In the summer of 1998, a woman named Gloria Williams walked into a Florida hospital posing as a nurse and took away a newborn baby girl, Kamiyah Mobley, the daughter of 16-year-old Shanara Mobley. With no clues, the police were baffled—until 2017, when a tip led them to discover that Williams had renamed the child Alexis and, apparently an otherwise kind and conscientious mother, raised her alongside two other children of her own.
It’s a story that beggars belief and one that certainly intrigued When They See Us star Niecy Nash, who won an Emmy for Ava DuVernay’s Central Park Five drama and who plays Gloria in Lifetime’s Stolen By My Mother: The Kamiyah Mobley Story.
“I was familiar — just a little bit — with what happened,” Nash said at Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event. “I may have seen a documentary, or an interview, and I was captivated. I never thought at that moment that I would be playing Gloria Williams, but it was definitely right in my orbit, this story.”
Nash was daunted by the challenge of playing such an obviously complex character, but stresses that this is not simply the Gloria Williams story. “What we have to remember with this particular version of the story is that while it’s about three women — Gloria, the kidnapper; Shannar, the original mother; and Kamiyah/Alexis — this version is told from Kamiyah’s point of view. So, this is really her story, as it were, her narrative of how it played out in her mind and in her heart. I understood that and I wanted to just make sure I did my part, so I had to do a lot of research. I wanted to look up any little tidbit I could find — old media footage, trial footage, interviews — just to make sure I had it down pat.”
Asked how she could identify with such a woman, Nash explained a little about her process.
“I always try to find an entry point,” she said, “and in this case the access point was pain. This woman was in a lot of pain. Now, she was the strong one in her family, and so when she reached her breaking point, she didn’t have a soft place to land. Y’know, I’m a mother. I’ve been in traumatic experiences that caused me great pain, and I tried to lean into that. But what I realized was that Gloria was a woman who had been waiting for this day all her life. She knew this day would come. It’s like a Ponzi scheme: somebody’s gonna get caught holding the bag, and everyone’s trying to get off the ride before it’s [them]. But in her case, there was no getting off the ride.”
Check out the panel video above.