If you were among the nearly 10 million total viewers who tuned in last year for Lifetime’s film adaptations of the V.C. Andrews cult classic novels Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, prepare yourself for an April shower of Dollanganger goodness. Or Dollanganger badness — which is really what makes the films such escapist fun.
The network will debut the next two installments, If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday, on back-to-back Sundays this month. Heather Graham reprises her role as family matriarch Corrine Dollanganger Foxworth Winslow in Thorns; otherwise the films feature new casts fleshing out the story of the once noble family whose secrets, lies and lusts bring generations of ruin.
Published in 1981, If There Be Thorns is the third book in the Dollanganger series and propels its story to 1982.
The film begins with the Sheffield family — a now middle-aged Christopher (Jason Lewis, Sex and the City) and Cathy (Rachael Carpani, a virtual doppelgänger for a young Meg Ryan) and Cathy’s sons, half-brothers Jory and Bart (Jedidiah Goodacre, Mason Cook) — living an outwardly comfortable life far from Foxworth Hall. That is, until mysterious new neighbors move in next door and are quickly revealed to be Corrine (Graham) and her brooding butler John Amos (Smallville’s Mackenzie Gray), each of whom have designs on young Bart, the boy Cathy conceived with her former stepdad.
Though If There Be Thorns marks the end of the road for her Corrine Winslow, Heather Graham says that having the chance to bring the messed-up Dollanganger matriarch’s saga full circle is much more sweet than bitter.
“I never thought there would be a road,” Graham laughs. “I never thought they would do these other movies. I’m just glad they’ve been so successful — and so happy I got to work with Ellen Burstyn. I have admired her for so many years, so to get an opportunity to work with her was exciting. And I did want Corrine to have a moment of redemption — where she does see what she has done. She hasn’t changed completely or become a different person, but she is melancholy and I was glad to get a chance to show that side of her.”
Redemption, in Corrine’s veiled eyes, comes in the form of her grandson Bart, a boy Cathy conceived with Corrine’s husband to exact revenge on her mother. “Cathy stole my husband and to have a child of my husband — now I want to take that child to be my own,” Graham says. “It is a chance to redo the family I didn’t get to fully have. If I could just get Bart, then I could find a way to have a redo of everything that I screwed up before.”
Plus, Graham says, Corrine’s longing for that do-over goes beyond being a good mom to being a fulfilled woman with refined tastes and aspirations of her own. “Something about my inner soul is beautiful but unrealized, which I think is reflected in the décor of my house,” Graham explains. “There is something sad and longingly beautiful that I really didn’t get to express myself. I never became the person I really could have become based on the abuse I had as a child and not being able to escape my mother — but ultimately I am still trying.”
As are her now-grown children Chris (Jason Lewis) and Cathy (Rachael Carpani), whose stab at a drama-free life is blown when their mama moves next door.
“I am a diehard Sex and the City fan so I was really psyched!” Graham laughs of discovering who would be playing her boy. “I have seen all the Sex and the City episodes more than once and I get to work with Smith Jerrod! But Rachael loved the books as a kid, so this is really meaningful to her. I’m excited to see what they did with that final chapter!”
If There Be Thorns premieres April 5 at 8/7CT on Lifetime.