HBO airs documentary on gay former N.J. governor


‘Fall to Grace’
Debuts March 28, 8 p.m., on HBO

The film is directed by Alexandra Pelosi, a veteran filmmaker who has been crafting documentaries for HBO for more than a decade, including 2009’s “The Trials of Ted Haggard.” Pelosi had never met McGreevey but was intrigued when she saw a newspaper story about him a few years back.

“I called him up, introduced myself and told him I wanted to meet him,” she recalls. “We had coffee and I told him I wanted to make a film about him. [His partner] Mark O’Donnell said, ‘No, we want no part of this; we have a life now.’”

But she persisted and asked if she could tag along. McGreevey agreed.

She was invited into the couple’s home and to holiday parties and almost always carried her hand-held camera. Pelosi was not allowed to contact McGreevey’s daughter. The filmmaker respected that, given what she calls “the messy divorce” the family had been through.

Two years passed and she accumulated a lot of footage. But after the material was edited and McGreevey was asked about signing a release, he seemed taken aback that she had indeed been making a film.

“I don’t think he made the connection,” she laughs, adding that McGreevey eventually signed, but his partner O’Donnell was “pissed.”

McGreevey’s new life

These days, McGreevey’s life is very different from when he was a high-powered politician. He spends a lot of time counseling former female prisoners with Exodus Transitional Community. According to Pelosi, the women relate to McGreevey and he to them. 

“No man has given these women respect,” she says. “He lets them know that you can’t let your mistakes define you. They all know what he has been through.” 

McGreevey also attended the General Theological Seminary in New York to get a master of divinity degree, hoping to become an Episcopal priest. 

Pelosi’s project has earned the veteran documentarian her first acceptance into the Sundance Film Festival, which she attended with McGreevey.

Broken men

As the daughter of former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, she has been around politicians almost all her life.

“You see people in power – President Obama, Biden,” she says. “I have no interest in people who have it all. I want people with an interesting story to tell. It’s interesting when you self-destruct and have to come back.”

She laughs that many of her documentary subjects have been about broken men, but Pelosi believes people genuinely want to see people like McGreevey succeed.

And she doesn’t think that McGreevey’s own fall from grace was about him being gay.

“The scandal was about much more than that,” she says. “I don’t think that people would care about the gay thing. I don’t know that that matters anymore.”


Top photo: After coming out as gay and resigning as governor of New Jersey, Jim McGreevey found redemption in faith, counseling former inmates, and building a new life with his partner, Mark O’Donnell. (Publicity photo)