Columbus Short and Tanee McCall’s new short film “The End Again” so perfectly captures the range of emotions of a couple who are going through a breakup, that it would be easy to assume that the short film is about their own real-life relationship ups and downs.
In the new 15-minute romantic drama, written by Felicia Pride, produced by Latisha Fortune and directed by Crystle C. Roberson, we meet Jane Salmon (McCall) and Joe Maxwell (Short) who have been together for six years, but after several attempts to reconcile, realize it’s time for them to go their separate ways. As she clears the last of her belongings from their shared apartment, frustration, anger, care and nostalgia play a tug-of-war with the couple’s emotions as they try to move on once and for all…maybe. But Tanee says her breakup with her husband is just an “unfortunate coincidence” to the plot of the film. “It was completely not correlated at all…but yeah it’s, life imitating art, art imitating life.”
Coincidentally, The Shorts were in the middle of trying to patch up their own rocky relationship while shooting the two-day project in January 2014. Tanee had filed divorce papers in September 2013, but a month after working on this film with her husband, she withdrew the request. Then, on April 7th, the relationship took a turn for the worst when Tanee filed a restraining order against Columbus, citing domestic violence, and drew up divorce papers once again — the third time she had filed.
Tanee hasn’t talked to or about her ex since then — it took her several months to even be able to watch their finished film — but she sat down with #TeamBeautiful to tell us about working on the project with Columbus, her real-life breaking point and how she’s been moving on after leaving the abusive relationship. Read the candid conversation below:
HelloBeautiful: What made you and Columbus want to do this film together?
Tanee McCall: We were separated at the time but we were working towards reconciliation so there was dialogue and communication going on. I had gotten the part and we were doing chemistry reads to find an actor to play “Joe.” One particular day we had decided to meet for lunch and he dropped me off at my chemistry read after, and waited. When I came out I was like ‘that guy was good but I just don’t know’ and he said ‘I’ll do it.’ I was like what? Are you sure? He was like ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ So I called the director and said Columbus is down to do it if you want and she said yeah, that would be great.
HB: What was it like for you guys to work together during that time?
TM: I would say our working relationship and artistically I think that’s what held us together as long as it did. We’re really into the arts all arts, you know we felt like misplaced freaks and weirdos and we kind of bonded about that. So working with him has always come natural for me, especially with acting. He’s probably one of the most talented actors of our generation. He has a wealth of depth.
Shooting was really simple. I think one time during an ad-lib scene where we’re fighting back and forth, he said something he would say during a regular argument of ours and it triggered me to scream, “What Keith!?” I don’t call him Columbus, I call him Keith, so the whole crew started cracking up. I died laughing too because he hit a button. That was funny. Other than that it came very naturally to us, and it was actually quite a bonding experience for us.
HB: So the film about a breakup ended bringing you back together?
TM: We shot this January of this year, I had filed for divorce last September. After this film is when I was like ‘You know what, let’s try to do this.’ I ended up moving back in and I took the divorce off the table. But then…yeah, no.
I think that’s why there was such a delayed reaction for me being able to talk about this film — I never wanted to throw him under the bus or bash him. They had the completed film to us by March, but that was when he and I were in the depths of something very unhealthy. It was an abusive situation. They sent me the link and I didn’t even watch it. I was in the thick of it. After that, you know, wild night I was hurting. April 7 was the night for me that was the breaking point. It’s well documented, but it was a life or death situation. He kind of mad decision for me where I knew, if I stay, I’m dead.
After that day I was healing. I had hidden out. I moved out of LA with my daughter to an undisclosed location and was scared and was feeling my feelings. It wasn’t until about two weeks ago when one of my producers I follow on Twitter had put up the Indiegogo campaign link, I realized I had never watched it. At one point I called the filmmakers ‘oh my God this is so good. This is amazing and people need to see it. I’m so sorry I haven’t spoken up before. They were like ‘no, timing is everything, you weren’t ready and that’s fine.”
HB: While you were taking a step back from your relationship, Columbus was doing interviews about it and denied your allegations, which led some like D.L. Hughley to make explosive comments about your motivations. What do you say to people who don’t know you who draw these conclusions?
TM: He denied everything in the media and in the press, but when it came time to sit in a courtroom with a judge that’s when the truth came out. He’s a convicted abuser. So, it’s not about is it true or is it not, at the end of the day he’s convicted of spousal abuse.
I’ve moved on with my life but it’s just unfortunate how this has played out. We were very private about our lives. No one got to see the love. If there’s one thing I regret it’s that because we were so private we never Instagramed or Tweeted or did any of that for one another. We hid that; the love, the working up the ladder.We were very young when we got married and to accomplish everything that we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time was amazing. But nobody saw that. They just saw the explosion. It’s unfortunate.
I was most upset about [D.L. Hughley’s] comments because I was afraid that it could be a silencer for other women coming forward. I just thought that was an extremely dangerous comment and it was completely asinine. I was upset he directed the comments towards me because when my daughter gets older she can read those types of things and he doesn’t know me like that.
For everybody: I didn’t meet my husband after ‘Stomp The Yard,’ I met him when he was a dancer. We came up together. ‘Scandal,’ all of these things exist because of the both of us. You know when Drake said ‘you wasn’t with him when he was shooting in the gym?’ No! Because while he was just throwing a basketball in a hoop she was doing a hundred other things to make sure that he could comfortably put a ball in a basket. So while my husband was off dreaming dreams and doing that, I was occupying every other aspect of our lives. It was a lot to manage. We don’t have assistants and chefs and drivers and things. We had me: Tanee Short.
HB: What will you tell your daughter when you have to explain those headlines to her one day?
TM: I did write my daughter a letter just coming from my point of view. I also wrote her a letter when Tilly [Key] and Columbus had released that video of me [and her in an altercation] in our home because it’s just such a far departure from what I am. You just happened to see the part that they wanted to show, but if you were to see the full part of that story it would look so bad on both of their parts. Unfortunately most times people only get 10% of the story.
More than anything I just want my daughter to take away that her mommy loves her and so does her d-a-d and just the same things my mom taught me: to be strong, to independent, to make your own money, and to never give up on your dreams for the person that you’re with. I try not to have regrets but if there’s one thing I could do over it’s that I think I sacrificed way way too much in order to fit into the confines of my marriage with him. You know he was so big that I had to shrink myself in order to fit into it. As a creative person I felt like I was dying a slow death.
HB: What is your life like today?
TM: I have to say I’m so happy, it makes me cry. I don’t mean because everything’s so great or because I’m getting a bunch of child support money and can just sit around. I have five or six jobs. I do everything. I Uber cab drive, I Lift cab drive, I temp, I teach dance classes, I promote companies, I’m literally hustling all the time. People were saying, “why doesn’t she get a real job?’ and I just take it. People don’t know. You see the headlines and it seems like ‘oh it’s so easy for her,’ but it’s not. I’m living a life of a single mom in a way lot of women out here are and it’s hard. I say that not to say ‘oh feel bad for me.’ I say that to empower women: you can do it. You can get out of that.
When all of this happened I needed money quick, so I started teaching a hot heels class. I once toured with Beyonce and dancing has always been a passion of mine so getting back to it empowered me and empowered other women which empowered me more. I started writing a lot too and I really went back to the beginning of who I was before I met him. What was I doing? What was I on track for? I investigated myself. I didn’t look outward for anything, I went inward and a healing began to take place. I found that more than anything it was so much easier for me to forgive him than it was for me to forgive myself. I forgave him months ago. I forgave him as I was running off that night. I’m still working today on forgiving myself. It’s a long process. Part of that process is untelling the lies I have been telling myself and that other people have been telling me.
HB: What’s next for you and your career?
I have so many dreams fulfilled. I didn’t come out to LA to meet a rich man and be a wife and stay at home wife and eat bonbons. I came out here to dance, to be an actress, to produce films and to be in this industry. I came out here for a dream, and yes, I have to be realistic and support my daughter and do other things on the side to make ends meet, but I will definitely put it out there to the universe and say I want to hit the ground running as far as my acting career goes.That’s why I believe so much in this film.
I’m not just caring about my side of it as an actress — though it would be great to play Jane again [in “Openended”] and that’s definitely a dream of mine — but I’m a lover of film and filmmaking and I feel like there’s a huge void in today’s world for Black character-driven films. I grew up with “Poetic Justice,” “Love and Basketball,” “Inkwell,” “Love Jones” was actually something I felt from this script. You know we don’t have that now days, character-driven films. This, [“The End Again”], was that for me.
My life six months ago was dramatically different from my life now: I lived in a gated community, I had nannies. After I left I was homeless for a moment and slept on friend’s couches. Now I’m sharing a room with my daughter in a one-bedroom apartment, barely making ends meet, eating food out of cans. This is a reality. But guess what: I’m more happy now than I ever was in that mansion with the pools and classic BMWs, Mercedes and Audis out front. It was really hard to live a pretty and fake life on the outside, when inside it was a house of horrors. But now I’m proud of my life and I own each and every second of it now. I’m in it and I’m in my skin. I love it. I’m so free.
Watch “The End Again” in the video above. Donate to the Indiegogo campaign to help create the feature-film sequel “Openended.”