'A Secret Love' Director Chris Bolan on How He Was Inspired to Tell His Aunts' Love Story

Chris Bolan memorialized the 70-year-long love affair between his aunts Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue. Learn more about him here.


Apr. 30 2020, Updated 4:18 p.m. ET

Netflix just released the most touching, heartwarming and tear-jerking film we've seen in an extremely long time: A Secret Love. The documentary, which was filmed over the course of five years from 2013 to 2018, tells the love story of Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue, two lesbians who were together for over 70 years in secret.

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Actor, director, and great-nephew of Terry, Chris Bolan, is who viewers across America owe A Secret Love to, so we thought we'd do a deeper dive to learn more about Chris Bolan, how he got involved in A Secret Love, and find out about his other projects.

Stay with us!

chris bolan a secret love
Source: courtesy of netflix
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Chris Bolan tells the touching story of his aunts in 'A Secret Love.'

Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue started dating in the late '40s, but didn't tell the rest of their family they were an item until six decades later, when they were in their 80s, in 2009.

"They just started telling us their story, dating back from the 1940s," is how Terry's great-nephew, A Secret Love director Chris Bolan remembers their coming out. "I was just absolutely amazed, and at the end of it they started dancing in the living room together."

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"I remember thinking, 'Ohmigod, I have to tell this story'," he said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Chris managed to collaborate with Pose and Atlanta producer Alexa L. Fogel, and the producer Brendan Mason, for this 82-minute masterpiece. 

A Secret Love follows Terry and Pat from Terry's time as a professional softball player in the league that inspired 1992's A League of Their Own, all the way to present-day.

chris bolan a secret love
Source: courtesy of netflix
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Once he had the idea to tell his aunts' great love story, finding archival material to make the film wasn't terribly difficult. "They had all these cassette tape recordings and all these photos," he told the Tribune. "I asked them, I said, 'Did you guys ever do any kind of filming with any of the 8-millimeter cameras?' [They said,] 'No, no, we don't have anything.' And I was in their basement one day, and I came across this suitcase," he continues.

"I opened up the suitcase and all these reels and reels of 8-millimeter film fell out, and I remember just being like, 'Ohmigod.'" With all the footage he had at his fingertips, he says he remembers thinking, "If I screw this film up, I'm a terrible, terrible director."

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'A Secret Love' is actor Chris Bolan's directorial debut.

While the Netflix documentary is Chris Bolan's debut behind the camera, the director is no stranger to being on the other side of it.

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Chris got his acting debut playing Alan on Naked Frailties, then went on to star in a few TV movies like ICE: Beyond Cool and Beyond Human Limits, before landing the role of Axelrod Pilot in Billions.

Look out for Chris as Detective Leighton in the upcoming series, Monsterland. Currently, he's enjoying the fruits of his hard labor now that A Secret Love is proving to be a success among Netflix viewers, which for him, is a dream come true.

"All we wanted to do is tell Pat and Terry's story," he says. "And all we ever dreamed about — I think I can speak for all of us — is hopefully having the fortune of having as many eyes on this film as possible. It's just a dream come true."

A Secret Love is now streaming on Netflix.

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