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Lifetime's Wendy Williams: The Movieperfectly captures the daytime talk show host in all her messy glory

  • "Wendy Williams is a showbiz scholar who studied tabloids as though they were canon," says Rich Juzwiak. "To the talk show host, 'entertaining' and 'salacious' are practically synonymous, and this sensibility makes her the most multivalent of celebrity journalists. At her best, she has made it impossible to stop listening or watching even when her audience feels like they would rather not, and she’s kept interview subjects engaged even when they’d clearly rather be anywhere but in her interrogation chair. She’s credited Howard Stern as an influence, and that’s apparent in her unflinching style, but she also has Joan Rivers’s gift of saying odious shit and getting away with it unscathed. er kamikaze charm goes practically undefined in two upcoming Lifetime productions about her life, the fictionalized biopic Wendy Williams: The Movie and a documentary called Wendy Williams: What a Mess. In both, Williams just is, and she just is fascinating. Given her badgering of stars for the 35 years she’s been in the business, anything less than putting herself through the ringer would be practically hypocritical. Luckily, What a Mess does just that and then some. It frequently resembles a therapy session, as Williams sits feet up on her couch in her Manhattan apartment in one recurring interview setup and purges her feelings about her recent split from her husband of 22 years, Kevin Hunter."


    • Wendy Williams: The Movie is a bona fide masterpiece: "It is important that you understand that this is not snark and I am absolutely serious—and am therefore emboldened to channel the Queen of Dirt and gossip and mention all the behind-the-scenes drama behind the making of this piece of writing," says Kevin Fallon. "The real lesson I took from watching the Lifetime film is, for however much we appreciate and exalt Wendy Williams right now, we’re not doing it enough. Salacious, unfiltered, brazen, spiteful, unbothered, authentic, shrewd, luminous, hilarious, domineering, selfish, successful: It all amounts to an irresistible charisma that seems effortless. It’s been crafted over decades in the public eye, first during Williams’ time as a trailblazing antagonizer and now in what might as well be seen as essential worker capacity: a person who distracts, diverts, and makes us feel good in the midst of dark times. There’s been an undeniable appeal to Williams’ persona throughout her entire career; that’s how she built her empire. But this Lifetime double-bill victory lap, timed after weathering personal tumult and damning tabloid controversy—on the receiving end of what she’s famed for dishing out—is a well-timed celebration."
    • Ciera Payton found portraying Williams to be intimidating: "It was very intimidating (portraying Wendy), Payton said. “In general as an actor, you do the prep and you get all into the character and you create this world. (But) it’s all a very vulnerable experience.”
    • Williams says she's never met Payton in person: "I had to make sure that the person playing me had my mannerisms, my tics, the wiggles, the teetering, the cadence that I speak with," she says. "She’s an actress, a real live actress, so she picked it up fast and we had each other’s private phone numbers. So we talked as girlfriends and I can’t wait to meet her when she comes on the actual talk show. This is a lifetime friendship that will never end."

    TOPICS: Wendy Williams: The Movie, Lifetime, The Wendy Williams Show, Wendy Williams: What a Mess, Ciera Payton, Wendy Williams