Based on R. Franklin James’s Hollis Morgan mystery book series, Lifetime’s new original film Fallen Angels Murder Club: Friends to Die For already has a built-in fanbase going into the April 2nd premiere. “There are a total of six books in the series and one of the things that we were very intentional about was trying to make sure that there were threads and there were dots that were constantly being connected when it came to these mysteries,” Rhonda Baraka said during a TCA press conference. She not only adapted the first novel as a telefilm but also directs and serves as executive producer. Whether you’ve read the books or not, the series promises to be fun as the audience tries to figure out “Whodunit” alongside the characters.
“Hollis has a really good memory and she’s really good at connecting the dots,” Rhonda said of the main character, played by Toni Braxton. “The thing that really intrigued me about her is that she does not quit. Like, she really has this strong sense of right and wrong. She has a strong determination to get to the bottom of anything and everything. She's like a bulldog. She does not let go once she latches on to an idea or she wants to prove her point or solve a crime or solve a mystery… She’s really smart. She’s got good deduction skills and she knows how to match things up from the past to the present and apply them to the mystery that she’s solving.”
Fans of the books can rest assured that the film series will be a faithful adaptation. “The entire world that we've created, the characters that we've created, are all ripped directly from the book,” Rhonda revealed. “Many of the crimes, many of the events are taken from the book. So we really try to stick as closely to the book as possible, but obviously realizing that we're making television and so there are some things that we took some liberties with. And fortunately, the author had a chance to visit the set and meet some of the actors and just kind of see her words come to life. And I'm very happy that she was happy. She was pleased with what we were doing.”
Joining the cast is Kelly Hu, who plays Joelle Wallace. “She doesn’t do any martial arts, which I’m pretty thankful for these days,” Kelly laughed when asked about her experience on the set. “Working with Toni was a blast. I mean, seriously, I have never met a kinder, more generous actress. I have to just tell this story because she’s just so unbelievable. We were on set and there was an extra who was such a huge fan of hers. And in between scenes I went up to her and I said, ‘Oh, there’s a guy over there. He’s a musician. He’s just a big fan of yours.’ And she immediately stood up and said, ‘Where is he? Let me go meet him.’ And she was so amazing.”
“Toni and I met many years ago and I used to help her when she first started out,” Rhonda Baraka revealed about a full-circle moment for her, having once worked in the music industry in media. “I worked with her on doing interviews, so I was like her media trainer. So we had that past. And coming back together all these years later — I won’t say how many, but a few years later — was really nice. And the things that I liked about her then I realized I still liked about her. So it was a pleasure to work with her in a different setting, to flex a different muscle with her, and for us to get to know each other as different people, as grown-ups and grown women who were doing something a little bit different from what we did when we first met.”
The first film in the series, titled Fallen Angels Murder Club: Friends to Die For, premieres tonight at 8/7c on Lifetime.