‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ EPs On Finding The Ethical Line And Using Documentary As A “Catalyst For Change” – Contenders TV: Doc + Unscripted

‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ EPs On Finding The Ethical Line And Using Documentary As A “Catalyst For Change” – Contenders TV: Doc + Unscripted

The crew of Lifetime’s Where Is Wendy Williams? set out to document the TV personality’s comeback after losing her talk show and disappearing from the public eye.

The results of the series actually are quite different. Instead of chronicling Williams as she reclaimed her legacy, the team pulled back the curtain on what had been going on in Williams’ life since she was placed under financial guardianship.

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“It really wasn’t until we got into filming and saw the reality of the situation that we were aware that there was something deeper and, ultimately, disturbing, going on in Wendy’s life,” executive producer Mark Ford said during the series’ panel at Deadline’s Contenders TV: Documentary + Unscripted event.

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Since filming, Williams has been receiving treatment for “cognitive issues” at a wellness center, according to her family. Her reps said in February that the ex-host has primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. A clip shown during the panel details a conversation between Williams and her niece Alex, who is trying to explain to her aunt that there may be people on her team trying to take advantage of her.

Speaking of the clip, executive producer Erica Hanson said: “Alex, that day, was deeply concerned. She was so looking forward to seeing Wendy and hadn’t seen her in over a year. And when she arrived at that apartment, she was devastated. … It was a very challenging and sensitive story.”

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Hanson and Ford agreed they had to facilitate ongoing conversations during the filming process to determine how best to tell such a developing story.

Before filming, they had of course gained Williams’ signoff on the whole affair, but as their project continued, it became clear that Williams’ consent simply was not enough to ensure that the documentary was being ethically produced.

“We had conversations pretty much every day about what we were going to film, what we were not going to film and how transparent, honestly, we wanted to be in how we filmed it,” Ford said. “That’s why you hear a lot of our voices. And you hear our questions. You hear our process as filmmakers, asking management, asking Wendy, asking those around her, ‘What what’s going on here? What’s really going on?’ Because we were trying and struggling to understand the truth of the situation.”

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A large part of Williams’ story involves the financial guardianship she was placed under nearly two years ago, which gives her little autonomy over her own finances. It has kept her family distanced from her as well.

Hanson and Ford said that filming Where Is Wendy Williams? has made them more interested in asking questions about conservatorships and the way they operate — which might be a story to be told unto itself.

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“I really do hope that this film becomes a catalyst for change, whether it’s for Wendy or for others, or at least to pull back the curtain and try to understand more how the system works and doesn’t and how it can impact thousands of people,” Hanson said.

Check out the panel video above.

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