Wendy Williams doc producers say it was ‘a delicate balance’ to know when to stop filming

Executive producers Mark Ford and Erica Hanson talk about the new Lifetime doc.

The producers of “Where Is Wendy Williams?” talk about filming the TV host before production was shut down and she entered a treatment facility. It’s since been made public that she has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and aphasia. (Calvin Gayle)

The producers of the Where Is Wendy Williams? documentary set out to tell a very different story.

Mark Ford and Erica Hanson are the executive producers of Wendy Williams’s 2019 Lifetime documentary, Wendy Williams: What a Mess!, and their goal with the second documentary — filmed from August 2022 until production was halted in April 2023 — was to pick up where they left off.

Ford tells Yahoo Entertainment: The intention was to “follow her honest journey reclaiming her career, overcoming her divorce and getting her life together. But gradually, as the story revealed itself to us, it became apparent there was a deeper story here that we as filmmakers had to tell.”

Wendy Williams Queen of Media

Viewers watched it over the weekend and were alarmed. The “Queen of Media,” with her hot takes on celebrity gossip delivered from her purple throne, was in the throes of addiction. She was living alone with inadequate care. She was confused and nonsensical. The guardianship she was under, as well as her team, had seemingly failed her. We now know — announced in a press release by the guardian just before the documentary aired — that Williams has primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). She’s been in a treatment facility since April.


“If we had known of her diagnosis before the film started, no one would have rolled a camera,” Ford says amid backlash that Williams was exploited. “We were on a journey to discover the truth of: What was going on with Wendy,” who in the year prior abandoned her hit talk show, was put into a guardianship over her finances and well-being and was photographed in public wearing her bathrobe.

Do you want to be around?

Ford says it was “a gradual process” during filming Williams’s behavior becoming “more erratic” and she was isolated in her apartment. That’s when they brought in her family — including Williams’s son (Kevin Hunter Jr.), sister (Wanda Finnie), father (Thomas Williams), brother (Tommy Williams) and niece (Alex Finnie) — asking them, “What’s really going on here? Why aren’t you guys around? Do you want to be around? Why is she alone in this apartment [with] access to alcohol? Why aren’t there caregivers helping on a daily basis? Why isn’t there food in her refrigerator?”

Over time, they reached the realization, “There was something wrong with Wendy that was more than alcohol,” Ford says.

Hanson was there for the day-to-day filming with Williams. She’s heard speaking to the star in the documentary at times as things unraveled.

“It was a very complex and sensitive story to tell,” Hanson says. “It was a delicate balance to know: When should we stop filming?”

Those moments — like the vape scene, a seemingly innocuous shoot during which Williams spun out and they halted production — started happening on a daily basis.

“We really wanted to shed light on what was happening during this period of her life when she wasn’t with her family, when she was in New York,” Hanson explains. “The isolation she was in. The loneliness she was going through. Her struggles with addiction. We actually became concerned: What would have happened if we weren’t there.

Could she have fallen down the staircase? By the end, we pressed Will [Selby, Williams’s manager], who was our conduit to the guardian, and she did get into a facility, thanks to the guardian. But it was harrowing at times to see what she was up against. We wanted to tell it in the most thoughtful way we could, but to be honest — and sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.”


Ford says that “there’s many versions of this documentary that never would have seen the light of day” had there not been what he calls a “hopeful” ending, which saw Williams be put into care and her family members have the opportunity to raise questions about the guardianship.

“Just to be very clear, this entire chapter that we documented of Wendy in the film, she was under a legal guardianship, which is court-appointed and supposed to be entrusted with her both financial and medical well-being,” Ford says. “People can watch the film and decide for themselves if that was an appropriate level of care.”

Hanson hopes the documentary raises questions about how a guardianship works “or doesn’t work.” In this case, Williams’s family members have said they’ve been prevented from seeing and calling her. They were kept in the dark about her diagnosis.

“How is it that a son can’t call a mother?” Hanson asks. “It’s been how many months? It’s really hard to understand that, so I hope that we were able to raise some really important questions through the family by sharing their experience and concerns.”

The guardian filed a lawsuit against A&E Network, the parent company of Lifetime, on Feb. 22 to halt the documentary from airing in a two-night event. While Ford said they’re “not privy to the ins and outs of the lawsuit,” he did point to the temporary restraining order being successfully fought on the grounds of the First Amendment. They “couldn’t restrict the documentary from being released and Wendy’s and her family’s voice and their right to speak out.”

As for their hopes for Williams now that her story and diagnosis are out, they hope that she gets the care she needs. (Williams’s brother said Wednesday that the family is trying to get her out of the treatment facility to care for her themselves.)

“If I were able to speak to her, I just would like to hear her voice,” Hanson says. “Even in the film, at the very end when she calls and you just hear a glimmer of her voice on the other end, she sounds different, even to me. She sounds stronger. And I just would love to know that she’s in a better, stronger place and getting the right treatment.”

Ford adds his own message to Williams, saying, “I hope you are getting the rest and care you need. We know the documentary is not easy to watch, but I hope you are feeling the love your millions of fans are sharing with you at this difficult time.”

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