examining the allegations has reportedly been opened in Georgia. In Illinois, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has publicly asked for victims to speak up.

Prosecutors have not reached out to Lifetime, to Bryant’s knowledge.

When asked if they had expected “Surviving R. Kelly” to provoke legal proceedings, Bryant said, “I don’t think that was ever our intention in going into it. I think where we always have been, and where we remain, is how do we provide the proper platform for these women to be heard? And so that’s still the direction that we’ll always look, from Lifetime’s standpoint.”

There currently are no plans to produce a follow-up to the well-received documentary.

“I think we’re just processing what’s just happened and the conversation that it’s sparked, and that’s kind of where we are at the moment,” she said.

More Music

  • Radiohead - Thom YorkeRadiohead in concert

    Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to Release Solo Album Accompanied by Paul Thomas Anderson Film

    Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s new solo studio album, “Anima,” will be released digitally on June 27 on XL Recordings, he announced today. The album’s digital release will be accompanied by a “one-reeler,” also entitled “Anima,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood”) and set to three tracks from the new [...]

  • Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks

    Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks Legacy and Lifetime Achievement Award

    In its early days, Sub Pop seemed like one of the last record companies on earth that would survive, let alone remain vital, for more than 30 years. They brought Nirvana and Soundgarden to the world, but seemed destined to be forever typecast as the ground zero of grunge, a rock genre that shook the [...]

  • Arnaud de Puyfontaine

    Universal Music Fire Scandal Is 'Just Noise,' Says Vivendi's Arnaud de Puyfontaine

    Backing up comments made yesterday by Yannick Bolloré, CEO of Havas and chairman of Vivendi, Universal Music Group’s corporate parent, Vivendi CEO and chairman of the management board Arnaud de Puyfontaine tells Variety the sale of 50% of the world’s largest music company is moving along as planned and that the recent controversy surrounding a [...]

  • Philippe Zdar

    Cassius Co-Founder Philippe 'Zdar' Cerboneschi Dies in Accidental Fall

    Philippe “Zdar” Cerboneschi, one of the two members of the iconic electro band Cassius, died in Paris on Wednesday, according to his agent. He was 50. The Grammy-winning Cerboneschi “made an accidental fall through the window of a high floor of a Parisian building,” the BBC quoted Cerboneschi’s agent as saying. News of his death [...]

  • Jim Gosnell

    APA Claims Texts Were Fabricated in Lurid Sex Harassment Suit

    A former assistant at APA filed a lurid sexual harassment complaint on Wednesday alleging that a partner at the firm sent her graphic text messages and threatened to have her fired when she refused his advances. The assistant, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe, alleges that top management fostered a “toxic, pervasive and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content