The Amazing Musical Remake of the Beloved The Color Purple

Ahead of the UK launch of The Color Purple, leading cultural organisation BlackThingsUK had the opportunity to interview the leading cast members and the films’ director

Words by Candace Oxley, In Other News

Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, later directed by Steven Spielberg in 1985, The Color Purple emerges in a new format. In 2023, the cherished tale of a young African American girl seeking solace in letters to God undergoes a fresh interpretation, starring the vocal powerhouse Fantasia Barrino-Taylor as Celie. The film also casts Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks and other big US actors.

Director Blitz Basuwale, known for Beyoncé’s Black is King, takes the helm of this bold venture, infusing magical realism into this cinematic milestone.

After portraying Celie on Broadway, Fantasia was apprehensive about reprising the role. However, a persuasive call from Blitz, who envisioned Celie’s character evolving into a young Black girl with significant dreams akin to Fantasia’s real-life journey, convinced her to embrace the challenge.

Fantasia wasn’t the only cast member who was hesitant about being a part of the film, Taraji P Henson laughs while telling interviewer Talisha ‘Tee Cee’ Johnson from BlackThingsUK, when she was tapped for the role, she initially said, “Why we gotta do another Color Purple?” Similar to Fantasia, Blitz called Taraji, affirming to her that “I believe in you, I just know that you are our Shug.”

Taraji P. Henson talks The Color Purple, Oprah, vulnerability and singing | Black Things UK

Shug Avery is a fearless, sassy woman who brings vibrancy and optimism to the story and this musical retelling includes a rich selection of new songs including a stellar performance of an original song Push The Button. Taraji tells BlackThingsUK that she “…blew the dust off the vocal pipes,” with her vocal coach after discussing ‘Black girl anthems’ and belting out Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out with no warm up! “Fantasia, I believe, can just wake up and hit a note,” she says, but in this conversation, Taraji proves – so can she.

Another classic the cast gets into is Fantasia’s When I See You. When BlackThingsUK quizzes Danielle Brooks, who plays Sofia, Corey Hawkins, who plays Harpo, Sofia’s husband and Fantasia on staple songs for the cookout, Corey starts the baseline and Danielle joins with the chorus singing, “…when I see you, when I see you.”

The Color Purple stars, Fantasia, Danielle & Corey talk new music, vulnerability and representation

It’s important to see Black women cry…

Fantasia’s catalogue spans over 20 years and in assessing that, Fantasia shares an exclusive about how she sees what’s next for her, “I would like to do some more acting, start some businesses, but the next album…will be gospel.”

Amidst the boldness throughout this film, Taraji speaks to the tenderness that compliments the relationships in the film – “We gotta get rid of the stigma of being strong… the strength is in the vulnerability. It’s important to see Black women cry in this movie, and I cannot forget our men. It is also important to see our men… feel,” she says, whilst placing her hands on her heart.

The ultimate mogul that makes you feel is the film’s producer and original Sofia, Oprah Winfrey and working with her is no regular day at the office. Taraji shares that “She (Oprah) made herself available to all of us, and on the first day, we shot the last scene. When they yelled it’s a wrap, we all went into the electric slide – with Oprah Winfrey!”

Representation is key

Representation is another foundational asset both on and off screen and when asking Danielle Brooks (Sofia) Fantasia and Corey Hawkins (Harpo) about the importance of that, Danielle connotes, “I think it’s going to open the world [up] for so many young people to say, ‘I wanna be like that,’ whether that’s the character and how they live their life…”

Furthermore, Fantasia continues, compassionately sharing from real-life experience, “I love what you said about our girls seeing how they can live their lives. When you see each character in this movie go through their own different things, women, men, black, white, young, old, will watch this movie and say, ‘Yo, I can live to see another day’”.

The natural chemistry between the cast is undeniable, and Corey shares how important representation is for him – “This is the first time for me, in a long time, that it’s just been us, Black people from the top down.”

To sum up, The Color Purple is a generational classic and this newly imagined approach highlights the importance of community, advocacy, hope and the buzz one gets when they run wild with their imagination.

1 Comment

  1. by Joy Donaldson on 09/02/2024  3:32 PM Reply

    Such a well written, thoughtful piece!!! It’s a must see again and again and again. Big thanks to Candace for this review!!!!

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