Garcelle Beauvais stars in and executive produces "Black Girl Missing." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, March 3 (UPI) -- Most of Lifetime's true crime movies are based on actual cases. Black Girl Missing, premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. EST, is fictional, but star and executive producer Garcelle Beauvais hopes it helps solve real missing persons cases.
"That's the hope of it: hoping to find someone, hoping to bring awareness, getting people to talk about it," Beauvais told UPI in a recent phone interview.
Beauvais plays Cheryl, a single mother of two who turns to the police and the media when her eldest daughter, Lauren (Iyana Halley) goes missing. Beauvais said Cheryl's experience reflects what many Black women really face.
"I'm a mom," Beauvais said. "I've been frustrated by the disparity that we face on a daily basis."
Beauvais has three sons, 32-year-old Oliver Saunders and twin 15-year-olds Jaid and Jax. In the film, Cheryl discovers the Black and Missing Foundation, which also consulted on Black Girl Missing.
The foundation advocates for police departments to allocate more resources to finding missing women and children of color. It was the subject of the HBO documentary Black and Missing, and its website, blackandmissinginc.com, includes resources to report and search for missing people.
Black Girl Missing depicts the police dismissing Lauren's case because she is over 18, in college and has left home before. Reporter Elise (Linda Park) faces pressure from her boss (William Mapother) to focus on a missing White woman, whose case gets higher ratings than Lauren.
"The people with the power sometimes just dismiss our stories," Beauvais said. "We all know that the first few hours, the first few days are the most important in trying to find someone."
The police even tell Cheryl they don't have the resources to mount a search for Lauren, but she is welcome to keep them posted on her own efforts. Cheryl does investigate Lauren's disappearance with her, daughter Marley (Taylor Mosby), and finds help from strangers on social media.
Beauvais pointed to the recent arrest of Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students, as an example of grassroots efforts. Police used social media posts and shared a call for tips on social media, helping them narrow down the search.
"A lot of people were doing a lot of the legwork to help find out who killed these [students]," Beauvais said. "So I think social media also is helpful."
Black Girl Missing does not vilify the White characters who don't help Cheryl, Beauvais said, adding that the film's goal was to illustrate biases and blind spots and encourage people to correct them.
"Not to point fingers and say these people are bad, but it was just to show the disparity honestly of how a person of color is treated," Beauvais said. "I think some of it may not even be malicious."
In the week leading up to Black Girl Missing, Beauvais returned to filming the reality series Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She said she is grateful the reality show raises her platform so she can use it to bring awareness to causes like missing Black women.
"It's important for me to use my platform for things that are important to me, but also give back to my community," Beauvais said. "It brings awareness and that's what I want to do with my platform."
Beauvais made her screen debut in the 1988 comedy Coming to America as a rose bearer in the fictional kingdom of Zamunda, a role she reprised in the sequel Coming 2 America.
Outside of Housewives, Beauvais said her roles in Coming to America and playing Jamie Foxx's love interest "Fancy" Monroe on The Jamie Foxx Show have also kept her profile high.
"No matter where I go, somebody calls me Fancy," Beauvais said.
Beauvais also will star in two upcoming streaming series. Survival of the Thickest, created by co-star Michelle Buteau, based on her own book, will be on Netflix. In the comedy. Beauvais said she plays "a high powered widow."
"It really deals with the world and the way we see people that are a little bit heavy," Beauvais said. "I hire Michelle as my stylist and we're both crazy.
The Other Black Girl, based on the Zakiya Dalila Harris book, will be for Hulu. Beauvais, who will play an author in the world of publishing, describes the series as "Get Out meets Devil Wears Prada."
Neither Netflix nor Hulu have announced premiere dates.