Michelle Renee is the woman I portrayed in the re-enactment of a crime on "Final Justice with Erin Brockovich". I was reminded of this part when a similar situation with a bank manager and robbery happened in Los Angeles two days ago.
Back in 2000, Michelle was sitting with her daughter Breea one night after dinner and three men burst into her home. They knocked her down, tied her up, strapped her with dynamite and threatened her. They told her they'd blow her and her daughter up if she didn''t rob the bank where she worked. To save her child's life, she committed the crime. Who wouldn't do the same?
In Michelle's case, her and her daughter survived the ordeal. However, afterwards another real nightmare unfolded. The defendents all claimed that it was actually Michelle that was the mastermind behind the whole thing. It took her almost two years to clear her name and while doing so had to live in hiding. To be a victim or a suspect is something we all hope never happens to us, and certainly not both.
I never had the chance to meet Michelle Renee but I tried to portray her situation honestly as if it were happening to me. I had only just got the part about 36 hours before filming. I had no photo of this woman, or any information on her, even her name, just a sentence about her story.
Fortunately at least I had seen a couple of episodes of "Final Justice" before getting the call. In fact, one night after watching an episode about a woman who caught the person stealing her identity by going undercover, I decided to send my headshot and resume to the casting director. By the way it is hardly ever done this way, so random, and the fact that I got a part out of it I will always consider luck. "Luck" meaning "opportunity aligning with preparation", that is!
In "Final Justice" I was trusted to portray a real person in a serious life and death situation. We had only one day to shoot all 14 scenes, so I was much too busy to worry about the nuances of any one of them that day.
A few weeks later after I had already told friends and family about the part I found out that "Final Justice with Erin Brockovich" was cancelled two weeks before the episode was to air. Hate when that happens. This meant I would never earn residuals or even see the show, much less have footage for my demo reel. That happens fairly often in the biz. (It finally did air in 2010, about eight years later).
Not long after the shoot my friend Nicole met someone who worked at Lifetime Television. Nicole arranged for her to make a tape of the episode for me, and I finally was able to see it. That was the source of the link below.
Michelle Renee took what happened to her and made it her cause. At the bottom of the post is a link to her blog and website. She is now a public speaker and author advocating against violent crime, teaching women how to protect themselves, and how to survive intense life challenges through extreme resiliency.
"Final Justice with Erin Brockovich", Bank Heist 12 min
Extreme Resiliency...Michelle Renee