Twain — the highest-selling solo female artist in country music history — is known for karaoke-favorite hits such as “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” But the creators of “The Price of Fame” felt that aside from her much-chronicled split from her husband in 2008 (he reportedly had an affair with her best friend, then Twain married that friend’s ex-husband), the mainstream audience may not be familiar with her earlier journey, as she suffered through abuse and extreme poverty before she became a star.
“When the network bought the series and we had to come up with our subjects for the first season, right away Shania came up, because her story is incredible,” said Brad Osborne, the writer and director of the episode, which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. “And not a lot of people know it.”
The hour-long docudrama is a mix of interviews with people who knew and worked with Twain (former band members, journalists) along with dramatic reenactments of her life that could easily fit in a Lifetime original movie. Although Twain did not participate in the project, Osborne relied on details from her 2011 memoir, “From This Moment On.”
Twain grew up very poor in rural Canada; as a child, her mother used to wake her up late at night so she could go sing for tips at a local bar to help support the family. Various scenes show Twain’s stepfather being physically and verbally abusive toward Twain and her mother, who became severely depressed. Twain used music as an escape and moved to Nashville — though when her mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident, she returned home to take care of her siblings.
The show also goes in-depth on her career struggles, as her first record tanked. Then she started working with Mutt Lange, the star producer who eventually would also become her husband. Together they produced her hugely successful albums, including “The Woman in Me” and “Come On Over,” a blend of country music and pop that Nashville had never seen.
In one reenactment, country newcomer Ashla Taylor (who plays the grown-up version of Twain) faces off with a radio programmer who, like many at the time, was deeply suspicious of Twain’s music — particularly because it was produced by Lange, known for his work with AC/DC and Def Leppard.
“A lot of people in country music back then didn’t support her,” Taylor said. “I think she opened the door for a lot of females, including myself, who love pop and are inspired by rock and blues and R&B. … When she came onto the scene, it busted wide open.”
The episode goes through present day and tackles Twain’s painful divorce; her battle with Lyme disease; and her comeback album released last year. Osborne hopes that viewers learn more about Twain, whom he feels isn’t given enough credit for how much she paved the way for stars such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.
“She was an incredible influence on this whole birth of pop and country that dominates country now,” Osborne said. “I think that’s one of the most underestimated things about Shania — her impact not on just country music but the music industry as a whole.”