The dynamic duo behind hip-hop hits “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex” have released a biopic on Lifetime telling of their journey from nursing students to stardom. Salt-N-Pepa endured a lot of emotional trauma and many of life’s big milestones together. They shared the most challenging parts of revisiting old wounds while working on the film.
Both Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton serve as executive producers on their Lifetime biopic. They worked closely with GG Townson and Laila Odom who play Salt and Pepa, respectively. I recently attended a Q&A in support of the film, where James and Denton opened up about a difficult part of the filmmaking process. Cheryl James said:
It's hard to put 35 years into a 2.5 hour film, you know there were so many things that we wanted to do and wanted to say that we weren't able to...I definitely had a lot of anxiety doing it 'cause you do have to revisit old wounds, it opens up old wounds and questions that you have about things that you experienced… It was definitely a challenge.
The whole process was a challenge for me 'cause I am an emotional human being and what I remember particularly on the set when GG was throwing up and I got really emotional. She got really emotional. We ended up hugging and crying. You know, trying to pull it together 'cause I felt like that's such a vulnerable position for her to be in as an actress, but also for me, to watch it, you know, and relive it. Going through being severely bulimic, I know a lot of people don't understand eating disorders. It's an addiction and a psychological issue as many are. And so I just appreciated that she got it. You know, when she felt it, she felt the emotion that comes behind doing something like that and not being able to control it. So I appreciate that.
Working together for 35 years, there are many aspects of Salt-N-Pepa’s story that fans won’t know going into the film. As Cheryl “Salt” James mentioned, there were even some things they had to leave out. The scene she discusses above about the eating disorder is very emotional, and GG Townson’s vulnerability makes it feel authentic. Salt-N-Pepa were pioneers of celebrities starting conversations and using their platform to address important issues, and they do the same with this biopic.
Some things are even being shared for the first time so publicly. Sandra “Pepa” Denton talked about a scene that depicts a struggle she has not discussed with her own family. It sounds like this was a particularly difficult moment for her to return to. In her words:
Personally, when you talk about mentioning that for me, the cutting scene, that was huge. You know that's not something that I've discussed personally with my family. Yes, it was mentioned in my book and things, but to actually see that again because of the hurt of when my father died. I was devastated. He only wanted for me to be on honor roles. I accomplished that, but it was still like and he wanted me to achieve my goals and I’m Jamaican, as everyone knows, there’s no room for failure on top of that. So it's like, I had to do that and become somebody. And Salt-N-Pepa, it was my answer, my path, my destiny that was put in front of me and there was nothing that was going to stop me from achieving that. And doing the cutting, and showing that, identifying pain with pain in those moments that you see in the movie with the situation, like I said with my father or when Cheryl left me, those were moments I never really spoke about.
Wow. Both of these sound like excruciating moments to re-live. I can’t commend Salt-N-Pepa and the actresses playing them, GG Townson and Laila Odom enough for their incredible work. Their story is a powerful one, of love and lose, rise to fame, the downsides of fame, family and friendship. The movie has great drama alongside hilarious comedic moments, and gives fans an inside look at the recording of many of Salt-N-Pepa’s hits.