Stephanie Mills faces fear when taking on ‘Pride’

Stephanie Mills takes on her first lead role in a film with "Pride: A Seven Deadly Sins Story." (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The latest offering in Lifetime’s “Seven Deadly Sins” anthology movie series – films inspired by the novels by author Victoria Christopher Murray – continues with “Pride: A Seven Deadly Sins Story.” This comes after productions that have dealt with the sins of lust, envy, wrath and greed.

In the case of “Pride” – set to debut at 8 p.m. April 8 on Lifetime – star Stephanie Mills found that being part of the production had less to do with pride but more about facing her fears. Although the Grammy-winning Mills has been performing for decades, “Pride” marks her debut as the lead actor in a television movie.

“It was scary. Very scary,” Mills says. “I just turned 66, so I was just like ‘Lord, please let me remember these lines.’ I was afraid but I just gave it to God.

“I said ‘God, you got this.’ Then I flew to Vancouver.”

The fear quickly vanished once Mills arrived at the filming location. She found the entire process to be less scarier than she anticipated because it was very “organic,” especially factoring in the help she got from her fellow actors.

“Pride” – inspired by actual events – focuses on a famous bakery owner and reality TV star Birdie Moore (Mills). When past secrets come to light, they threaten to destroy the enormous success she has achieved. To protect her legacy, Moore must let go of the pride that estranged her from her daughter.

Her pride also prevents her from seeing that her son (Thomas Miles) is a thieving opportunist and that her granddaughter (Keeya King) is just a lost twenty-something trying to build up her life after some missteps.

Mills has never been a reality TV star and has no plans to become one in the future. But, she has garnered fame though her musical career. She was able to call on some experiences from her own life to be able to play the role in “Pride.”

“I couldn’t relate to the reality thing because I don’t like reality TV,” Mills says. “But, I could relate to what was going on personally. I could definitely relate to being a mother loving her son so much that she wanted to cover up whatever he was doing. I have a son who is 22 years old and he cons me every day.

The maternal part was a snap for Mills. The part of the project that gave her the most trouble was the pride her character embraced. Mills points out that she is the kind of person who will say ‘I’m sorry’ if I hurt your feelings.”

The prideful part of her character was very difficult for Mills to play particularly in scenes where her character was being mean to her son. That’s because in her own life, Mills has never yelled at her son.

Mills does display how honest a person she is by admitting that it was a real stretch for her to play someone who found fame in the kitchen. She points out that in reality, she is not a baker.

The fact Mills has been working in the entertainment industry all her life has given her a front row seat as to how the deadly sins play out in that world. Mills was able to avoid being pulled into much of that world because of her deep face in God and by having a very strong mother.

“Pride” is the first starring role in a film for Mills but she’s not new to the acting world. Her first major role was as Dorothy in the original Broadway run of “The Wiz.” As a singer, Mills had five top-rated hits in the 1980s and she won a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her song “Never Knew Love Like This Before” in 1981.

The way Mills was able to avoid being pulled into dark emotional situations that can come with working in the entertainment world was knowing when to step back from the entertainment world at various times.

“I took a break when I had my son and when I didn’t want to be in the business so much. I don’t think if you take breaks, you will crash and burn,” Mills says. “It was me taking breaks to live a regular life.

“I go to the post office. I go to the grocery store. I didn’t buy into any of that Hollywood life at all. I was afraid of it. I didn’t want to get caught up in it. So, I always maintained a normal kind of life.”

And now that normal life includes starring in one of the most popular series Lifetime has produced. Executives at the cable company are definitely showing their pride when it comes to this series. The anthology has been very successful for Lifetime and the previous movies attracted approximately seven million viewers in 2022.