Kierra Sheard was 14 years old when her mother and Gospel music great, Karen Clark Sheard, fell into a coma and nearly died after an elective surgery. It’s a scene from her own life that she’s previously opened up about in her music. In fact her 2004 debut single, “You Don’t Know,” speaks about it openly on the second verse.
But when the younger Sheard had to embody her mother laying on the hospital bed for Lifetime’s highly-anticipated biopic about her family, The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, although she did much to prepare, even studying with an acting coach, she couldn’t even speak to her mother about it. It was just that painful.
“I didn’t ask her about that because I don’t want my mom to relive that because I was reliving it and I was crying my eyes out as if it was just happening,” the now 32-year-old told ESSENCE.
To portray that scene, Sheard had to rely on her own memories to ensure the scene came to life onscreen. “I remember seeing my father, [Bishop John Drew Sheard] ball his eyes out and my father is one of those strong, OG, clean cut guys,” she recalled. “We don’t see him cry unless he’s praying and thanking the Lord Jesus himself. I had never seen my father put his head in his hand. You saw fear. I remember that.”
“And because I’m a daddy’s girl,” Sheard continued, “that affected me and it became more real to me. That’s when I knew, ‘Oh, you all ain’t telling us the full story. Something’s going on over there and you all ain’t saying anything.'”
When Gospel fans watch The Clark Sisters on Saturday, they’ll finally see the full story. They’ll even hear a few things that’ll make them want to jump up and run around the church. They’ll see a powerful performance from Aunjanue Ellis, who played the heaven out of the late Mattie Moss Clark, the legendary choir director who in essence created The Clark Sisters by pushing her daughters—Clark Sheard, Jacky Clark Chisholm (Angela Birchett), Denise “Niecy” Clark Bradford (Raven Goodwin), Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark (Christina Bell) and Dorinda Clark-Cole (Sheléa Frazier)—to sing. They’ll hear Donald Lawrence-produced re-recorded versions of The Clark Sisters’ hits, including their 1981 crossover hit, “You Brought the Sunshine,” and they’ll learn so much more about the sister’s lives, including unplanned pregnancy, attempted suicide and abusive relationships.
Sheard said that due to “being a kid in the family,” she learned much about her family’s lives through the film as well—including that her grandfather, Elder Elbert Clark, was abusive to her grandmother. And even though she learned many difficult truths about her beloved family, Sheard said watching them play out onscreen didn’t make her “uncomfortable.”
“Their labor, their work, it was not in vain.”
“But it definitely made me want to shut up when they’re in the room as a way of honor and respect a lot more, if that makes sense,” she continued. “Because they went through so much.”
“It made me feel like, ‘Wow, this is my inheritance. This is where I come from. This is what I’m a part of,'” Sheard added. “Having to sit in certain scenes and actually see it as if I were [my mother] Karen, there may be some moments when people are probably like, ‘You really did your acting,’ but I’m like, ‘That wasn’t me acting. That was me really feeling like, “Oh my God, this really happened? What were you thinking?'”
Sheard had that exact thought when she learned what her aunt Twinkie went through as a female musician. “She sold her catalog for a Cadillac,” the actress detailed. “And then I learned there was something that my grandmother said to her like, ‘Do you know that you sold your…children’s children’s future when you make off the cuff decisions and you don’t think in the moment?'”
Despite their music career missteps, Sheard said she’s continually impressed by what her mother and aunts endured. Especially, she added, “knowing how they had to keep their poise and graceful approach and looking like everything was OK when sometimes it was probably passion or hurt when they were delivering the gospel, and literally only having God to depend on.”
And although Lifetime’s The Clark Sisters feels like a good Easter service, fulfilling in all the best ways, by the end of the movie it still seems like there’s more story to tell. Sheard feels the same way.
“I wanted more. It made me cry,” the Gospel singer, whose father executive produced the film along with her manager Holly Carter, said. “It was just really special and I could not wait for the world to see it. I was like, ‘Can we just leak this now?'”
Although Sheard may not be able to watch with her entire family, due to self-isolation orders across the nation, when her family does tune into The Clark Sisters this weekend, the singer has a few hopes for them.
“I hope that they see that their labor, their work, it was not in vain and that the Lord has blessed them with a timeless anointing, a timeless gift and a timeless level of creativity,” she said. “I hope that they see that the world notices those particulars and that their legacy still lives on; it’s living through their children.”
The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel premieres Saturday at 8/7c on Lifetime.Share :