Vivica A. Fox’s directorial debut aims to set a record straight

CNN/ Newswire | 10/23/2023, 2:50 p.m.
The subject of Vivica Fox’s new project is grateful for her. Tonesa Welch’s story is told in the new BET+ ...
Vivica A. Fox in June. Mandatory Credit: Jason Mendez/Getty Images

Originally Published: 20 OCT 23 12:14 ET

By Lisa Respers France, CNN

(CNN) — The subject of Vivica Fox’s new project is grateful for her.

Tonesa Welch’s story is told in the new BET+ original movie, “First Lady of BMF.” She hailed Fox, who makes her feature-length directorial debut with the project.

“I think that by her being a woman director, it just brought so much,” Welch told CNN. “I mean, she understood the story.”

“BMF” stands for “Black Mafia Family,” a criminal enterprise formed in Detroit in the 1980s. Founded by brothers Demetrius “Meech” Flenory and Terry “Southwest Tee” Flenory, Welch was the longtime love of Terry Flenory and found herself involved in their illegal activities.

The BMF story is well known, thanks to both a Starz fictional series and docuseries about their rise and fall.

But Fox felt Welch’s story had not yet been truly told.

“When I found out how inaccurately she was portrayed on [other] series, that was a driving force,” Fox said.

Fox collaborated on “First Lady of BMF” with Welch and executive producer Tressa Smallwood, the latter of who Fox has worked with before.

Smallwood told CNN Fox has “so many skill sets that contribute to the success of any project.”

“Her work ethic is incredible,” Smallwood said. “Nobody can outwork her in the industry.”

The film was shot on location in only 14 days, a tight timeline given that Fox wanted to stay true to the details of the different eras the film portrays.

“We really had to make sure that we did that accurately because we didn’t want anyone walking away saying ‘Nah, that isn’t how it was. I don’t know if I, I don’t believe this,’” Fox said. “No shortcuts were taken here from the amount of showing the love story to then the redemption and showing the violence.”

“There was a lot of different wonderful elements that we had to tackle and we did. I just thank my amazing cast for coming in and leaving their egos at the door and my crew for working so very hard,” she added.

“First Lady of BMF: The Tonesa Welch” is streaming on BET+