Toni Braxton Unbreak My Heart — the soulful songbird brings her own life story to Lifetime

Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart premieres Saturday, January 23 at 8/7CT on Lifetime.

Most people consider R&B star Toni Braxton an unmitigated success story — model-worthy looks, a two-decade-plus recording career, seven Grammy Awards and a popular WE tv reality show with her four outspoken sisters.

Behind the scenes, however, Braxton has dealt with heartache, betrayal, illness and upheaval for most of her adult life, lending additional poignancy to the soulful songs that made her a star.

In 2014, the singer released her memoir — titled Unbreak My Heart in homage to her 1996 Billboard No. 1 hit — which chronicled those highs and lows and their effect on her family, her health and her career. Now Braxton brings that story to Lifetime in a biopic titled Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart. The film documents Braxton’s struggles with family jealousies, devastating financial woes and a failing marriage while managing her youngest son’s autism diagnosis and her own battle with the autoimmune disease lupus.

Newcomer Lex Scott-Davis plays Braxton and says that. despite her stardom, the singer’s myriad struggles will touch — and resonate with — everyone who tunes in. That means you, too, guys.

“It’s relatable for women who have dealt with a sickness, it’s relatable to mothers, to wives, to daughters, to preachers’ daughters, to sister and siblings. Women having a child dealing with a brain disorder …. financial issues, divorce. It’s every scenario that could be given to a woman, all in one person’s life and all in one film,” she says. “It’s beyond courageous of her to tell this story — and of course, her fan base isn’t just women. So you have the aspects with her husband and Babyface (Gavin Houston) and L.A. Reid (Greg Davis, Jr.) and their outlook on the industry. And you have a new generation to come and learn about Toni if they didn’t know about her before.”

Lex Scott Davis and Gavin Houston star in Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, premiering Saturday, January 23 at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime. Photo by Kailey Schwerman Copyright 2016

Though Braxton was in the midst of a tour during filming, Scott-Davis says she was on set as much as possible, subbing in her sister Towanda and her tour coordinator Andrew Logan to help Scott-Davis and her costars with the actors’ performances and choreography. “She got to read with us, and we would start and stop again when she would want to fill us in more about the story,” says Scott-Davis. “We would all just gather around and just listen to her stories. She also came back at the very end to do some of her scenes. We both got to wear the same gown — it’s going to be a great shot. She’s closing out the film playing herself and it’s going to be so awesome how that happens.”

Scott-Davis says that, while Braxton will perform the vocals in the film, Vondie Curtis-Hall, the DaredevilER and Chicago Hope actor who directs Unbreak My Heart, encouraged her to let her own voice soar as she filmed.

“I was singing in real life while we were taping,” she explains. “I was actually really singing just to get the breaths down and the pace and really show the strain and the struggle of hitting the high notes, and the breathing to the low notes. I think I needed that because in the beginning, when I was still a little stage-frightened about it, I was kind of just miming it and Vondie was like, ‘No! Sing! Sing louder! Sing louder! You can do it! Don’t worry about what you sound like — just sing!’ That really was a great direction. From that point on, I was truly singing in every scene that I had to. Toni will be recording over top of that — she will be doing all the vocals.”

Lex Scott Davis stars in Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, premiering Saturday, January 23 at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime. Photo by Bettina Strauss Copyright 2016

Scott-Davis says she hopes viewers find inspiration in Braxton’s strength, determination and family commitment. “There were things that were going on and at the time she was completely misunderstood,” she explains. “For fans who were disappointed by her actions when they were happening, this is their opportunity to gain clarity on the actual situation and to learn what she had been balancing alongside her tours and performances.”

And for Scott-Davis — an only child — Unbreak My Heart brought an opportunity to find some sisters-in-spirit in Skye P. Marshall (Towanda), Tiffany Hines (Tamar), Cortney Scott Wright (Traci) and LaToya Franklyn (Trina), the women who played her onscreen sibs.

“The casting could not have been more perfect,” says Scott-Davis, utter joy sparking her voice. “The qualities in each of us were so similar to the qualities in the actual sisters. We’re having our conversations and Towanda’s just like, “That was so like us. What you just did, I would so do that … Tamar would do that.’ She would stop and just laugh. Even in the rehearsals, she’s like, ‘This is us in real life — it’s hilarious!’ We all clicked really well. I don’t have any siblings in real life so and all of us are like siblings now. It’s really great. We’ve still been hanging out since we left the film!”

(L to R, bottom) LaToya Franklyn and Cortney Scott Wright (L to R, top) Tiffany Hines, Lex Scott Davis and Skye P. Marshall star in Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, premiering Saturday, January 23 at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime. Photo by Bettina Strauss Copyright 2016

Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart premieres Saturday, January 23 at 8/7CT on Lifetime.


About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.