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Oprah Winfrey says of planned movie musical, ‘This ain’t your mama’s “Color Purple”’

Separate photos of Oprah Winfrey, Fantasia and Danielle Brooks smiling
Oprah Winfrey, left, has cast Fantasia Taylor and Danielle Brooks in the musical remake of “The Color Purple.”
(Associated Press)

Oprah Winfrey is bringing her life-changing experiences from “The Color Purple” to a new generation.

The TV mogul, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel, has put together an all-star ensemble for the big-screen musical remake, she announced Thursday.

The Warner Bros. film will be directed by Blitz Bazawule (“Black Is King,” “The Burial of Kojo”) and stars Fantasia Taylor (Celie), Colman Domingo (Celie’s abusive husband, Mister), Danielle Brooks (Sofia), Halle Bailey (Celie’s sister, Nettie), Corey Hawkins (Harpo), musician H.E.R. (Squeak) and Taraji P. Henson (Shug Avery).

“This ain’t your mama’s ‘Color Purple,’” Winfrey said in Vanity Fair, describing the new take on Alice Walker’s letter-driven novel about Celie — a poor, unloved Southern Black girl the early 1900s who endures childhood rape, a brutalizing marriage and other harrowing experiences over the book’s decadeslong span.

Ernest Hemingway’s advice for novelists dealing with Hollywood was to stop on the east bank of the Colorado River, hold your nose, toss your screenplay over the state line, take the money and skedaddle.

The musical version of “The Color Purple” opened on Broadway in 2005. It later won a Tony Award for best revival in 2016 and has been touring the world since. The show was produced by Winfrey and Broadway veteran Scott Sanders, who are also producing the big-screen adaptation along with Spielberg and the original film’s Oscar-nominated composer, Quincy Jones. Walker serves as an executive producer on the film.

The movie musical begins shooting in Georgia next month and is slated to open in theaters on Dec. 20, 2023.

“It has been a vehicle for magic and purpose in my life,” Winfrey told the magazine. “I don’t know anybody who’s ever been associated with it whose life didn’t get enhanced. Everything comes from the original words of Alice Walker, which were grounded in love, really. Love of this community. Love of these people. Love of those characters. And that just gets passed on and passed on and passed on. I can’t wait to see this next evolvement, which is not attached to having done it the way we’ve always done it.”

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They are, from left to right on the couch in front of you, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Ashanti princess Akosua Busia and born-again singer Margaret Avery.

Taylor (né Barrino), who made her Broadway debut in 2007 as Celie, will return to the role originally played by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1985 film, while Brooks will return to the role that she played on Broadway and that Winfrey took on in the original film.

On Broadway, Celie was first played by Tony Award winner LaChanze. Cynthia Erivo won a 2016 Tony Award for playing Celie in the 2015 revival, with Brooks nominated that year for best featured actress in a musical for her portrayal of Sofia.

Taylor welcomed the announcement Thursday with a throwback video showing her reaction to learning she got the part.

“As I sit tonight and reflect on the journey my life has taken I believe I now understand what Redemption truly feels like,” the “American Idol” winner wrote. “The last time I stepped into this character, the similarities between what I portrayed on stage and what I experienced in my own reality were too close for comfort. I’ve learned since then that my pain was only an introduction to a greater purpose of meaning and assignment. I hope that every little black girl who is fighting to be heard and recognized also promises to never give up in spite of the costs.”

“Orange Is the New Black” star Brooks also shared a clip of Winfrey revealing that she would play Sofia, with Winfrey wearing purple eyeglasses and a purple turtleneck sweater.

“Blessings upon blessings. Firstly, Thank you God. Secondly, So beyond grateful to @oprah for trusting me with playing, once again, this powerhouse of a woman,” she wrote. “She put her foot in that role and helped to change so many lives. I pray to do the same. The journey to getting to this moment was very humbling but I wouldn’t change it for the world!! I can’t wait to share Sofia with this next generation!!”

Pratibha Parmar’s ‘Beauty in Truth’ on PBS is a reminder of the complex, extraordinary life and work of Alice Walker.

Though Winfrey lamented not having a part to play in the musical, she was proud to have Brooks and the new cast succeed her.

“There’s nothing I would want more than if there could be a part for me, but I think there isn’t. I had my day, and that time has now come and gone. I have passed the baton and I feel really, really great about that,” she told Vanity Fair.

On Instagram, Winfrey weighed in on the project’s legacy and the importance of bringing it to a new generation.

“Every single character from #TheColorPurple has been made iconic over the last 40 years through different iterations — from the Alice Walker novel to the Steven Spielberg movie to the Scott Sanders Broadway adaptations,” she wrote, sharing a video of her and Brooks.

“Reimagining the beloved musical on to the big screen is a challenge, but we as producers feel prepared to take it head on with the team we’ve brought together,” she continued. “From day one we knew we had to find the right cast to live up to [Blitz Bazawule’s] directorial vision and Marcus Gardley’s magical script — and we found them in in the knock-out [Taylor] (Celie), the mesmerizing [Henson] (Shug), the charming [Hawkins] (Harpo), the multi-faceted [H.E.R.] (Squeaky), the masterful [Domingo] (Mister), and the beautiful and talented [Bailey] (Young Nettie). But Sofia has my heart and I am ready to pass the purple baton on to the incredible [Brooks] who will bring her version to a new generation.”


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