It seems like a lifetime ago when one of the biggest pop stars of all time struggled with fame, tabloids, and her personal life, as the world watched the events unfold. In fact, or perhaps surprisingly, the storied rise, fall, and rebirth of Britney Spears was a decade ago, this year.
TV’s Lifetime is bringing the tale of Ms. Spears to the small screen in a new made-for-television movie titled Britney Ever After, on Feb. 18, 2017. We had the chance to talk to the film’s matriarch, Nicole Oliver, as she spoke on portraying Spears’ mother, her motivation for the role, and her continued compassion for the icon the world knows as ‘Britney.’
Nicole Oliver first read the script for the upcoming film, not absolutely certain of whom the story was about. While she had her suspicions, she had only a script with the name “Val” to steer her in the right direction.
“When I first read the sides for the audition, my character was named ‘Val,’ and there was no reference to Britney Spears anywhere…but I kind of thought maybe this project was her story.”
Her desire to portray “Val,” whom would later be revealed as Lynne Spears, and her motherly intuition, lead to her decision to take on this role.
“I always try to find the similarities to my life in any character I play,” says Oliver. “I understand what it means to be a mother, and want the best for your kids. Britney’s music has been a big part of the soundtrack of my life and I admire how she has struggled through, in such a public way, and triumphed over her journey of adversity. A lot of women, a lot of people, in America have similar struggles, but at least they can heal in private. For Britney and her family to have endured such a public scrutiny of such a challenging time in all of their lives is admirable and inspiring.”
Upon her discovery of the character’s true identity, Oliver wasn’t swayed by the chance to show a real person in the light of the small screen. That’s not to say, however, the idea wasn’t daunting.
“I think there is a huge responsibility in portraying a REAL person, especially one who is still alive. It’s a great challenge as an actor, because you need to do your research to stay true to the character, but then you have to just play the truth of the situation. If I worried too much what Lynne would think of my choices, I would freeze and not be able to just BE.”
Portraying Lynne Spears was something Oliver quickly acclimated to. Her career as a seasoned actress helped maintain her focus on the role, leaving any nerves she may have felt about the real Lynne watching and critiquing her performance, behind. Instead, she chooses to focus on the finished product, the scenes that will make the movie, and what ends up on the cutting room floor.
“I’m not sure if Lynne is going to watch the project, and really that is something I have no control over, so there’s no sense in being nervous about that! But, I am always excited to see how any project turns out after it goes through the post production process.”
During filming, Oliver was able to bring the proper emotions to Lynne by pulling from the best experience she has in her arsenal: motherhood.
“I remember what she went through too. I had, and continue to have, nothing but compassion for Britney’s journey and tremendous respect for the comeback path she is now blazing!” The actress says. “I don’t know what Lynne was feeling in the moment, however, as a mother it is tremendously painful to watch your child struggle with anything, let alone what Britney endured. Your child will always be your baby, and a mother’s instinct is to protect and make the pain go away. The hardest thing to do is to watch challenging situations unfold without being able to ‘fix’ everything. I truly can relate to that feeling. Being a parent is one of the most difficult yet rewarding jobs I have ever had. My kids keep me honest and have made me a better person.
The events of 2007 for Britney Spears lead most to be concerned for the well-being of the “Oops…I Did It Again” songstress. Unfortunately, like most celebrity scandals, these events also lead to the scrutiny and discontent for the Spears family as a unit. But whether the opinion of the general public is good or bad, Oliver looks at Spears’ struggles, and her family, as a story of triumph.
“As a parent, it is incredibly difficult to watch your child suffer, but it is also rewarding to watch them solve their own problems and emerge triumphant. A mother’s love is always enduring and present, and to know you have that support available to you for when you are ready to accept it, is what being family is all about. Through the good and the bad, family and faith will endure and keep you grounded,” Oliver reveals. “Her mother was always there for her, but ultimately it was Britney who faced her challenges, did the work and turned herself around…As an actor, I understand the entertainment industry, and it is a seductive beast. It is demanding, relentless, and generally doesn’t care about a performer’s feelings. That’s why you need, as an artist, to surround yourself with good people who love you and have your best interests at heart…I have even more respect for Britney as a working mother.”
The film, which focuses on a strong female lead, also had some very hardworking women behind the scenes, helping bring the project to life. This is something Oliver attributes to some of the most rewarding moments during filming.
“This project was a dream. There were so many creative and dedicated people both in front of and behind the camera. I loved seeing women in so many positions, from Director and Producer to Camera Operator and Department Heads. I got to work with some old friends on this project, and make many new relationships that I know will endure with time. Natasha Bassett (Britney) is a phenomenal actress with an incredibly bright future. I have no idea how she kept the pace up during filming with all of that dancing and singing on top of the emotionally challenging scenes! It was an honor to work with her and get to know her. The people were truly the reward with Britney Ever After.”
The final question remains, will the Spears family sit down together on Saturday, February 18, and watch the premiere of the film detailing on their loved one’s lives on screen? If so, Oliver had this to say…
“Well, I am not sure if they will watch the movie, but if they do, I would say, ‘Thank you for your bravery, your fearlessness, and for the music.'”
Britney Ever After premieres on February 18, 2017 at 8/9c on Lifetime.