Sunday, May 5, 2024

Wendy Williams Lifetime Doc Producers Say They Became ‘Worried’ About Her Care Under Guardianship During Filming

“I just think in the end, you really see what happens when a guardian has complete control and the family is cut out," one of the producers said at an event on May 1

By Kimberlee Speakman and Liza Esquibias

Wendy Williams in 2020. Photo:

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty 

Producers of Where Is Wendy Williams? say the Lifetime docuseries sheds light on Wendy Williams’ “dire” living conditions under a conservatorship.

Mark Ford and Erica Hanson, who served as executive producers, attended an awards consideration panel in Hollywood on May 1, where they said they were worried about Williams’ circumstances during production — as she was shown to have been living alone and without food in her refrigerator — and sought to get in touch with her loved ones.

“The deeper we got into it, we didn't want to let go of Wendy until we got her back in touch with her family,” Ford said. “Because we felt that at a certain point that's who's going to be there for her to care for her.” 

Ford noted that at the time they were not made aware of her frontotemporal dementia (FTD) diagnosis and still had several questions post-production about why, as it appeared to them, Williams was not receiving adequate care and why her legal and financial guardian Sabrina Morrissey was “not responding to any kind of calls for help.”

Morrissey has not responded to requests for comment on the documentarians’ allegations. But on Feb. 20, she filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the 4.5-hour project from being aired. In the complaint, which was unsealed and obtained by PEOPLE, Morrissey slammed the network's documentary, claiming that it "shamelessly exploits [Williams] and portrays her in an extremely demeaning and undignified manner."

Morrissey alleged that Lifetime "incorrectly states that she is 'broke' and cruelly implies that her disoriented demeanor is due to substance abuse and intoxication."

Wendy Williams in the Lifetime docuseries.

 PHOTO: Lifetime

The documents further claimed that Williams was "not capable of consenting" to the terms of her contract with A&E Television Networks, Lifetime's parent company. Per Morrissey, court and guardian approval was needed for all contracts before a documentary with privately-shot footage of the talk show host could be publicly released, and that "no such approval was sought or provided."

Morrissey also stated that she allowed the doc to go forward with the understanding that the project would not proceed without the "review and final approval of the Guardian and the court, who are responsible for [Williams'] wellbeing." However, she claimed that no permissions were sought and she was "horrified" upon viewing the contents of the trailer after she was told the documentary would portray Williams in a positive light.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Lifetime responded to Morrissey's allegations, noting, "We look forward to the unsealing of our papers as well, as they tell a very different story."

At the time of filing, Morrissey requested that the court put a temporary restraining order on the documentary which was granted but eventually overturned by a superior court.

During the May 1 panel, Ford recalled that “you could see Erica and Michael towards the end of the documentary, very, very worried and saying to her management, who was the only other person that was coming into her apartment on a daily basis, 'Something has to be done to help her.'” He added, “This is getting very dire and scary.” 

“And because she was under a guardianship, her family couldn't just fly up and hang out and decide to get involved in her medical care,” he explained. “They were removed from that process by the courts so they could face legal ramifications if they tried to get too involved.”

Ford said that is when the documentary “took a turn” and tried to “expose what these guardianships are like” when the family is not involved. Hanson added that she felt it was “incomprehensible” that Williams’ son, Kevin Hunter, Jr., didn’t know where she was and “can’t call her” despite having previously tried to “help his mother with all of her addiction issues.”

Wendy Williams in the Lifetime docuseries.

PHOTO: Lifetime

“I just think, in the end, you really see what happens when a guardian has complete control and the family is cut out and they don't know how she's being treated medically. And they don't know what's happened with her finances,” Hanson said.

Ford said that it was “important” that “there be ways for families to call out abuses if they feel like they're occurring,” and that is what was “happening here in this film.” “And if there are issues, come out and tell the world what they are. The family welcomes that. Just don't keep it in secrecy. Let them answer what the specific things are,” he said at the panel.

“It's a very complicated process for [her family],” he added. “But I think you could see in the film, they're a lovely group of people who care about their sister, daughter, mother and want the best for her, and who better to be involved in her care than those people, not a stranger.”

Williams was placed under a conservatorship in early 2022 when Wells Fargo froze the star’s accounts after her financial adviser at the time alleged that she was of “unsound mind,” according to Williams’ court filings. The bank successfully petitioned a New York court to have Williams placed under temporary financial guardianship, reportedly because it believed she was at risk of financial exploitation due to cognitive issues. 

Additionally, a spokesperson for the financial services company shared with PEOPLE: "This matter was conducted under seal. Any claims against Wells Fargo have been dismissed."

Full Article & Source:
Wendy Williams Lifetime Doc Producers Say They Became ‘Worried’ About Her Care Under Guardianship During Filming

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Wendy Williams

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