'Where Is Wendy Williams?' Producers Defend Doc: 'No One Wanted to Jump Into This Haphazardly' (Exclusive)

The two-part special aired on Lifetime over the weekend.

The producers behind the newly released Where Is Wendy Williams? documentary say their two-part film went through rigorous and diligent checks before it went live over the weekend on Lifetime for millions to see. 

Talking with ET's Kevin Frazier, producers Mark Ford and Erica Hanson defended their project and said that not only were numerous lawyers brought in to ensure that things were handled fairly and correctly, but Wendy Williams' own manager, Will Selby, was involved to make sure it was done in the right way. 

"It started with her management Will Selby but then it went through a battery of attorneys with -- through the guardianship, through attorneys for the guardianship, or publicists. So every single person on her side of the equation signed off and had detailed conversations with our attorneys," Ford told ET. "No one wanted to jump into this haphazardly." 

This comes after Williams' guardian sued to stop Lifetime's parent company, A&E Television Networks, from releasing the two-part documentary. The docs were filed under seal, meaning that the details of the allegations are presently unknown.

Ultimately a New York appellate judge ruled that Lifetime was able to proceed with the documentary and the two-part doc was released on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25.


Hanson and Ford on Monday doubled down on their beliefs that all of the right boxes were checked prior to getting to the end of the line. Ford also claimed that the 59-year-old television host's family became directly involved in the process, even after some early skepticism. 

"You know, it's interesting because we -- our understanding was that we would start with the family. But it took us a little time to make them comfortable, you know, so it was several months into filming that we finally started having conversations with the family and the family was then able to reveal their side of the story," he said. "Which made it even more important for us to keep filming so that we could continue to explore all the questions that they were raising." 

"It turned out that they weren't there in the beginning, but there were conversations pretty soon after we began in which we started having that conversation with them directly," he continued. "And it just, of course, it took time for them to trust the project, trust us. But ultimately, we felt it was so essential that we -- there was no way we're gonna, we were going to proceed with this without the family completely on board."

"We spent a lot of time with the family and it really was important to, you know, understand their point of view and their concern," Hanson added. "They also hadn't been spending a lot of time with Wendy and so I think it was quite eye-opening, especially for Alex." 

Hanson is referring to Williams' niece, Alex Finnie, who is heavily featured in the documentary and recently talked with Deborah Roberts in a Nightline sit-down and opened up about how it's been for the star's family as they've witnessed her lowest moments, including an excessive drinking habit and moments of incoherence.

"I said I wasn't gonna cry -- because I feel like I've cried enough over the last year and a half," Finnie told Roberts at one point during the interview. "But what people are gonna see is a broken woman who has had the world on her shoulders for so long and just cracked."

The four-and-a-half-hour documentary chronicles the events that led to Williams being placed under the control of a court-ordered guardian in 2022. 

It also highlights the TV personality's health struggles -- coupled with upheaval in her personal life -- including fainting on live TV back in October 2017 (which she claimed was from dehydration), revealing her Graves' disease diagnosis on her show in February 2018 (forcing her to take three weeks off) and her shoulder fracture in December 2018 and dealing with a very public breakup with then-husband Kevin Hunter, whom she officially divorced in January 2020 after 25 years of marriage.

Watch the trailer for the Lifetime documentary in the player below: 

One of the key reasons Ford and Hanson said they decided to pursue this project is because of Williams' guardianship and her health struggles as her fans -- and shockingly much of her family -- did not know what kind of help or treatment she was receiving. 

“It is, at times, very difficult film to watch,” Hanson added. “I also think that it's important, you know, that it's an issue that so many of us are struggling with and to be able to shed light on that and to show the reality of what it's like to, you know, have a loved one who has dementia and is struggling with addiction… life is fragile at times and it is a reality of life and it is painful to watch. And I think that in the end, for me, the great relief is that as Mark said, I really do believe that we perhaps we stayed to help make sure that she [Williams] got the help she needed because she was not there during the time that we were there." 

The situation behind the scenes of the already complicated project was only exacerbated by Williams' state of mind. On Thursday, just days before the show premiered on Lifetime, Williams' team announced that she was diagnosed in 2023 with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia -- the same condition Bruce Willis was diagnosed with in February 2023. Selby previously told ET that Williams checked into a treatment facility in April 2023 for several reasons, including "cognitive issues" and to confront her battle with alcohol addiction. 

"I think it was confusing for all of us because Wendy would have moments of clarity where she seemed fine like the old Wendy... And then there were times when she was completely a different person," Ford said of her aphasia, adding that it only made it more important that the documentary make sure Williams is getting the help she needs.

"A lot of a lot of members of the team also have, you know, people close to them that struggled with dementia and addiction. And so it was something that was a complex and sensitive journey and really became a labor of love for all of us to shed light on the reality of her situation," Hanson continued. "Because we did not know when we started that she had dementia. We did not know that and we found out much later and we were deeply concerned as we – the more we filmed." 

Ultimately the producers say they hope that viewers watch with empathy and compassion not only for the former daytime talk show host but for her family who are working to mend their relationships. 

“We hope people watch it with an open mind, you know, get to the ending of it so you can understand really the plight of this family," Ford said, calling the docuseries "instrumental" to reuniting Williams with several family members, some of whom had not seen her in nearly a year. "An American family trying to, you know, keep their family together and keep their aunt, their sister, their mother safe and just not be a part of her life." 



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