Lifetime has a new film ripped straight from the headlines, this time starring America’s favorite Cosby kid, Keshia Knight Pulliam. Premiering March 18, The Hillsdale Adoption Story shows the actress as Bethany, a woman with a successful business and marriage, but not able to bring her dream of motherhood to fruition. When a pregnant woman named Georgia shows up on their doorstep looking for help, Bethany thinks it’s a good idea to adopt her baby, but her husband is hesitant. As time moves on, the couple are uneasy and notices some unsettling things about Georgia and her devious and deceitful motives. As a soon-to-be mother of two and newlywed, it’s a story that pulled on Pulliam’s heartstrings.
Pulliam has a great relationship with the network, not only starring in films, but also producing and hosting. Simultaneously, she’s juggling it all while putting her family first. Ahead of the film’s premiere, we spoke with Pulliam about the film, other projects, family and more.
Congratulations on The Hillsdale Adoption Scam. I read that the film was based on true events. How familiar were you with the story or series of events before the project came to you?
KKP: I was as familiar as anyone. We have all heard of these crazy tales and of horror stories of adoption and scandal. So outside of just kind of the general knowledge that this existed, I wasn’t. This story definitely was captivating. And it’s just crazy. I don’t even know a better way to explain.
What about your character do you relate to?
KKP: It was really funny because I was filming this movie of a woman who couldn’t have kids, who is dreaming of being a mother while pregnant. And what I can say is I identified with her yearning and love of motherhood and wanting to be a parent. And it’s just something that is very unique because, at the end of the day, as women, we have strived to have these amazing careers, this, that and the other–and so often, we wait until later on in life and we take for granted the fact that we will be able to have children easily and effortlessly. For a lot of people, that’s just not the reality. You have this woman, Bethany, who seemingly has it all–a beautiful, loving husband, she has one child [and] she has a thriving business. But the one thing that she doesn’t [have] is the ability to expand her family. So really, that whole piece sets up the whole movie and creates the space for her and her desire and wistfulness to have this situation literally come to her front door and be blinded by the red flag because she just desires the best.
One of the things that I love about your work with the network is that Lifetime has seen an increase in diversity and casting in the past decade. And you’ve starred in and participated in a handful of projects with them. So how has it been being part of the process and seeing the changes take place in real time?
KKP: I love it. I love working with Lifetime. They definitely have become very much a family. Not only do I have this movie with them that’s coming on March 18, but I host the Married at First Sight after show, we had A New Orleans Noel, the Christmas movie that my husband and I, Brad James, starred in at the end of last year. We created an amazing relationship that has spanned the last five-plus years. And it’s great to see that they have embraced diversity in the way that they have, because at the end of the day, it’s really important for people, for us, when we turn on a television, to see people who look like you, that light that you can kind imagery is priceless. And I’m happy that they are embracing that. Also, it’s a reflection of their viewers and it’s a reflection of the world that we live in. It’s not a homogenous world. We have to embrace our diversity [and] our differences, because that’s the beauty of who we are as a culture, as a people [and] as a world.
You already mentioned that you are also a staple with Lifetime for the Married at First Sight: Afterparty. How did you become part of the Married at First Sight family and what’s your reaction to the criticism of the show that the experiment doesn’t necessarily seem to be working anymore with the last few seasons?
KKP: I love it honestly, I’m a fan. I’ve watched the show for forever and it just very organically happened with me hosting Afterparty. And I love the opportunity. What I love about the Afterparty is it gives the viewers the opportunity to have a greater understanding of [the stars’] perspective, point of view and maybe what we weren’t able to see on the main show. So often, things happen, and even as a viewer, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, that didn’t make sense. Why did you do that?’ I’m one of those people yelling at the TV. I love that it gives people the opportunity to further expand their truth of what they were going through, why they did what they do, why they said what they said that we may not have been privy to in the main show.
Going back to the movie The Hillsdale Adoption Scam, what is your hope for viewers to take away from watching a movie like this?
KKP: I hope a few things. That people begin to embrace the present. So often, people think, “When this happens or when I have this child or this relationship or this amount of money, I will be happy. My life will be complete.” I hope that people learn to embrace the present because that’s where happiness lies. And then anything that happens on top of that is icing. And then also, there are many pathways to motherhood.
There is adoption, there’s surrogacy, there’s IVF. There are so many different ways to get there. And that regardless of how you get there, it doesn’t change your status or your love as a mom. And if you’re going through the adoption route, I would do a reputable agency. I think that I couldn’t say enough. You know, a lot of people get overwhelmed by the cost or a multitude of factors that can make it very challenging in terms of adoption. But I think, especially with this, that you definitely want to find a reputable agency that has a long-standing and upstanding reputation.
Now you’re also part of the Tyler Perry family, and we’ve seen you in many different projects with him over the years. We love what he continues to do for creatives of color, both in front of and behind the camera. What have you learned from working alongside him for so long and also from many different projects?
KKP: You know, I have definitely enjoyed working with Tyler and the whole Tyler Perry family. It’s been probably over a decade. This is our 10th season of House of Payne that’s on currently. It’s wonderful to continue to do what I love doing for four-plus decades and to continue to create and to continue to show characters that are lovable, relatable, and endearing that people can see themselves in. It’s been wonderful. I have also made the transition to behind the camera by directing on House of Payne and I directed a television movie last summer for Hallmark and continue to move forward on both sides of the camera.
You mentioned your years in the business. We have watched you grow up, and transition from a child star to an in-demand adult actress and you do, comedy, drama and family projects. What is your dream acting project at this stage, or even now that you have stepped into doing some things behind the camera? What type of projects would you personally look to bring forth?
KKP: I love to be creative outside all of it. I’m creative. I’m excited. My husband and I are working on projects together this Christmas. We had the opportunity to do in New Orleans Noel, which was a Christmas movie on Lifetime, which I also produced. So honestly, I just I love doing feel-good projects, and I’m just excited to bring projects that the two of us have either written to, bought to fruition, producing projects, and just having my hands in all aspects of the creation of bringing great stories to both television and theater.
You’re about to become a mother of two. How have you been preparing to balance your career and two young children?
KKP: I think you just do. I don’t know what you have to do to prepare for it. We are just going to keep going. At the end of the day, when I work now it is very much a family affair, and when my husband works, it’s a family affair. So we all travel together, like this past summer in South Carolina, directing the Hallmark movie. My husband starred in the movie and as well, so my daughter and my mom travel with us. So we are a three-ring traveling circus for sure. But family is first and foremost in anything that we do. When we are filming in New Orleans for the Lifetime movie, it was a family affair then, too. And we’re just going to have one more to add.
As someone who has had ups and downs in love, you mentioned that’s one of the reasons why you love Married at First Sight, and obviously, you’re an advocate for women and family. How do you encourage your fans not to give up on their dreams of having love and family?
KKP: I would just say that what’s for you is for you. never miss you. And a lot of times, we look for love or relationships to complete us. I would say that it’s never about someone completing you, but it’s about two wholes coming together. So the more you work on you, the more you are for you, and the more you just live the life that you truly desire. That’s when you find your person. You know it. It’s when you are truly in the throes of your own personal joy and happiness that you’re going to find the right person for you. Also that you’re going to be able to recognize the right person for you. Because so often you’re looking to be completed, or you’re looking for some sort of fulfillment outside of yourself, that’s when you make those choices that don’t quite turn out too well. But those choices are valuable too, because they are opportunities to learn and to grow and sometimes to teach you what not to do next time and what to look out for what are the red flags?