Monday, July 22, 2024

“Satisfied”: Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Journey of Grace, Talent, and Family

Renée Elise Goldsberry performing in the award-winning play Hamilton

My initial introduction to the world of “Hamilton” came courtesy of a musical-obsessed niece. But Renée Elise Goldsberry’s journey to become the character Angelica Schuyler in the documentary “Satisfied” transformed me into a full-fledged fan.

“Satisfied” is more than just a glimpse into the life of an award-winning actress. It’s a nuanced portrait of a woman juggling the demands of a thriving career with the joys and challenges of motherhood. Goldsberry’s grace, talent, and unwavering dedication shine through, making the film a must-watch. Taji Mag had the opportunity to interview the film’s directors, Chris Bolan and Melissa Haizlip, about the development of the documentary.

Renée the Renaissance Woman

Goldsberry possesses not only the beauty, grace, and excitement of her performances but also is a loving mother and caring spouse. It’s not easy, but Goldsberry’s actions seem effortless, as shown in the documentary, which is why it was easy for both Bolan and Hazlip to say yes to the project. 

“I absolutely love Renée Elise Goldsberry!” Haizlip said when asked why she joined the project, “ I’m a big fan of Hamilton, and I have a background in musical theater with a 25-year career on and off Broadway. I just absolutely adored the musical Hamilton.” She added. 

Haizlip added, “So when I heard that there’s going to be a documentary about Renée, I was so excited and invited to join this project. I’m thrilled to tell her story as a Black woman in theater. The themes of our film—motherhood, balancing career and family—are so universal. But the specificity of Renée, seeing the film through her eyes and her experience with Hamilton, is unique and magical. I’m thrilled to tell this story with such a great team.” 

Bolan shared the same sentiments, stating “Yeah. And I would echo that, everything that Melissa said.”  “And then, you know, I have to credit Kelly O’Hara because she’s a dear friend of mine and a major Broadway star in her own right. We had spoken before even meeting Renée about wanting to tell a story of parenting and specifically mothers juggling on Broadway.” Bolan added. 

He continued “ So when Renée was introduced to me by Kelly, all those pieces suddenly came together in a really amazing opportunity. It gave us the platform to tell this story of a woman navigating a professional career and personal life. The more we researched Renée’s story, the deeper it became, and we’re honored that she entrusted us with telling it.”

Archives, Vlogs, and More 

For Hamilton fans, the documentary holds a special treat. Footage from Goldsberry’s time on the show, including interactions with Lin-Manuel Miranda, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the phenomenon that catapulted her career.

Speaking on the process of selecting footage, Bolan explains, “We were fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches – six terabytes of material! Huge credit goes to our incredible archival-producing team and editors. They sifted through everything, organizing media from cassette tapes to mini DV formats.”

Bolan describes the editing as a lengthy process. “It took about 10 months, Melissa would agree? It was complex because we wanted to enrich the story with additional scenes beyond the initial footage. We had to thread the needle carefully, and I’m happy to say Renée felt good about the story we were able to tell.”

Haizlip highlights the unique perspective offered by Goldsberry’s personal vlogs. “The beauty of the film lies in these vlogs. Renée wasn’t filming with the intention of a documentary, but she intuitively knew that Hamilton was special. Thankfully, she documented her experiences, insecurities, triumphs, and significant family events like the birth of her first child and the adoption of her second.”

Haizlip concludes, “By combining the archival footage with Renée’s personal archive – family photos, videos, and her most intimate thoughts – the film becomes deeply relatable and special. This is her story, told through her own lens, making it all the more powerful.”

What I felt resonated with me about this film was Goldsberry’s tenacity because we all see the glitz, glamour, and success of people, not the struggles and the obstacles they had to face while pursuing their goals. Here, Goldsberry lays it all out and the gives the audience the opportunity to see the growing pains. I, myself find it encouraging knowing that what I am going through now will prepare me fo the next step no matters what. 

Renée Elise Goldsberry

What Inspired the Directors

For Bolan, Goldsberry’s groundedness was a constant source of admiration. “Given her impressive body of work,” he explains, “celebrity often comes with baggage. What struck me most was how Renée prioritizes what truly matters in life. Her honesty and vulnerability on set were truly inspiring. Every interaction felt marked by openness, trust, and a rawness that resonated deeply.”

This rawness translates to the screen, drawing viewers into Goldsberry’s story. Bolan acknowledges this, stating, “You’re right, Felipe [hypothetical interviewer]. Her charisma is undeniable. It stems from those qualities I mentioned. She resonated with me not just as a director, but as a person.”

Haizlip delves deeper, highlighting a shift in perspective. “What resonates with me,” she says, “is this idea of redefining ‘having it all.’ We witness Renée at the pinnacle of her career, nurturing her family and building a strong foundation. The age-old question arises: Can women truly have it all? Can they authentically balance career and motherhood?”

Haizlip finds inspiration in Goldsberry’s unwavering dedication: “Renée shows us that despite challenges, struggles, and triumphs, she gives 100%, even 200% at times. This commitment applies to her craft, her colleagues, her family, and her career as a whole. It’s a powerful message for many women who grapple with justifying the significance of motherhood alongside a successful career.”

Haizlip concludes with a powerful statement: “Ultimately, the definition of ‘having it all’ is personal. For Renée, it’s the ability to love her children, build her family, and pursue her artistic passion. ‘Satisfied’ isn’t just about the making of a phenomenon; it’s about the making of a family, and Renée masterfully navigates both.”

Renée Elise Goldsberry with her husband Alexis Johnson and their children

The Importance of Healthy Black Relationships

One of the most heartwarming aspects of “Satisfied” is the portrayal of Renée Elise Goldsberry’s relationship with her husband, Alexis Johnson. In a world saturated with social media’s curated depictions of love, theirs stands out – genuine, supportive, and a refreshing example of a healthy Black partnership.

Director Chris Bolan emphasizes the importance of showcasing their family life. “Felipe [hypothetical interviewer], it was crucial,” he says. “Alexis is a dear friend, and I say this jokingly, but truthfully – he makes all of us husbands look bad! The guy’s incredible. Renée herself acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is without his unwavering support.”

Bolan elaborates, “We wanted to capture their extraordinary love and their ability to uplift each other through thick and thin. Including Alexis was essential; he’s simply an amazing man.”

Director Melissa Haizlip echoes Bolan’s sentiment. “Absolutely [he’s amazing],” she adds. “Many would agree that Alexis is the film’s real MVP – not just of the film, but of the family. He’s loving, patient, and incredibly kind. One of my favorite lines in the film is when he says, ‘We want to create a household where everybody thrives.’ That sentiment resonates deeply, especially in today’s world with so many challenges.”

Haizlip highlights the film’s significance beyond portraying love: “It’s a beautiful opportunity to showcase not just love, but Black love and a strong family unit. They value and support each other, every member – children as much as parents. This is a rare and beautiful thing to see depicted in film. It’s a subtle storyline, but one that resonates deeply because it’s not often portrayed.”

What truly shines is the vulnerability and pride Johnson displays for his wife, and Goldsberry’s comfort with it. Haizlip comments, “Unfortunately, Black families in media can sometimes be portrayed in problematic ways for ratings or drama. This portrayal is refreshing and inspiring, showing how a family loves, supports, and uplifts each other.”

She concludes, “This family is the foundation for Renée and everything she has achieved. In a way, she truly does have it all because this family defines her and responds to her in such a profound way. That’s what we aimed to highlight in the film.”

“Satisfied” goes beyond showcasing Goldsberry’s artistic journey. It unveils the loving family that fuels her spirit, demonstrating that joy and fulfillment are possible despite life’s obstacles. This film is a compelling testament to the power of love, support, and a strong family unit.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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