Regina Kelly is real the woman behind the film American Violet. She answered some questions about what it’s like to have a film made of your life.
Women & Hollywood: How did the film get the title American Violet?
Regina Kelly: It started off as American Inquisition. But there is a violet in the film that starts out shiny and bright which represented how my life was before the drug raid and then when I am in jail it the violet looks dead, but I am able to bring it back to life and it shows I am getting my spunk back and how life goes on after all the struggles.
W&H: Your story is incredibly impressive. How did it get made into a movie and is the movie close to your experience?
RK: The film is 98% accurate.
W&H: How does it feel to have a movie about your life?
RK: It’s so overwhelming. Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would be going through this. My main thing is to get the message out there that even though it is my story these are issues that people around the world go through on a daily basis.
W&H: And the message is?
RK: The war on drugs is really the war on minorities and it’s killing us, disrupting homes and taking children away from their parents. We need to start holding people accountable for ruining other people’s lives. If it could happen to me it could happen to anybody. We have to do something to change these laws because it is making it easy for DA’s to ruin our lives.
W&H: He’s still the DA? How is that possible?
RK: Yes, he’s been running unopposed and no one will run against him because they are afraid.
W&H: This is a man who clearly violated your civil rights, he lost the case, you got a settlement and people still did not vote him out of office?
RK: They did not vote him out. Some vote but the majority will not vote and no one will run against him.
W&H: This seems like a great film for Michelle Obama to get involved with.
RK: That is our goal. Barack Obama has given a billion dollars in the stimulus package to support the war on drugs. He needs to be made aware what this money will do. It will do further harm. We can do other things with a billion dollars besides waste it on the war on drugs.
W&H: I learned from the movie that the more convictions they get the more money they get.
RK: Yes, that has to change.
W&H: How did they approach you to make the movie?
RK: I got a call from Graham at the ACLU. I didn’t think it was going to be a movie. I thought it was going to be a documentary. Bill (Haney, the writer and producer) came to the house and took some photos and they produced a piece on the war on drugs. I thought that was it. Two years later I got a call saying they needed me to come to the New Orleans set. That’s when I found out about the movie.
W&H: What do you think of Nicole Beharie’s performance? (the actress who plays you in the film)
RK: She is amazing. They could have easily cast a famous actress. I honestly don’t feel they could have done it justice like Nicole did. She is so great. She was so nervous about playing me and I had to make her understand she did a terrific job.
W&H: What do you want someone to walk out of the movie thinking?
RK: That no matter how hard things get in life never ever bend your morals. Stand up for what you think is right for yourself no matter what the situation. Everything happens for a purpose.
W&H: How does it feel to be a role model?
RK: I don’t know if I am a role model. I took a stand for my children to show them that if I lose my freedom I’m going to lose it fighting. I just wanted them to know that we can get through anything no matter what. I did it so they could look up to me and respect me for my decisions.
W&H: Do you still live in the same community?
RK: I just moved a couple of weeks ago. I moved because I couldn’t do it anymore. The raid was in 2000 and there was still retaliation. I was not able to get a job since 2000. When it got to the point that my kids couldn’t work because I am their mom it’s time for me to leave because its my battle not my children’s. I just wanted to be in peace.
W&H: So you won but you lost.