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'Betty and Coretta' stars Mary J. Blige, Ruby Dee
“Betty and Coretta,” a Lifetime TV movie about the enduring friendship forged between the widows of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, features two stars with Hudson Valley ties. Mary J. Blige, who grew up in Yonkers, plays Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, and Ruby Dee, a New Rochelle resident, serves as the film’s on-screen narrator.
The film, which premieres Saturday night, portrays the decades-long bond between Shabazz and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) after their husbands were assassinated. (Malcolm X was murdered in 1965, and King was killed three years later.)
While Blige, a Grammy-winning R&B star, has acted in films and television shows before, including 2012’s “Rock of Ages,” the TV movie is her first starring role, and her first time portraying a real person.
On a conference call with reporters, Blige talked about playing a real person on screen.
“It was different because I was trying to make sure that I didn’t do anything that would disrespect the character," she said. "This was a person who lived on the earth.”
For Dee, who was married to legendary actor Ossie Davis for more than 50 years until his death in 2005, acting as the narrator was a case of art imitating life. In “Betty and Coretta,” Dee appears on screen and talks about how she witnessed the events depicted in the movie. In real life, Dee and Davis were on the forefront of the civil rights movement, and she and Juanita Poitier (first wife of Sidney) were among those who banded together to raise money to purchase Shabazz’s home as part of the Coalition of Concerned Mothers.
“Betty and Coretta” is just one of three films premiering on Lifetime in February to celebrate Black History Month. “Twist of Faith” and “Pastor Brown,” two other TV movies, will debut in the coming weeks.
“Betty and Coretta” premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday on Lifetime.