Filmmaker Monika Mitchell is easily the Queen of Hallmark and Lifetime movies but with Netflix’s Brazen, starring Alyssa Milano, Mitchell bringing the popular 1980s Nora Roberts romance, thriller novel “Brazen Virtue” to the screen.
Mitchell revealed that she knows first-hand how addictive Roberts’ New York Times bestselling novel is.
“I had a beach vacation planned with my best friend and I had brought all these weighty books on economics and the state of the world, and I bought the Nora Roberts book, for work,” she explained to Yahoo Canada. “I wound up reading that book three times in that week and I never touched any of the other books.”
“She had painted such a crystal clear picture of who they were that they became people that I cared about and then when I got back from that, I aggressively pursued the project because I knew that it was something that I felt like I needed to do.”
Brazen begins when successful mystery writer Grace (Milano) gets an urgent call from her estranged sister Kathleen, who needs Grace to co-sign a mortgage so Kathleen can fight for full custody of her son. But Kathleen has a secret she kept from her sister, when she’s home from her day job as a high school teacher, Kathleen performs as a dominatrix on an online video platform, in a room locked at the back of her closet.
When Kathleen is suddenly killed and her mystery dominatrix life is revealed, Grace works with the leading man, homicide detective Ed (Sam Page), to crack the case.
Brining a 1980s story into the 21st century
While Mitchell loved the story, this film did come without its challenges, primarily bringing a book from the 1980s into modern times.
“To give you [an example], Ed…he's a vegetarian, which is something that's really surprising because it's against type for 1989, cut to 2022, I mean like, half the people I know are vegans,” Mitchell explained. “We had to come up with other ways that he is sort of not a traditional guy, when the whole idea of a traditional guy has changed.”
“[Grace] was actually, in a strange way, I felt easier to modernize because in the book, she's headstrong, she's independent, she says what she thinks even if it pisses people off,...she's completely tenacious, when she wants to do something nothing can stand in her way.”
That being said, the book, as Mitchell highlights, had a lot of “modern values,” most evident when it came to tackling its move to a lack of judgement of sex work.
“In the book, she's phone sex person…but now we have the internet and so then she became a webcam person, which suddenly created a whole visual world that didn't exist in the book,” the director explained.
Lead character's wardrobe is 'very Alyssa Milano'
When it came to having Alyssa Milano in the lead role, the filmmaker highlighted that they had a very “authentic” relationship, and Milano is very transparent, which sometimes led to differences of opinion on the character.
“I think the wardrobe that she wears…is very Alyssa Milano,” Mitchell said. “But I had initially had a different idea for the character.
The director explained that in the story, Grace is making a lot of money with her successful novels so there was a “refinement” that Mitchell had envisioned for the character.
But Milano actually connected to a different point in the story where Grace never dressed up “like she had all the success.”
“We had latched on to two different perspectives of the same person,” Mitchell explained.
“And it's true, I really, I agree with her, I think it was a stronger choice for her…to have fashion-forward clothes but for them to be more casual."
Brazen was filmed in Vancouver and Mitchell, American-born but becoming a Canadian citizen in 2008, is a strong advocate for the “amazing” local film community.
“Living right here in downtown Vancouver, the talent pool, the equipment available to you, the post production resources, I don't know, I'm hard pressed to go anywhere else,” she said. “I do love it here so much.”