Britney Spears ‘Crossroads’ Writer Shonda Rhimes Reveals 2002 Casting Secrets: ‘It Just Felt Like The Movie Should Look Normal’

When Shonda Rhimes, Tamra Davis, and Ann Carli began their 2002 Crossroads journey, they had a star in mind. Britney Spears was always going to be at the center of the film. But when it came to her two girlfriends/travel buddies, the movie’s screenwriter said they needed the cast to be more “realistic.” Here’s what Shonda Rhimes said about casting Britney Spears’ only feature film. 

The 2002 ‘Crossroads’ producer envisioned the movie as a Britney Spears ‘vehicle’ 

Britney Spears and the cast of the 2002 Crossroads movie
Britney Spears, Taryn Manning, and Zoe Saldana | Paramount/Getty Images

Director Tamra Davis, who helmed the beloved dramedy, said the movie was always meant for Spears. 

“I was brought the project by Ann Carli, the producer, who’s a very good friend of mine,” said director Tamra Davis in the 2002 MTV documentary Making the Movie: Crossroads. “I knew that she was looking at it as kind of like a vehicle project for Britney.” 

According to Davis, it only took a meeting with Spears to convince her the project was worthwhile. Crossroads, however, wasn’t in her plans at the time. 

“I was in the middle of negotiating for another film, and Ann said ‘before you say no, will you just go meet her?’” Davis recalled. “And I was like yeah, I’ll go meet Britney Spears, who in their right mind wouldn’t just have a meeting with her?” 

Davis said her meeting with Spears wasn’t what she expected. “She was exactly — I don’t wanna say the opposite of the person I thought she could be — but I just thought she was the coolest girl, and totally loved her,” said Davis. “I thought she was really a smart 19-year-old girl. And she was funny, she was nice, she was like a real person. She didn’t take herself too seriously, and she looked like she would be a lot of fun to work with.” 

They cast Britney Spears as the lead. Lucy Wagner is the overachieving teen at the center of the movie. She rebels against her father (Dan Aykroyd) to go on a road trip to meet her mother (Kim Cattrall). 

‘Crossroads’ writer Shonda Rhimes once explained why they cast Britney Spears’ costars

Davis’ comments about Spears being a “real person” resonated with Rhimes, who approached the 2002 Crossroads project with exactly that preconceived notion in mind. “I was much more interested in the young woman that I met than the image that people had of her,” she told Broadly in a 2016 interview. “She was a person, and I don’t think anyone at the time was looking at her—because it’s such a misogynistic society—as a person.” 

Moreover, Rhimes said when it came to casting the ensemble, she felt that it needed to look “realistic.” Guardians of the Galaxy star Zoe Saldana co-stars in the film as high-maintenance Kit, with Taryn Manning as pregnant teen Mimi. 

“It wasn’t that it was important to show people from diverse backgrounds—it just felt like the movie should look normal,” Rhimes told the publication. “Most movies didn’t look normal, they all looked very oddly homogenous in a way that didn’t feel realistic to me.” 

The production additionally cast Anson Mount as Lucy’s romantic interest Ben and Justin Long as her high school friend Henry. 

The movie was a female-led production

When it came down to it, 2002’s Crossroads was led by women, from the cast to the crew. Producer Carli commented on why. 

“I just hired the best people for this particular job,” she told Broadly. But there was an exception. It was important to many of the producers that Spears work with a female director. Her extreme fame made her vulnerable in a lot of ways. 

“They really wanted a female director because this was going to be Britney’s first movie, and they really wanted to make sure she was protected and taken care of,” Davis explained. 

And that was both the beginning, and the end, of Britney’s career as a leading movie star. A Crossroads sequel isn’t altogether likely at this point. But with Britney now free from her controversial conservatorship, the possibilities for future movies starring Spears are endless. 

RELATED: ‘Crossroads’: What Was the Britney Spears Movie’s Budget, And How Much Did She Earn For Her Role?