Natalia Livingston dishes her newest roles: film producer and new mother.
Soap Opera Digest: How did you and Cheryl meet?
Natalia Livingston: Cheryl was actually dating my TV boyfriend. GH fans will get a kick out of this. She was dating Chad Brannon [ex-zander]. Emily and Zander were together at that time and Chad was coming home from work and telling Cheryl about me, to the point where she was saying, “Who is this person? I need to check her out and see what’s going on here.” So, Cheryl called me up and invited me to dinner and the rest is history. We’ve been best friends for ... how long Cheryl?
Cheryl Buchanan: That was 2002.
Digest: Where did you get the idea for this film, In Their Shoes?
Buchanan: My background is in law. The nonprofit mission is the fusion of art and advocacy, and what we do is creative writing workshops in homeless shelters and alternative youth education programs called Writers Without Margins. The focus of the documentary is a prisoner re-entry and addiction recovery facility, and it highlights the story of the men’s experience in that program.
Digest: How did you two end up as producing partners?
Buchanan: I looked at what Natty was doing with Actor’s Boutique and the work she was doing with actors and producers of short films, which is really impressive. We talked and she offered to do a short, promotional video for the nonprofit. Then, when we looked at the potential of shedding some light on the unheard stories of addiction recovery and re-entry, we recognized it was not going to be possible in a short piece, so it grew into a documentary.
Digest: Natty, this is not your first documentary. What struck a chord with you?
Livingston: When I heard about her work, I was so inspired by the struggles and the triumphs of the people who go through her program, and I wanted to help.
Digest: How long has this been in the works?
Buchanan: It was spring of 2017 when we started the conversation and we went through a lot of hurdles. We kept changing and modifying our proposals because there is no media allowed at the re-entry center. We kept stressing that we were doing a positive story about the profound impact that we saw with the guys and their writing and reclaiming their lives, and we kept being told no. That’s when we focused more on
the individuals. It was a complicated process. Natty’s perspective was critical in presenting them as multidimensional human beings and not just felons or criminals. There’s so much more to them, and we’re asking people to take a closer look. Livingston: We’ve had great support so far, especially from people with friends and family who’ve struggled with addiction or ended up in prison because of it. They reached out to us and said, “Thank you for making this film.” We’re just urging people to take a moment and try walking in their shoes, and try to understand addiction and how fierce of a force it is and how hard it is to overcome. That’s our hope, that people will understand. Digest: What do you plan to do with this film?
Livingston: To get it into film festivals, but more importantly, get it into schools across the country. Our cast is very excited about the prospect of being guest speakers at these schools and helping others, and that is so meaningful.
Buchanan: And, we’d also like to thank the other members of our team: Stephen Kennedy Smith, executive producer and member of the Kennedy family, Larry Schiller, executive producer and multi-emmy Award-winning director and producer, and Taylor Katsanis,
our talented director.
Digest: Natalia, you’ve also been busy with Actor’s Boutique, which helps aspiring performers break into show business.
Natalia Livingston: It’s an acting studio that I opened about four years ago in Atlanta, and we have a great group of mentors who are all working professionals. We added Rick Hearst [ex-ric, GH et al], so he is one of our mentors now. He’s doing great. And, we brought on Drew Waters [ex-wade] from FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and NCIS: LOS ANGELES and Erin Bethea from Fireproof and a bunch of other films. Atlanta has become such a great hub for film and television production now, and it just keeps growing. There’s a lot of talent here, so it’s been very rewarding to help foster that.
Digest: You haven’t given up acting, have you? Livingston: Oh, no. That’s always been a passion. I may be spending more time behind the camera now, but I still love acting. In fact, Rick and I just did a film together called Full Count, which is in post-production, so yes, I’ve got a lot going on — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Digest: Who have you kept in touch with from your GH days?
Livingston: Tamara [Braun, Kim, GH et al], Cyndy [Preston, ex-faith, GH], Alicia [Lee Willis, ex-courtney, GH] and Paula, Maurice’s [Benard, Sonny, GH] wife. They’re my girls!
Digest: Congrats on the birth of your daughter! Give us all the baby details. Livingston: I’m a mom! Can you believe it? We are over the moon with joy! She’s so precious. We’re so blessed. Matt’s such a great dad. He really took care of me, of both of us, during the pregnancy, and now we’re excited for the next chapter as parents. Baby Colette is doing great! I’m in pure heaven with her. I absolutely love being a mom. She is starting to smile now. She wrinkles her little nose when she smiles, just like her mom. It makes me laugh. We’ve been singing “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong today. She loves it.
The Producers: Livingston and producing partner Cheryl Buchanan were filmed discussing their new documentary. Cast Of Characters: The producers pose with Director Taylor Katsanis and the men whose stories comprise In Their Shoes.
Guest Speaker: Livingston, Buchanan and Katsansis (r.) interviewed Congressman Joe Kennedy III as part of the film. Sugar And Spice: Livingston welcomed daughter Colette in September.