Jenna Dewan, right, in the new Lifetime movie “Let’s Get Physical,” as a small-town fitness instructor arrested for prostitution. Photo courtesy of Lifetime

If ever a real-life event had the quintessential elements of a Lifetime TV movie, it was the case of Alexis Wright.

Alexis Wright, left, and actress Jenna Dewan as Sadie Smith, a character loosely based on Wright.

Wright was indicted in October 2012 for running a prostitution business out of her Zumba fitness studio in the picturesque small town of Kennebunk. Before she was sentenced in May 2013, her story and trial attracted worldwide media attention and created a gossip frenzy, as police released her client list in dribs and drabs and locals speculated wildly about who else might be on it. Vanity Fair magazine’s “Town of Whispers” story depicted Kennebunk as a modern-day Peyton Place.

Ten years later, Wright’s story has indeed become a Lifetime movie, though neither Maine nor Wright gets credit.

The film is called “Let’s Get Physical,” starring Jenna Dewan, and is part of Lifetime’s “Ripped from the Headlines” movie series. It’s the story of a fitness studio owner in a fictional small town, whose prostitution ring has the locals in a tizzy. The 86-minute movie premiered on the Lifetime network Oct. 15 and began streaming on the Lifetime website Jan. 1. 

Though the film doesn’t specifically name Wright or Kennebunk, the many similarities are obvious to Mainers who followed the case a decade ago. There’s a written introduction at the beginning of the film that says it was “inspired by actual events” but that the characters and events depicted in the film are fictional. There is no information, however, as to what the actual events were.


Publicists for Lifetime said the film was “loosely inspired by” but not based on Wright’s story and that writers researched the case and looked at court records. Wright told the Press Herald on Friday that she was not involved with the film and had not seen it.

The film’s description on the Lifetime website confirms the movie has all the major elements that the Kennebunk case had.

“Inspired by actual events, ‘Let’s Get Physical’ is the story of fitness instructor Sadie, who by day taught fitness and dance to soccer moms, but by night led a double life running a sophisticated prostitution ring with a customer list that included very prominent men in the community. After an anonymous tip, authorities raided her studio, leading to Sadie’s indictment and ignited a firestorm in the small town leading everyone to ask, who exactly was on the client list. ”

A scene from the new Lifetime movie “Let’s Get Physical,” which has a plot very similar to the real-life Zumba prostitution case in Kennebunk a decade ago. Photo courtesy of Lifetime

In “Let’s Get Physical,” the town is called Luton, New Hampshire, the fitness instructor is named Sadie Smith and she teaches pole dancing instead of Zumba. The studio is called Dazzle & Spin instead of Pura Vida, the name of Wright’s studio. But other than that, the plot is true to the Kennebunk case, including the frenzy caused by the existence of a client list and the unwanted attention it brought to town.

When asked by the Press Herald about the film this week, Wright declined to talk at length but texted a brief statement: “I have not seen the film presented by Lifetime. This is not a project that I was approached to be a part of nor did anyone seek out my permission. To my knowledge, there has not been an accurate portrayal anywhere of my story.”

The investigation and the charges against Wright and her business partner, Mark Strong, dominated local news for months in 2012 and 2013. Many Mainers were on edge, as police charged wave after wave of “johns” from a client list of more than 140 names. Wright, who was 30 at the time of her sentencing, told the judge that she was manipulated by Strong, 57. Wright said Strong, whom she met when she was an exotic dancer in 2003, pushed her into prostitution.


The film’s executive producers include Kelly Ripa, host of the syndicated TV morning show “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” and her husband, Mark Consuelos. Dewan, who is a regular on the ABC drama “The Rookie” and as a dancer has worked with several pop music stars, plays the dance and fitness instructor and is also an executive producer.

According to Lifetime, the film was shot outside of  Vancouver, British Columbia, which has become known as “Hollywood North” for the large number of films and TV shows made there. The exteriors of the small town in the film, including the quaint Main Street, could easily pass for a New England village center.

A scene from the new Lifetime movie “Let’s Get Physical.” Photo courtesy of Lifetime

Wright was 29 and living in Wells when she was indicted in October 2012 on multiple charges, including prostitution. Kennebunk police began a five-month investigation into alleged prostitution activity based out of her Zumba studio in September 2011, which later included the north and south divisions of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit.

In March 2013, Wright pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of theft by deception for income tax and welfare fraud, two misdemeanor counts of evasion of state income tax, one count of promotion of prostitution, one count of conspiracy to promote prostitution, and 14 counts of engaging in prostitution.

Wright was sentenced to 10 months in jail. She was released in November of 2013 after serving six months. Her jail term was cut short because of good behavior and participation in a work program. According to police, her business partner, Mark Strong of Thomaston, watched the sexual encounters at the studio unfold in real time on a computer in his insurance business office. Strong was convicted of 13 counts related to promotion of prostitution and sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Wright leaves Cumberland County Court after a meeting with attorneys to discuss a plea agreement in March 2013 prior to her trial. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

This is not the first time Wright’s story has been fodder for a film. Just a couple months after Wright was sentenced, the TLC cable network aired a one-hour documentary on the case called “Sex, Lies and Zumba.” The film included interviews with police, lawyers, journalists and others close to the case.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.