This weekend movie audiences nationwide will witness the near-tragic story that unfolded at a Decatur elementary school four years ago. Lifetime has picked up the story of the school bookkeeper who averted a mass shooting at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy on August 20, 2013. It's an action that she attributes to her faith and will now be told through Lifetime's 'Faith Under Fire.'
In the movie, seven-time Grammy® Award winner Toni Braxton stars as Antoinette Tuff, a struggling single mom from Georgia who heroically averted a tragedy, saving hundreds of lives when she convinced a deranged gunman who stormed an elementary school to surrender.
On August 20, 2013, shortly after arriving to work at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, Antoinette the school's bookkeeper, was in the front office when Michael Hill, a young man with a history of mental illness, snuck in, armed with an AK-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. As the school went into lockdown, Antoinette was left alone with Michael, who repeatedly threatened to kill everyone. Showing enormous courage and empathy, along with nerves of steel, Antoinette convinced Michael to surrender by using her own life struggles to connect with him.
Antoinette's faith in God guided her through the toughest moments of her life, ultimately preparing her for that fateful day. The film also stars Yaya DaCosta as 911 operator Kendra McKay and Malik Yoba as Sergeant Franklin. Antoinette Tuff's son Derrick, who was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, is portrayed in the film by Shalaby Omar, a young actor with Spina Bifida.
Entertainment Reporter Francesca Amiker (@FranTV11Alive) got a chance to interview Antoinette Tuff who details the film's message. Towanda Braxton and Evelyn Braxton also describe seeing Toni Braxton in action and character on the set. SEE BELOW!
INTERVIEW WITH ANTOINETTE TUFF
Besides telling your story, how did you help with this movie?
I helped to name it. I wanted to go back and impact those who were not saved to be able to see what God looks like. They’re going to come into an amazing experience.
What was it like? How did you muster up your faith?
I was already showing compassion. I had mentors and mentees that I was already mentoring at that moment so for me I already had that compassion in me. So to be able to be in that arena with babies, it was what I did every day. All I saw was a young man who was standing there who was just another baby. For me, it was normal because that’s what I did every day so how could you ask me to be on normal, that’s all I do.
What are you hoping people get from this film?
I hope they tune in on January 27. I want them to come back and be able to be a mentor and help us at “Kids On the Move for Success" and know that at the end of the day we are looking for sponsors, volunteers, mentors. We are here in DeKalb County making a difference in our kids lives. It takes a village to do that. And we can’t do alone.
INTERVIEW WITH TOWANDA BRAXTON
You must be proud of her performance?
We were actually on sat with her and she didn’t tell us that she changed her hair or makeup and when we walked in on the set and we saw her we said Toni? I had no idea it was her.
Watching the movie, I was really emotional. I didn’t see Toni, I saw Antoinette Tuff.
What was your big takeaway?
Not living in fear and in the midst of the storm, God always gives you the spirit of protection even when you don’t think it’s there. That was the Takeaway for me.
INTERVIEW WITH EVELYN BRAXTON
She turned into a different character. What type of emotions does she have to evoke?
She said mommy, I had to reach deep down in and bring out all of these emotions and she told me it took her a while to get back to her. To who she was. She said the feelings that she went through shooting this movie are indescribable. This was a very emotional film for her. She did an excellent job.
What’s the bigger conversation here? What’s the big take away?
The bigger Takeaway is that if you can save one person’s life, then you have done a wonderful thing and that’s what I got from it. But this lady was a Shirov within herself. The fact these people walked away and still had their life, that was phenomenal. And that was God.
During the time of the red carpet, Toni Braxton fell under the weather and was unable to attend the premiere.
Faith Under Fire is produced by Sony Pictures Television and based on the book Prepared for a Purpose: An Inspiring True Story of Faith, Courage and Compassion in Crisis by Tuff and Alex Tresniowski. Executive producers are T.D. Jakes (Heaven is for Real), Judith Verno (Masters of Sex), Derrick Williams (Miracles from Heaven), Toni Braxton and Craig Baumgarten (Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart). Emmy nominee Vondie Curtis Hall (Abducted: The Carlina White Story) directs from a script written by Laura Harrington and Stephen Kay.
Faith Under Fire airs Saturday, January 27, 2018 on Lifetime at 8pm ET