Entertainment

Victoria Rowell Miniseries Tackles Opioid Crisis

A wealthy family at the height of success gets a dose of reality when they learn their college-age daughter has been abusing opioids for several years. That is the storyline for “Jacqueline and Jilly” a new six-episode miniseries airing on the Urban Movie Network (UMN).

Famed actress Victoria Rowell co-wrote and directed the miniseries about what is being called an “accidental addiction.” The first episode of the series was screened at the Lincoln Theatre and hosted by UMC, Days Ferry Productions, and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME).

“I felt it was important to shed light not only on Black families, but on all families,” said Rowell, founder of Days Ferry Productions, the company that produced the miniseries. “Addiction does not discriminate.”

Rowell and actor Richard Brooks portray Jacqueline and Magnus Mitchell, parents of Jilly Mitchell who is addicted to fentanyl and other substances. Jilly, played by Nikko Austen Smith, had a devastating horse-riding accident that resulted in severe, long-term pain. Prescription pain meds caused Jilly to become an accidental addict.

This affluent family struggles to accept Jilly’s addiction to opioids. When doctors recommend a treatment plan to the family, the resistance is led by Rowell’s character and her mother, Zillah Stewart (Daphne Maxwell Reid).

Their initial avoidance, and eventual acceptance, of the truth peels back layers of denial, as years of unaddressed family turmoil prove as difficult to address as the drug addiction.

Reid spoke about how her character brought extreme tension to family dynamics while tackling the hideous drug problem.

“I am the matriarch in the series and I have my way,” Reid said. “Things need to be my way or the highway.”

As the plot unfolds, the family begins to break down decades of barriers around their feelings in order to support Jilly and to keep the family together.

“It’s great to see a story that is about family, regardless of color,” said Brooks, who is known for his roles in “Law and Order” and “Being Mary Jane.” “It also highlights how within our families we are dealing with this crisis, which is a quiet killer. Being a part of the project has opened my eyes.”

The screening allowed DC Office of the Deputy Mayor’s Health and Human Services to share information about the city’s resources to battle addiction.

“We’re doing awareness campaigns and have substance abuse treatment centers,” said Brenda Donald, deputy mayor for HHS. “It’s the toxicity of the new drugs that is making the abuse so dangerous.

Rowell said she looks forward to the miniseries stimulating discussion on the opioid abuse.

“I hope it will open up discussion,” she said. “If you see a friend or family member struggling, say something.”

“Jacqueline and Jilly” is currently airing on UMC an urban-focused subscription streaming service created by Robert Johnson, chairman of RLJ Entertainment and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Learn more about the miniseries and other UMC programs at www.umc.tv.

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