Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins On The Return Of TLC And The Pressures Of Stardom

by (@emilyexton)

It is officially a new era for TLC. The Grammy-winning girl group known for conscious songwriting and record-breaking sales, went through hell and back after losing member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 2002 and going broke. Today, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas are back in the recording studio, with plans to take the TLC on the road once again.

In addition to welcoming the new, we’re prepared to celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest musical acts with our upcoming biopic, CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. VH1 visited the cast and crew on set in Atlanta earlier this year, and spoke to founding member T-Boz about the decision to put the lives of three women on screen. Read through our conversation below, which touches on T-Boz and Chilli returning to the stage for this weekend’s Mixtape Festival, Left-Eye’s legacy, as well as a call for more meaningful lyrical content across today’s Top 40.

VH1: You and Chilli are consulting producers on the film. How much of a role have you had on production?
Tionne Watkins: We wanted to make this real, so we’ve been hands-on. I choreographed some things for Drew [Sidora]–I used to choreograph things for TLC, so we both came and did routines for the girls. We’re just having fun doing what we do, trying to get them to understand our vibe, and why they need to understand the emotion behind the words: why they were mad, why they were happy, and why they were crying. They need to understand the emotion behind why we felt the way we felt versus just singing the words. All three girls picked that up.

Were you apprehensive about allowing someone into your life like that–sharing a lot of personal experiences in order to make the role more believable?
I’m open. All of my situations have made me who I am. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done, because if I feel ashamed, I’m not going to do it in the first place. It made me the woman I am today, so I’m an open book.

What do you want Lisa’s legacy to be through this film?
I knew Lisa first–she ended up being my cousin because my uncle is married to her mom. We were really, really close. It’s kind of easy because we were together so much. I choreographed routines and trained Lisa personally for hours on end; as long as I could get her to look like she was almost doing what we were doing, that’s good enough for me. She had her own way. If you ever watch the “Creep” video and see how she does the dance versus how I created it, it’s totally different, but it’s cute because it’s her. That’s what I loved about her.

Were there lengthy discussions about how you wanted Lisa to be portrayed?
I feel bad for Lil Mama because Keke [Palmer] has Chilli and Drew has me, so she doesn’t have anyone to talk to her about her character. I talked to her with the others and by herself so she could understand Lisa more. We had amazing chemistry, and it’s funny how great the actresses’ chemistry is together. A lot of people on Twitter said, “Oh, what about this person looking like this?” It’s not just about looks–acting chops are very important. The girls really do look close to us, but most importantly, there’s chemistry.

I got to see some of the costumes while I was on set, and the likeness to your original outfits is really impressive. Were you surprised by any of the looks?
For me, it’s Drew’s T-Boz haircut. When I was looking at the camera I was like, “Oh my God this is crazy.” She really looked like me! I never looked at myself like that and I was like, “I like her hair–it’s really cool!” Her haircuts are the bomb. I love all the clothes, the feel of them. We would sit down with and explain how we wore the Dr. Martens and the three pairs of socks. Everyone did an amazing job: make-up, hair, wardrobe, the set and the backdrops for the videos.

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