In a heartbreaking scene in the Lifetime film Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland, Michael cried in the arms of his bodyguards, who had become more like family to him than anyone else, and said he’d rather hurt himself than harm a child.
‘I’d cut my own wrists before I hurt a child.‘
The movie focused on Michael in a light that he was rarely seen in – a father, a friend, someone under scrutiny but not a just pop star. He was portrayed as a human – someone with a soul – and he deserved that respect both after his death and during his life. Michael’s life was highly publicized and it was also picked apart piece by piece. He was one of a kind, a trailblazer of sorts, and with that came misunderstanding and fear of something different, of someone who dared to be himself.
With the eighth anniversary of his death less than a month away, Lifetime aired a film called Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland and as the movie progressed, you came to learn that Neverland was never about a lavish home – it was a state of mind, it was a state of peace.
When previews for the film began circulating, people were skeptical – sometimes Lifetime movies get it right and other times…well…watch Britney Ever After…that’s all we’ll say about that. As the movie began, the responses on social media were optimistic but hesitant, however, after seeing it in full, many people were extremely pleased with the film – as were we.
Searching for Neverland did focus on Michael, but it was told from the perspective of his bodyguards Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard, more heavily focused on Bill. Bill’s story is the most insightful into the life of Michael and we learn how close they truly became as the film progresses. While the actor playing Michael, a professional impersonator named Navi who actually met and worked with Michael before his death, was a hit; the real star of the show was Chad Coleman who took on the role of Bill.
The emotion that Chad portrayed through the film really allowed his own talent and heart to shine. He played this role as an actor, a fan of Michael, and someone who thinks the world deserved to see this human side of him. Michael was larger than life to everyone around him, but all he wanted to be in the end was a regular guy, a father, and someone who was able to give his children the world.
The movie follows Bill and Javon speaking to lawyers, asking if they feel that Dr. Conrad Murray killed Michael, and while you may not realize it at first, the answer shows itself through the film’s entirety.
Bill watches Michael’s life begin to spiral, and he doesn’t once turn his back on him, he doesn’t sell him out or demand money when his paychecks stop coming in. He doesn’t leave to find work that’s easier or would allow him to spend more time with his own daughter, he doesn’t allow his own feelings to once be put before the needs of Michael and his children.
Where some saw an enigma, some saw a monster, and others saw a talented artist – but not so much a person, Bill saw a friend and a man who needed someone on his side. Chad put his all into this role, and it was – if we had to guess – one of the most important roles of his career so far. This role allowed him to show people the man behind the glamor and the glitz and the glitter. Behind the scandal and the rumors and the lies.
During a scene towards the end, Michael calls Bill and says that he needs both Bill and Javon there with him – after he made changes to his team where Bill and Javon were phased out, likely without Michael’s knowledge, and Bill assures him that they’ll see him in London in a few weeks. However, he got a ticket to fly out to him just hours later – unfortunately, it was too late.
We then see Bill and Javon work through their grief as they find out, in their own ways, that Michael passed. The film shows the pair speaking to lawyers again soon after, and you see that the entire story was a testament to what killed Michael. It was the demand, the stress, the way his life was taken away from him and how many people were demanding so much from him.
He truly felt like his last curtain call would kill him, and it eventually did, but it wasn’t just that final act, it was so many little pieces that managed to collect in the process.
Micahel started working as a child, so when he grew up and grew into circumstance, he wanted time to enjoy what he’d missed out on. He is described by many as a person who wanted to laugh, wanted to enjoy life, who was young in a way that allowed him room to stay childlike in his dreams and his hopes and other aspects of his personal life. He didn’t want to grow up, and you really couldn’t blame him.
If you’ve been keeping up with the movie, you’ve probably heard that Michael’s family made a statement saying that the project was unsanctioned. Chad Coleman spoke out on behalf of the film and reiterated the focus of the movie in its entirety, which is exactly what we took from it ourselves.
‘At the end of the day, Bill Whitfield had a personal experience with Javon Beard. And it is with integrity and character, so there’s nothing salacious here. You know, the men had so many people turn the book down because they said Michael appeared too normal. But that’s what we’re going for. We’re trying to show you the man. So no, this project is something that I believe will allow his fans to be able to properly grieve the man.‘
Grieve the man is something this film allows it’s audience to do, and the cast and crew all shine, and as massive fans of Chad, we’re glad to see him in a role as monumental as this one.
The film will be replayed on Lifetime this week, you can check your local listing for showtimes.
‘…but I knew him’