Andrea Lewis on Advancing Black History in Hallmark's "A Nashville Legacy"

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Cover image for  article: Andrea Lewis on Advancing Black History in Hallmark's "A Nashville Legacy"

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries leaves its mark on Black History Month this weekend with the premiere of A Nashville Legacy, an all-new movie (and the second) under its Mahogany banner. The film stars Andrea Lewis (pictured above) and Pooch Hall (pictured below, right) and features a stellar supporting cast including Roz Ryan and Stan Shaw -- along with special appearances by musical artists The Shindellas, Curt Chambers and American Idol season two winner Ruben Studdard. Based on true events, and filmed on location, the movie is set amidst the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville. Legacy marks Lewis' Hallmark Media debut, and, for her, the fact that it's an engaging mystery steeped in Black history made the project the perfect entry into the Hallmark family.

"Honestly, I'm very excited about this," she enthused during an exclusive chat with MediaVillage. "Hallmark is a legendary brand, and everybody knows them from the cards to the Christmas films, then knowing the Hallmark Mahogany brand and introducing that! Especially within the Black community, everybody knows Hallmark Mahogany cards. Whenever I'm talking to people and say, 'Oh yeah, and they're also doing Mahogany films,' people are genuinely excited to see elements of our culture, of our history, introduced in these films that we all know so well. I consider this opportunity a dream come true."

Lewis portrays Naima, a student working on a dissertation for her Doctorate in Ethnomusicology. After landing an internship at the National Museum of African American Music, she uncovers a donated box that soon unfolds a mystery surrounding a famous 1960s girl group song. With doubts as to who originated the song, she enlists the aid of Damian (Hall), the son of legendary music producer Franklin Berryhall (Shaw). As the mystery unfolds, it becomes apparent that Naima's findings could open an unwanted can of worms for all involved, potentially destroying any hope of a relationship with Damian.

With a story spanning 1963 to the present day, Lewis (who is also a singer) was delighted to do a deeper dive into the girl group musical genre. "I absolutely love this era," she said. "The film incorporates everything from jazz to country to soul. And we feature Ruben Studdard (pictured below) and country artist Curt Chambers. To me, his music defines what this film is. It's soulful and country focused, but it's Americana. It's like all these things mixed into one. Within this film, you really get to see so many types of music that include Black culture and are the voice of America. The fun part of this film is that we show Black history and American history are synonymous."

As the national conversation rages with regard to abolishing teaching Black history, the fact the film highlights its importance was not lost on Lewis. "That's the most exciting part about the script," she explained. "It touches on so many things everybody can relate to like family, legacy and music, and it introduces people to the African American Museum of Music. This space is like a cultural time capsule of all things to do with music history within African American culture. So many people don't know or didn't know about the museum, so you get an element of learning.

"It's very important because Black history is American history," she added. "To be in a film that touches on it in such an elegant and easy way that enriches the lives of these characters … Honestly, I was so pleased to see that fit because I didn't know this museum existed. It's so beautiful, and it literally has everything from James Brown to Cardi B! Every kind of music is in there, which makes it a fascinating space.

"Another fascinating thing about the script is it reminded me of the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom," she continued. "It's about really famous background singers having their music taken from them. Turns out that's part of the true events that inspired it. So, combining all these things we all know like real music history, real African American history, and genuine stories we can all relate to, I was immediately excited."

The fact the project was packaged as an intriguing mystery only added to that excitement. "I'm genuinely a curious person," she revealed. "If I get a nugget of information, I need to know more. I really related to Naima in that respect. As a total mystery person, I understood why she needed to solve this mystery and understand what really happened. I think any really curious person will completely [understand] that urge. When somebody's trying to shut something down, you have to go further."

Having one Mahogany project under her belt, Lewis can't wait to do more. "It was a fantastic experience and everything I'd ever hoped and dreamed of," she said. "The crew, every person involved was so sweet and so nice, it felt like family on the set. That was such a surprising gift. We had an amazing director in Roger Bobb, an amazing producer in Sylvia Mathis, and the great Pooch Hall, who is an absolute favorite! It was a very confirming experience and I really felt at home.

"I'd love to do more adventures with Naima because she's such a fascinating character," she added in closing. "She's curious and always open to learning more. We kept saying she needs to take on another major city and get answers for somebody else's family. My bags are packed and ready to go wherever they need me to be. Let's do it!"

A Nashville Legacy, a Mahogany presentation, will be telecast Sunday, February 26, at 7 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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