Actor/Producer Tray Williams develops series focusing on sex trafficking survivors

Actor and producer Tray Williams proves the importance of quickly bouncing back from disappointment. Feeling let down after a highly anticipated meeting that the actor director describes as “a scam,” he agreed to read a script offered him by another similarly disappointed attendee, who was a filmmaker. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and a lightbulb went on in Williams’ head. In short order, Williams relocated to Los Angeles to seriously pursue acting. Since then, the Houston native has acted in fifteen films and numerous commercials and is also fully immersed in the role of producer. Williams pro- duced popular Youtube reality competition, “Trapped With The Prince Family” and is president of TV/film distribution for Media Room 360, which provides content for Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, VOD, and all android devices. “My job is to bring in content for our platform. So we help people get distribution,” he explains.

Williams, who’s also a father of two, is very clear about his worth and value. “I went through some tough situations early in life so now nothing is going to be any harder than that. I also do a lot of research and so I’m confident because I feel prepared.”

Some years ago, Williams became acquainted with Tamra Simmons, producer of the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.” It turned out that one of the scripts Williams presented to Simmons coincided with a project that she was developing about sex trafficking. “She was like, ‘We should just work on this together,’” he recalls.

Simmons and Williams are currently in the process of shopping the series, of which he says, “We wanted to highlight Though Black women and girls make up just five percent of the American population, they constitute forty to sixty percent of the victims of sex trafficking. In his research, Williams found that girls are much more likely to be coerced into a life of prostitution than to be physically made to do so. “A lot of them are manipulated by the men initially convincing them they really love them,” he explains mournfully.

Distressingly, Williams found that most of the traffickers are Black men. “The saddest thing for me was finding out that the ones doing most of the trafficking are Black men. That to me, is heartbreaking.”

Williams says he has thought about what he would say to anyone thinking of trafficking or using trafficked girls and women for sex. “I would ask them to think about whether or not it’s really worth it to ruin a woman’s life. You would kill someone if that was your daughter or your mother.” Recognizing that the desperate situations these young girls and women are in can cause them to ignore their instincts and ignore red flags, he says he would caution them “No matter how bad your situation is, do your research before going all in with anyone. Don’t make a bad situation worse. Don’t be so trusting. Understand that everybody is not your friend.” stories of survival, and go in depth about the impact of sex trafficking on the victims and their families.”

Compelled to write a script after watching a shocking news report, the project has been a harrowing experience for Williams in certain ways. “They were showing that young girls were just being captured and put into cars. I just felt like I had to do something about it. It was terrible, and I felt so bad.”

What Williams learned from doing the research was much different from what he assumed prior. “Most of them have been sexually abused by a mother’s boyfriend.” Compounding that tragedy, he says, is that girls are often not believed when they report the abuse. Many run away, ending up prey to thousands of sex traffickers involved in a one hundred billion dollar industry.

A’lelia Bundles Offers Praise and Critique of Netflix’ “Self Made” at Virtual Screening of Walker Documentary

WORLD Channel recently hosted a virtual discussion, screening, and Q&A with filmmaker Stanley Nelson and Madame C.J. Walker biographer, A’lelia Bundles. The host of WORLD Channel’s Local USA, Tina Martin, led the Q&A and discussion of Nelson’s timeless 1981 documentary on Madame C.J. Walker’s life, “Two Dollars And A Dream,” now streaming on WORLD’s YouTube channel.

Walker has become more popular as a historical figure over the past decade; known to many as the woman who pioneered the Black hair care industry.

The film showcases the promotional slides Walker used to market her products, clips of marketing films made by the Walker company, interviews with former employees, and rare archival photos including those of her palatial estate in New York, and of Walker with luminaries such as Booker T Washington and WEB DuBois, further broadening understanding of all Walker was and did.

Nelson made “Two Dollars And A Dream” when very few were aware of Walker’s contributions to American business. His friendship with Bundles goes all the way back before the making of the film. Bundles revealed during the discussion that she helped do the audio for some of the interviews.

Much of the discussion focused on the 2020 Netflix limited series, “Self Made,” about Walker’s life, starring Octavia Spencer; with Bundles and Nelson parsing what the series got right and what it didn’t. Bundles lauded Ocatvia Spencer’s depiction enthusing, “I thought Octavia Spencer was perfectly cast as Madame Walker. Every time she came on screen, I could see the pages of my book coming alive.”

Bundles also expressed her pleasure at the show’s depiction of successful early twentieth century Blacks. “I think there are a lot of people, both Black and white, who don’t know anything about that. They don’t know that there were prosperous, educated Black people back then.”

Because the public is still just learning about Walker, however, there are things, Bundles feels could have been done differently. “It’s one thing if you’re George Washington or Marilyn Monroe and there are 52 films out there about you, you can take more creative license. But with a first pass, it’s helpful if we don’t distort people too much.”

Bundles would also have preferred that Walker’s romantic relationships reflected reality more. In “Self Made,” Walker’s daughter A’lelia (played by Tiffany Haddish) had a relationship with a woman named Esther. “Esther was not a real person,” explained Bundles. “A’lelia Walker’s real life conflict was over two men, both of them doctors and both of whom she married.”

FB Ransom, played by Kevin Carroll, was also overly distorted. Ransom worked at The Walker Company for over 30 years. He oversaw many developments including the Walker Building in Indianapolis, a precursor to the modern day shopping mall. Ransom, who is also Nelson’s grandfather, Bundles shared, “was a much stronger character and was really a straight arrow. As a young man he made an oath to never drink, smoke, or gamble.”

She explained she has voiced her concerns during the series’ development. “I objected very strongly to the way that they depicted Ransom. He was central to the day to day operations of the business. It was made to seem as if he, or a Black business, would do something illegal. That didn’t happen.”

To this Nelson added, “That generation coming out of enslavement, were strivers. They believed that if you walked the straight and narrow, and you strove and pushed, good things would happen. There were Blacks who might have gone to juke joints but the ones associated with the company, were very strict.”

Bundles also found the handling of the Madame C.J. Walker and Addie Munro relationship problematic. She admitted that the two businesswomen became adversaries. However, she clarified that the colorist dynamic applied to the Addie Munro character was totally fabricated. “I would not have done the Addie Munro character,” Bundles stated. “She was a stand-in for Annie Malone, who was a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who didn’t have a colorism issue.”

Perhaps the most exciting reveal was that Bundles is working on a new book. “There’s a lot I’ve learned in the past ten years. There’s certainly more than Stanley knew when he was making “Two Dollars and A Dream,” so we have more dimensions for the A’lelia Walker story and I’m really eager to tell that story.