Hearts were broken when OWN announced the cancellation of its romantic drama, Love Is ___, supposedly inspired by the real life love story of Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. Now, the woman thrust smack-dab in the middle of the controversy is finally getting to speak her piece, thoroughly.
Amber Dixon Brenner spoke with Deadline about the ongoing state lawsuit in connection with her script and domestic abuse allegations, addressed how she felt about Mara’s involvement, and gave her reaction to the show’s abrupt halt.
“I did feel a sense of this is the right thing, this is a correct response from the OWN network,” Brenner noted. “This is a correct response to Salim and Mara and it felt like a bit of an acknowledgment of what I had gone through. Look, it’s a sad situation. It’s a terrible situation that I was ever in the predicament of having to call him out and her out. It’s tragic to me that these things ever happened. It’s tragic to me that my work was stolen and then misappropriated to their supposed love story. Honestly, the first time I saw the show, and we can go back on the record, my first reaction was I want my work off the television now. I want this off.”
It was a month between her now-dismissed federal lawsuit for copyright infringement and her current Los Angeles Superior Court case when Brenner decided to come forward with her abuse allegations. She now says that Mara had a bit of influence on that decision.
“It started when Mara was on the cover of some magazine and she stood along with other women in the industry talking about #MeToo or Time’s Up,” she recalled. “I read it and I was appalled and I felt disregarded and that the issues from the relationship that in the past I had tried to resolve or discuss regarding violence she was very silent about. Like not responding to texts earlier on in the relationship.”
Brenner also claimed Mara knew of the extramarital affair, to which Mara and Salim did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment. When attempting to reach out to the executive producing couple, Brenner says she wrote a lengthy email to Mara and claimed Salim later blocked her number.
Additionally, Brenner touched on the very real and toxic back-and-forth relationship between the abuser and the abused, repeatedly using the word “compassion” as felt from her perspective.
“I felt like if I saw him I would fall into the pattern of deep love. And a lot of times I made excuses,” she said. “I often would apologize for the abuse. I would apologize for calling him out. I never wanted to hurt him or embarrass him. So I would call him out about the abuse and then I would retract apologetically because I would feel so bad for calling out someone I love and embarrassing them. I couldn’t see him because I loved him and I would just give in.”
Overall, Brenner wants women who can relate to her story to know they are worthy of standing up for themselves, no matter the extenuating circumstance.
“I would say that it’s about acknowledging abuse for what it is instead of in place of defining who deserves to acknowledge their abuse,” said Brenner. “I would also say that if you are a victim of abuse, there is nothing you could do that makes you unworthy of standing up for yourself. I don’t care if it’s an extramarital affair. I don’t care if everyone respects people based off of their track record in the industry. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. One should never take abuse.”