TLC was Meant To Be, and it seems that the women portraying the iconic female group in CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story are also driven by destiny. Drew Sidora, an actress whose resume includes That’s So Raven and Step Up, has been honing her chops in homemade TLC videos since she was a little girl. “I felt like this role was made for me. I just really connected to the lines, the script, to the music–obviously–the fashion,” says the the film’s version of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins. “I was just really, really blessed and excited for the opportunity.”
We were lucky enough to be on set during filming in Atlanta, and had the chance to watch Drew, Keke Palmer, and Lil Mama fully embody their characters. Read our exclusive interview with Drew below, to find out how she plans to show the difference between T-Boz and Tionne in the upcoming film.
Are you a fan of the biopic genre?
Oh my gosh, definitely. Kate Lanier, who wrote CrazySexyCool, also wrote What’s Love Got to Do with It? And as a female actress looking up to Angela Bassett, she may not have looked physically just like Tina Turner, but she embodied that character. [With Ray,] I really forgot I was looking at Jamie Foxx and felt like he embodied that character. A lot of the criticism we’ve had to face [has been], “OK, this person doesn’t look like T-Boz… well, how are they going to do this?” We felt like instead of looking like them, to embody their spirit and their character [was more important than] dressing up in costume. I think there’s a difference, and that’s been the way that we’ve attacked this film, so hopefully our film will do as well as those. We’ll just pray for that.
Are there any things that you’ve learned about TLC since being on set that you may have had a misconception about as a fan?
When we first were going to rehearsal, Keke [Palmer], Lil Mama, and myself were like, “Oh, dance rehearsal is gonna be a breeze!” You know, ’cause they were just cool and swagged out. Huh! [Laughs.] We walked in the first day of dance rehearsal and I tell you I’ve never felt so much pain in my body or sweated so hard. It was one thing to learn their dance moves and their choreography, but then it was a whole other lesson to find out how they did it.
Has it been beneficial to work with T-Boz and Chilli throughout filming?
I think it helped us to gravitate to the character. Because for me, I understood what T-Boz went through as a child that made her have this harder exterior; when she performed onstage, you understood why she related to more of the boyish qualities. It wasn’t just for show, it really was a part of who she was. I think that’s what we see with each one of the individual characters: we understand why they made certain choices because of what they freaking went through. That’s what I didn’t know [beforehand]. I came in like, “Oh T-Boz, she was cool, they make cool music.” I had an understanding of what Tionne was dealing with with sickle cell-anemia, but I didn’t know that literally when they went on tour, their manager Bill [Diggins] had to setup medical centers where they landed. She had to go to the hospital, get blood transfusions, get treatments, ride in the ambulance to the venue, get on stage and perform, go back to the hospital, get a treatment, and get on the airplane, [in] every single city. And it was very profound for me to learn that about her. She’s a warrior.
What’s your relationship with Tionne like?
I absolutely love Tionne. First, we’re both Taurus women so we connect astrologically. [She’s] very ambitious–I can definitely relate to her in that way. We’re both from the Midwest, so I understand where she comes from. When we first spoke on the phone, we literally talked for four hours. We just had a level of understanding and I appreciated her opening up to me, because I know it has to mean something to find someone is playing you. She embraced me and opened up to me in a lot of ways to allow me to really connect to the character. I told her I just want to make her proud. That’s all I want to do.
How do you feel about the ’90s wardrobe you’ve been thrown into?
I think the ’90s are coming back. I grew up in the ’90s, so as far as the hairstyles and the music–we listen to ’90s music in the trailer when we’re getting ready. The ’90s were just an era of freedom of speech, fashion, and fun, so the fact that we’re able to bring that to the screen right now, I think people are really going to enjoy it immensely.
Do you have a favorite look or period in T-Boz’s career?
I love all my looks, but definitely the “Waterfalls” video. It was right in between her being kind of tomboy-ish, but moving into young womanhood, [with] sexuality and sensuality. She started to dress a little sexier, and her hair! You know she still had the short, short hair but she had the sideburns that I think we all remember her for.
As a fan, what’s your earliest memory of TLC?
Growing up, when I heard “Creep,” man, we used to walk around, everybody in their silk pajamas and just videotape ourselves singing all the songs. We knew all the lyrics–even with “Waterfalls,” I love the song, but I don’t think it was until I grew up a little bit that I understood the lyrical content. I think I was definitely inspired [by them] to have the career that I have today.
Speaking of their lyrical content, do you think there have been female groups since TLC that have really made that a priority, or is that something music is lacking right now?
I don’t think anyone has done it. I mean, they are still the biggest-selling female [R&B] group of all-time. I think they paved the way for other girl groups–Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child–but the fact that no one has outdone their numbers pretty much lets you know that no one’s been able to reach their magnitude. Their lyrical content and the way their fashion was so innovative, I don’t think anyone has touched that and that’s why this is so historical.
How important is it to shed light on the negative–the tougher moments in their lives and careers?
To be able to portray them and share this part of history with the world is powerful, because even though they didn’t make any money and they were done wrong on the business side, what they went through changed the music business as a whole. Nowadays artists think about having their own labels and their own production companies. I don’t know that if TLC hadn’t gone through what they went through, and told the public–they made an announcement at the Grammys, “We’re broke”–that today’s artists would have an understanding that this is what could happen and you better get smarter.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
There’s so much untold truth to their picture that I think people want to find out what was really going on. There’s still so much confusion and different stories that have been told. To hear it from Chilli and Tionne and their families, I think it’s going to just allow for people to understand and grow closer to them. They have new music coming out, so it’s just a great time; their twentieth anniversary is really a great time to celebrate them and what they’ve done.
Catch the premiere of CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story on Monday, October 21 at 9 pm ET/PT
[Photo Credit: Blake Tyers/VH1]