dream hampton Interview: ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ director
When asked about R. Kelly’s recent interview with Gayle King, “Surviving R. Kelly” showrunner, dream hampton (purposefully stylized in lowercase) says it “was like a shadow of watching Brett Kavanaugh’s performance on the Hill,” referencing last year’s confirmation hearings for the now-Supreme Court justice. While both of those displays of public outrage disturbed hampton, she also believed that if Kelly (and Kavanaugh, for that matter) had acknowledged his own faults and took the time to get the proper health, he could have destroyed the effect of the documentary. In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), she adds, “He probably would have undone all the work that our team just did with ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ and I promise you all his fans and haters would have been giving him good will had he chosen that route instead of the performance that he gave.”
“Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime back in January to both high viewership and critical praise. It detailed the long history of questionable behavior by the R&B superstar with teenage women. Beyond his marriage to Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27 and his 2008 acquittal on 14 counts of child pornography, the documentary also focused on several women, including his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly, and their accounts of how Kelly abused them physically, emotionally and sexually. Since the documentary’s airing Kelly is now facing 10 new charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, he’s been dropped from RCA Records and his music was pulled from many urban contemporary radio stations.
While hampton readily acknowledges the work of journalists, particularly Jim DeRogatis of Buzzfeed, for keeping R. Kelly’s actions in the public consciousness, she is very mindful of the fact that we, as Americans, have a short memory in general. This was really brought into focus when reading an article that printed over 200 names of men who had lost their careers or reputations due to #MeToo and Kelly was nowhere on that list. “It seemed wild that someone so egregious, so flagrant and so to the left of so many of the men on that list wouldn’t even be in that conversation. When the team approached me to helm the project, I thought it was time for his reckoning; that we deal with this story and these allegations.”
At this year’s Emmys the program is nominated for Best Informational Series or Special. The news of receiving an Emmy nomination is usually something that makes one jump for joy but hampton’s reaction was much more subdued. “I wish I could say I was in a more celebratory mood but I wasn’t. It’s a dark piece about a heavy, heavy topic that’s still in play and still ongoing,” she says. She adds that while she’s never been nominated before, “I know how hard the whole team worked to make this project so it’s amazing to be recognized, but I can’t tell you about some 5:00 a.m. phone call where I jump up and down on my bed.”