When the lifelong documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” premiered four years ago, R. Kelly was a free man. The R&B singer’s career has been dogged by allegations of abuse of underage girls, which first surfaced in the early 1990s, but he remained one of the most successful hitmakers of that decade and into the 2000s. Also during that time, Kelly was briefly imprisoned and put on trial due to a 2002 indictment on 21 counts of child pornography. He was acquitted in 2008.
Kelly’s circumvention of the justice system hurt his career as an artist, but it didn’t end it. It wasn’t until after Surviving R. Kelly premiered in early 2019 that public opinion began to change. The series was green-lit prior to the initial impact of the #MeToo movement in October 2017, and was the first programming event in the #MeToo era to give survivors a voice, and ultimately Bringing justice from the screen to a court of law. The series revolves around the stories of black women, an underrepresented group when it comes to social justice.
Today, Kelly is serving a 30-year sentence, after being convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking charges in 2022. Kelly was also found guilty in Chicago of three counts of child pornography for filming himself sexually abusing his 14-year-old son. The one year old daughter. He still faces charges in other jurisdictions.
The third and final installment of “Surviving R. Kelly” is about the trial that put Kelly behind bars, following survivors and their families as they prepare to testify in a high-profile court hearing. New episodes also focus on the journalists who covered the trial, as well as other experts in law and trauma.
“We’re in a very different place at the start of this installment than we were more than four years ago when we embarked on this journey. He’s having some offense,” says Executive Producer Jesse Daniels, who has been involved with Surviving R. Kelly since the beginning and was actively involved in the development of the groundbreaking series. very dangerous.
In 2017, Daniels read an article on Buzzfeed written by Jim DeRogatis, the journalist who broke the R. Kelly dam with a 2000 report in the Chicago Sun-Times, which is widely credited as the first domino to fall in R. Kelly’s empire. Despite this report and video evidence, which were the focus of the 2008 R. Kelly trial, it took decades for the criminal justice system to keep up with DeRogatis’ investigative work and survivors’ accounts. “I remember the story making an impact, but then, nothing really happened,” Daniels says of the 2017 article. At the time, Daniels spoke to his fellow producers and asked why nothing had happened. With that, “Surviving R. Kelly” was born. “This was the inspiration and the impetus for further investigation of this,” he says.
R. Kelly’s accusers said he kept them as sex slaves, essentially part of a religious cult, locked in his home without access to their families or the outside world. He would groom young women and men with aspirations of becoming singers, recording them as he forced them to have sex. The six-week experiment in 2022 revealed how R.
During his 2022 federal trial in New York, “Surviving R. Kelly” was mentioned 150 times in the courtroom.
In the first part of “Surviving R. Kelly,” the parents of the victims talk about trying to get their daughters home. But one family is still fighting. Joycelyn Savage was 19 years old when she met Kelly, and the two are allegedly engaged. Last year, she released a book in which she said she was carrying R. Kelly’s baby, and just last month, she posted a photo of a newborn baby announcing that she welcomed a new baby with R. Kelly as her claim.
The Savage parents feature heavily in Surviving R. Kelly, emotionally discussing their battle to reconnect with their daughter. The latest installment also introduces a new, anonymous defendant who gives a harrowing account of being drugged and raped by R. Kelly. The episodes delve into revelations that R. Kelly abused young boys, and give new details of R. Kelly’s marriage.
Talk to “Surviving R. Kelly” Executive Producer Jesse Daniels diverse for the final payment.
What kind of influence do you think the docuseries have had on R. Kelly’s legal cases?
When we first started talking to survivors and families, the world was in a much different place. This was before the #MeTo movement [and] The survivors worried that they would not be heard or believed. They were, as they said, screaming in the wind. What we have come to now in the third part, which is the beginning of the trial, where R. Kelly has several charges linked to survivor claims. I can’t speak for the survivors, but I think they finally felt heard and believed.
“Surviving R. Kelly” undoubtedly had an impact on the charges. But we also have to give a nod to the journalists who have been on the story for so many years – journalists like Jim DeRogatis who has been writing this story for over 30 years, and those who attended the trial day in and day out; This is not an easy task to report. Keeping the story alive and giving survivors a platform we owe it to them, not just “Surviving R. Kelly,” but the many people who made it happen.
At what point did the producers decide to do a third installment?
After the first part, we said it was. But as we continued to stay in touch with the survivors, we began to hear about the stress and toll of preparing for this trial and gathering the courage to take the stand. We know it’s hard enough for a survivor to tell their story on camera, but to do it all over again while confronting your abuser and their legal team is absolutely terrifying and incredibly brave. We really knew we had a whole new story to tell here.
The third installment was announced as the final installment, but R. Kelly still faces more charges. Do you have any plans to produce more?
For us, that is. And anything else that t. Kelly is a minor footnote compared to the New York federal trial and the Illinois federal trial. I speak to survivors today and their families, and many of them are successfully working to turn a page on their personal lives. This was a really hard time for them. Their journey through the trial was very difficult. They feel ready to move on to the next chapter, and so do we.
I did You contacted R. Kelly for an interview?
Legally, we must. Each season, we are communicated with a list of allegations and given the opportunity to talk about it, whether it be through a written response or an interview.
This is obviously a survivor-focused series, but was there any creative interest in having R. Kelly sit in front of the camera to actually hear from him, and not just as a legal checkpoint?
This is a story that gives a platform for the survivors to speak, but as producers, we do our best to stay neutral in telling the story, and as such, we believe giving an overall view of what has happened over the last 30 years is very important. We certainly do our best to reach out to anyone and everyone involved, whether it be him or those in his camp.
You have extensive interviews with the parents of the survivors and the one thing this episode has in common is that they got all of their girls back, except for J.Oycelyn’s parents are in a completely different situation. What do you think was their motivation for sitting for an interview?
It’s a good question. At the beginning of “Surviving R. Kelly,” we had several dads still trying to contact their daughters, and now, at the beginning of Part III, for the first time, we get to see the dads sitting together in front of the camera, which was incredibly emotional. Tragically, the savages were the only ones left who were the only family who had no contact with their daughter. I can’t speak for how they feel right now, but my heart goes out to their family.
Joycelyn said she gave birth to a baby R. Kelly, which his attorney denied. Not sure if you’ve been in contact with the family, but do you have any more information on this situation?
All I can say is that my heart goes out to them. As I go about daily matters as best I can, I can’t comment more on what’s going on out there.
The New York trial revealed that R. Kelly also offended young men, not just women. This installment delves into those allegations and you have an expert say R Kelly’s story expanded from sexual assault to predation. Why was it important to include that?
Our goal was to create a true 360-degree look at what was going on each day of the trial, and that was definitely a major chapter of the trial as the male victims testified. It was certainly something we’ve heard in the past, but not in the context of this trial. We felt compelled to tell everyone about the course of the trial and all the details we could.
This episode also delves into R.’s marriage. Kelly from Aaliyah when she was 15 years old. What role did Aaliyah play in the overarching story of R.’s abuse? Kelly?
Aaliyah is Jane Doe No. 1 in New York federal trial. That alone speaks volumes. We really tried to respectfully tell that story about Aaliyah, simple because she was Jane Doe No. 1 in this trial, there was no turning back from that. I’m paraphrasing here, but in this episode, Jim DeRogatis says Aaliyah’s name was first spoken in a court of law in one of the biggest scandals in popular music history. I agree with him.
Are you worried that Alia’s story will be exploited when she is not with us here to comment on what is being said about her?
Definitely. We’ve had a lot of conversations about how we tell Aaliyah’s story each time because we really want to honor her legacy. But what she’s been through, we can’t turn our backs, so her story has tragically come up again, but now in court, we decided, we’re going to try really hard to retell what happened in this courtroom Aaliyah cares as respectfully as possible.
Something that was revealed at trial, but not widely reported, is that R. You provides more information about R. Kelly’s use of non-disclosure agreements in this series, which hasn’t been discussed much before.
I’m glad you picked that up. It’s a very important detail, but also a very scary takeaway that came from the experience.
The series covers various intimidation attempts shared by the survivors and their families. In late 2018, he was called at gunpoint at the premiere of “Surviving R. Kelly”, which at the time was widely expected to come from a member of R. Kelly’s staff trying to stop the premiere. Just last month, his former manager, Donnell Russell, was sentenced to a year in prison for threatening to fire. Did it feel like his doomed moment just as this final installment was about to come out?
I don’t feel comfortable speaking to the actual charges, but I can say personally, that night was one of the most terrifying nights of my life, and what worried me most about that night was that it was supposed to be this night of honoring the survivors. Instead, they were traumatized again.
what Do you hope viewers will learn from the complexities of sexual assault survivors by watching this?
We have tried to explain how difficult it is to leave an abusive situation, and then to determine how difficult it is to recover from an abusive situation. That conversation, in every chapter, is one of the most important topics to talk about because we think viewers at home can learn from that, and hopefully we can spark conversations at home about it.