Wendy Williams documentary will still air this weekend after legal guardian files lawsuit against Lifetime’s parent company

Harry Luke
Harry Luke
7 Min Read

The court-assigned guardian for Wendy Williams failed in their attempt to prevent a revealing documentary about the former talk-show host from airing on Lifetime this weekend, according to a source familiar with the legal proceedings.

“Lifetime appeared in court today, and the documentary ‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ will air this weekend, as planned,” a spokesperson for the network told CNN Friday.

The legal guardian for Williams had filed suit against Lifetime’s parent company A&E Television Networks on Thursday in a New York State court, the source told CNN. The suit is under seal, so the contents of the claim are not public record, but the individual stated that Williams’ legal guardian was asking the court for a temporary restraining order to halt Lifetime from airing the documentary.

Lifetime declined to comment on the contents of the lawsuit.

In documents reviewed by CNN, the New York court ruled that the guardian’s request for a temporary restraining order would be an “impermissible prior restraint on speech that violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

The four-part docuseries, “Where is Wendy Williams?” provides a painfully candid depiction of Williams’ life as she struggles with health issues and alcohol abuse. It is executive produced by Williams herself and includes on-camera participation from her family.

Williams was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia in 2023, according to a statement from her care team on Thursday. The conditions can impair cognitive function, communication and speech in impacted individuals, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The guardianship approved Williams’ participation in the project, according to Lifetime.

The motion to seal the contents of the suit, obtained by CNN, names Sabrina Morrissey, a lawyer specializing in guardianships, as the “temporary guardian of W.W.H.” (Williams’ full name is Wendy Williams Hunter.)

Morrissey has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CNN. An attorney for Morrissey did not immediately respond for comment.

Though her care team did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment regarding the documentary or the lawsuit filed by Williams’ guardian, a representative for the care team issued a statement on behalf of Williams on Friday afternoon.

“I want to say I have immense gratitude for the love and kind words I have received after sharing my diagnosis of Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Let me say, wow! Your response has been overwhelming,” the statement read in part. “I continue to need personal space and peace to thrive. Please just know that your positivity and encouragement are deeply appreciated.”

The documentary

When Williams initially pitched the documentary to the Lifetime, the idea was to capture her life after her talk show as she worked to launch a podcast. But as cameras began rolling, producers realized the story they initially set out to tell would be much different.

Mark Ford, an executive producer on the documentary project, told CNN that nothing was filmed without Williams’ or her manager’s approval.

“We know it may be hard for some of her fans to watch. But we believe this documentary captures the truth of Wendy’s life over the year-and-a-half we filmed it,” Ford added.

By the end of filming, Ford said producers became so concerned about Williams’ health that they urged her management team to get new medical care. “The documentary evolved into forthright depiction of Wendy’s dire health situation and whether or not she was receiving adequate care,” he said.

Williams is currently in an inpatient treatment facility for cognitive care, according to her family and a representative for Lifetime. The project’s producers have not been in direct contact with Williams for more than six months.

Williams’ niece, Alex Finnie, who appears in the Lifetime documentary, told CNN this week that she does not know whether her aunt has seen the finished project. She said Williams told her she wanted to do the documentary so she could reclaim her own narrative, no matter how painful the subject matter may be.

“We’ve talked about it briefly,” Finnie told CNN. “It’s a really sensitive topic.”

Wendy Williams speaks onstage at the Soul Train Music Awards in 2014. - Earl Gibson/BET/Getty Images
Wendy Williams speaks onstage at the Soul Train Music Awards in 2014. – Earl Gibson/BET/Getty Images

Williams’ family has expressed concerns with the guardianship, though they said they are happy she is now receiving proper care. Finnie told CNN that she is in regular communication with her aunt and spoke with days ago. However, because Williams is currently under the court-ordered arrangement, she said her family does not know the location or any other information regarding the facility where Williams is being treated, nor do they have access to call Williams directly.

Williams was placed in the court-ordered financial guardianship in February 2022 after Wells Fargo froze Williams’ accounts when a former financial adviser for the host reported to the bank that Williams was of “unsound mind,” according to court documents referenced in the Lifetime documentary.

Finnie said that her family hopes that the documentary will not only shine a light on Williams’ journey, but also the larger issue of guardianships and conservatorships.

“I do really hope that people walk away seeing my aunt as a human being, feeling for her and praying and hoping that she’s going to come out better than ever, but also with an understanding of the entire system that really is running her life right now, not just for her, but for so many other people that are also at the center of it,” Finnie said.

Producers of the documentary believe the project and their collaboration with Williams led to her getting better support.

“On a personal level, we all care very deeply for Wendy. We are happy she is in a better place now,” Ford told CNN. “And we hope the documentary played a role in helping her get to that safer place.”

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Harry Luke is a Professor in University of Galway. Harry's journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on the world around him.