Hollywood Stars Join Local Author at Film Premiere

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(Charleen Earley, Photographer)
Kristine Carlson (right), formerly of Orinda, with actor Heather Locklear at the Orinda Theatre Thursday, Oct. 14. Locklear plays Carlson in the newly released Lifetime film titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: The Kristine Carlson Story.

    Hugs, photographs, tears and laughter filled the evening for Kristine “Kris” Carlson and her 150 guests – family members, close friends and Hollywood actors, including Heather Locklear, at the Orinda Theatre Oct. 14.
    Based on Carlson’s 149-page memoir titled, Heartbroken Open, the biopic telefilm premier, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: The Kristine Carlson Story, aired on Lifetime television Oct. 16.
    Attendees, required to wear masks and show proof of COVID-19 shots, were given complimentary popcorn and a swag bag containing a black mask with the words “don’t sweat the small stuff” on it, a copy of Heartbroken Open and a box of candy.
    Carlson is wife to the late Dr. Richard Carlson, a psychologist, motivational speaker and author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book series. The film gives a glimpse of how the family coped with his sudden death Dec. 13, 2006.
    The evening marked the first time Carlson, who had seen a preview of the first five minutes, saw the film in its entirety alongside her supporters and her two daughters, Jasmine “Jazzy” Priddy and Kenna Carlson.
    Carlson felt somewhat prepared, though as a mother, she was mostly concerned about how her daughters would react to the film.
    “Even though they’re grown women, it was just such a sensitive, tragic time in our lives,” said Carlson. “It’s been part of my work for all these years to help other people through grief and loss. So, I’ve shared my story many times. So many times, I’ve repeated that phone call in my mind, and I’ve repeated it on stage so many times, and I think I became acutely aware that my kids haven’t, and I was really worried about that.”
    The phone call Carlson referenced is the one in which she was informed, while parked in her car, that her husband had expired.
    While writer Shannon Bradley-Colleary took creative license in various segments of the film, Carlson said, “Every scene was seated in truth, and I think it really captured the essence of what we went through.”
    She added, “I think that Shannon and Maura [Dunbar], the executive producer and all the producers, did so much to protect the integrity of our story, and that came through.”
    Watching the film, Carlson said, was a thousand times easier than living it.
    “My life was so much messier, and my grief was so much deeper and harder than what you see in the film,” she said.
    Cast members Heather Locklear, who plays Carlson, Jason MacDonald (Richard Carlson), Natasha Bure (Jazzy) and Ella Dorsch (Kenna), Dunbar and Bradley-Colleary, joined Carlson on stage before the film started to say a few words.
    “I found Richard’s books because I had gone through a very difficult time in my life. I had lost four family members in the span of 16 months,” said Dunbar. “It was Richard’s books that became a pinpoint of light during that very dark time.”
    After watching film segments that portrayed her relationship with her husband Richard, Carlson said the writer and producers nailed it.
    “They captured our love story. That’s exactly how my relationship was with Richard – a beautiful marriage,” said Carlson. “We had very little conflict in our entire marriage. Honestly, we had three fights in 25 years! He was so gentle and loving and kind.”
    She felt actor MacDonald embodied Richard perfectly.
    “The way Jason played him, that’s how he was and anybody who knew Richard, knew that about him,” said Carlson. “Many people in Orinda knew Richard. His family was from Orinda.”
    Carlson hopes viewers will learn to “not sweat the small stuff.”
    “If you sweat the small stuff, you’re just taking energy away from what matters most to you,” Carlson said. “I mean, it’s the small stuff that keeps you from being happy.”
    She concluded, “We focus on the things that don’t matter, and then our energy isn’t reserved for the things that do. The truth is, when you’re going through something big, you’re not sweating the small stuff. Anybody will tell you that what might have been on your small-stuff radar, the day your husband dies that stuff is not on your radar any longer, forevermore.”

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