If you've been enjoying Lifetime movies recently, chances are you've seen the work of Richard Gabai, who's the director behind several of the network's flicks. His latest is The Wrong Woman, a reimagining of Hitchcock's The Wrong Man that premieres Saturday with Danica McKellar in the title role. BFTV caught up with Richard last week to discuss the newest great films he's brought us.
"It all started with InSight," he told us, referring to the theatrically released thriller he helmed two years ago starring Justified's Natalie Zea, Sean Patrick Flanery, Chuck's Adam Baldwin and Christopher Lloyd. "We made InSight and then we ended up selling that to A&E, which owns Lifetime. They premiered InSight on Lifetime - they changed the title to Who Killed Alison Parks? - and they really did well with that movie.
"So executives that I met basically said these are the kind of movies we want, and if you can continue to produce product at this level, we are your home. I developed projects that are interesting to me, and I'd bounce them off them. I'm extremely grateful for the relationship."
Richard's movies that have since bowed on Lifetime include 180 (renamed Imaginary Friend) with Lacey Chabert, Amanda Schull and Ethan Embry; The Good Mother, starring Helen Slater, Camille Cregan, and Beverly D'Angelo; In The Dark with Elisabeth Rohm, Sam Page, and Shannon Elizabeth; and most recently Non-Stop, with Chabert, Drew Seeley and Jim O'Heir. Understandably, he has a hard time picking a favorite.
"The fact of the matter is I'm lucky enough to be working in the field that I chose. When we're making a movie it is like a family member," he laughed. "I love certain things about them. 180, which became Imaginary Friend, is a favorite; [it's] the first film I did with Lacey. I really, really love The Wrong Woman."
It's not difficult for him to praise his actors, particularly the many strong actresses at the center of his movies. "Lacey is unbelievable. So talented, so versatile, so dedicated and a great person to work with," he enthused. "Same with Danica. Danica is just amazing. When I got the script to Non-Stop, I immediately sent it to Lacey. With The Wrong Woman, I said to my casting director, 'I want to work with Danica McKellar, and this is a movie I think she would want to do.'"
"In The Dark sort of has an homage to Wait Until Dark. I love that film, it's dark, it's intense and Elisabeth Rohm is a great actress," he continued. "And then I made The Good Mother, which is a thriller that deals with Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, where mothers sometimes cause injury or illness to their children get attention. Helen Slater has a psychotic episode like nobody's business. I loved making that film."
"I love the filmmaking process," he told us. "Being on set and making another movie, it's awesome."
Since TV movies don't have the big rollouts that feature films do, how does Richard judge his success when a project has wrapped? "I'm glad I've worked again," he said, before telling us, "We do get ratings. Non-Stop premiered last week, and when you get a call and they tell you that you killed it and the ratings blew up, that's kind of it. [And] when you get notes and letters from fans. I always enjoy hearing from people."
Over more than two decades, he's carved out a steady career in a variety of roles, whether it's directing, producing, or acting. He even has eleven soundtrack credits to his name. Richard may not be a 'name' director like Quentin Tarantino - who happens to be a fan of his 1997 movie Vice Girls - but he's committed to his craft. And that's because being a name isn't what drives him in the first place. If you couldn't tell from this article so far, he really, truly enjoys being a part of the entertainment industry. That enthusiasm comes through in every single one of his movies.
The wheels never stop turning for Richard, who's already hard at work on a number of other projects. "I'm developing a project in a completely sort of different space. It's going to be in the Amish world. It's a dramatic feature," he explained. "I'm also developing something that's going to be more of a horror picture, that deals with an extremely interesting possession. [And] I'm working on, with my agent, maybe getting into some episodic television, because I'm addicted to being on set."
It's a sentiment that any movie or TV fan can understand. Here's one of the industry's good guys, who wants nothing more than to keep working, and who's never lost the wonder that comes with getting to create for a living. He told us, "I'm kind of the luckiest guy I know." We're lucky to have him behind the camera.
The Wrong Woman premieres on Lifetime Saturday, December 28 at 8 PM ET/PT; you can click on the titles in this article to enjoy some of Richard's other movies. You can also find out more about Richard by visiting his website (richardgabai.net) and following him on Twitter (@RichardGabai).