When I’m not busy writing about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I’m furiously typing up scripts for TV dramas in the UK. When I tell people what I do, they often (wrongly) assume that it’s a wildly glamorous job: long lunches with hot actors and glitzy cocktail-fueled events. Meanwhile, the reality is me in a sweaty pair of PJs staring at a flashing cursor on a blank screen desperately trying to put real emotion on the page; striving to bring characters to life and craft stories that viewers can identify and empathize with, and ultimately root for.
Often, if I am deeply into a scene — using events in my own life to help me channel the character’s emotions — I’ll get so emotional I start to cry. As I put myself in each character’s shoes, I live each line for them as I write it. It’s like trying on a new life, albeit for a brief moment. Weirdly it’s often cathartic; in writing dialogue for a character who is going through experiences I have had, I get to “make peace” with the situation. Sometimes the character survives the trauma in a way that I wish I had in real life. By putting my own experiences in a script, it somehow makes it more authentic and the viewers believe in it more.
So when I read about Kingdom actress Kiele Sanchez — who miscarried her son Winter just weeks before she was due to give birth to him — writing the ordeal into Kingdom’s storyline, I had nothing but the utmost respect for her bravery.
Sanchez opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about how the show’s creator, Byron Balasco, reached out to her about how she was doing and how she wanted her character’s storyline to unfold. You see, they had filmed the last season of Kingdom with Sanchez’s character Lisa being pregnant — so she could have the baby or not. Balasco said he hadn’t yet written a word and thoughtfully asked Sanchez how she wanted the storyline to play out. Sanchez told THP, “I told him I’m at my lowest. I can’t imagine playing anything other than where I’m at. If I can turn this into … something. He asked if I was sure and I said let’s lean in.”
Having seen a therapist, psychiatrist, taken anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and “alcohol for the remaining bits,” Sanchez explained how she was consumed by grief. Struggling to lose the baby weight, she felt “a hate-fueled need to return to who I was before all this.” But because she still looked pregnant, people kept telling her, “Congratulations!” When they offered sympathy that her son would always be in her heart, she would think, “But I want to carry him in my belly. In my arms. Babies are big and my heart is small, tender and beaten.”
Feeling alone in her grief, Sanchez returned to work, where her character Lisa loses the pregnancy. She had to wear a prosthetic belly for those beginning scenes, and for a moment she felt like she was pregnant again — that it had all been a bad dream. But then she had to go to set and relive that bad dream take after take after take. Can you even imagine how utterly raw and soul destroying that would be? Yet incredibly Sanchez recalled that she made a joke to the crew and asked them if she looked fat. She was determined to show her colleagues that she was still there — inside the “swollen morose version of me.”
In going back to work, Sanchez finally felt like her old self again. In focusing on her character’s pain, she found her own got easier — simply by caring about something other than her own agony. Ultimately, the experience was cathartic for her. She explained, “I have so much pride that we didn’t shy away. That we created something that speaks to suffering that for some reason lives in shadows.”
In doing so, not only has Sanchez raised awareness for a taboo subject, but she has also shown how women come to terms — as much as they can — with such loss. I applaud her because while writing something so deeply personal and tragic is difficult, it is a whole other level of pain to then act that out on screen.
Sanchez thanked Balasco for letting her decide how her character should progress — a gutsy move for a producer. In letting her tap into her loss for the role, he clearly helped her through her grieving process and also insured she wasn’t put in a place where she emotionally couldn’t go. Imagine having to carry on with a part — where you’d personally been pregnant as well as your TV character — only to have your character become a mother, and you in real life do not. How utterly heartbreaking.
The actress said she felt pride that they didn’t shy away from the truth and was honored to tell the story she herself lived. The truth of being in a creative industry is that sometimes out of the very worst moment of our life, if we can share it so others can learn and relate to what we’ve been through, it makes the whole tragedy the tiniest bit more bearable.More On