All Articles Tagged "the color purple"
We knew it wouldn’t take long before everyone wanted a little taste of Danielle Brooks, the woman behind one of Orange is the New Black (OITNB) viewers’ favorite characters, Taystee, and we were right. This fall, Brooks is making her Broadway debut as Sofia in the revival of The Color Purple, and already critics are wowed.
I had the opportunity to attend the opening preview of the theatre production with Ultra Sheen earlier this month and from the moment Brooks stepped on stage you didn’t want her to leave. Chatting with Brooks about the role and the comic relief her character provides at a press event for the play in New York City, she said “I feel like Sofia has a lot of humor. It’s there. It’s not playing at humor. She’s just naturally funny. That’s by Alice Walker and Marsha Norman, who wrote the play version.”
Anyone who’s read the book by Walker or seen the film, which debuted to critical acclaim in 1985, knows Sofia’s character, much like Celie’s, goes through a transformation. We’re first introduced to her as a strong, no-nonsense newly married woman who is then broken by society and its prejudices, but in the end triumphs over all. It’s that character development that Brooks said she loves “because it speaks to who we are as human beings.”
“We never live our life, most of us try not to live our lives, in one place or the other. We are so complex as people. One minute we are lively and colorful and bright and cheerful and then the next minute we are broken. We have to find ways to pick ourselves back up, but the beauty of the story is how intertwined these women are that they help each other. Sofia teaches Celie, but then Celie helps Sofia come back and I love that about the story.”
Like Celie, Sofia, Nettie, and Shug Avery, Brooks’ own life is intertwined with that of her cast mates on the set of The Color Purple and OITNB. Brookes shared:
“I have such a sisterhood with the girls at Orange is the New Black. Uzo, Samira, and Adrienne, we all got together before our first preview because I had to work before at Orange [that morning] and they prayed for me. We got in a circle and that was just so what I needed. So to find that again with these women has been so surreal to me. I’m so grateful that Black women, we support each other in that way, we have each other’s back and it’s genuine and real.”
What’s also undeniably real is the rush Brooks gets from morphing into Sofia every night.
“I honestly feel like it’s the closest I will get to heaven on earth and I’m not lying,” she told us. “This is my dream and I remember taking off my dress [after the first preview] and just crying — that ugly cry — and my body was shaking from all of that adrenaline that was running through my body. I just could not believe that the dream had become a reality in this way.”
While Brooks admitted she’s nervous about opening night because she’ll be performing in front of her friends, family, and “Mother O,” aka Oprah, watching co-star Jennifer Hudson is helping her along the way.
“I’m learning from Ms. Hudson how to be a star,” Brooks said. “You’re a human first, but when you carry that title [you have to learn] how to also be a person.”
You may not recall Desreta Jackson’s name off the top of your head but we’re certain you’ll recognize her face as a young Celie in the 1985 critically-acclaimed film, The Color Purple. After that iconic role, audiences didn’t see much of Jackson on the big or small screen, which is a shame considering her triumphant story. According to The Grio, who recently sat down with Jackson to mark the 30th anniversary of the movie, at just 9 years old, Jackson and her pregnant mother moved to Los Angeles from the West Indies. Living on Skid Row for a year because her mother couldn’t find work, Jackson eventually began taking acting classes after enrolling in elementary school and jut a few weeks later she landed the memorable part.
But entering Hollywood wasn’t without it’s on struggles, namely the issue of colorism. Jackson told the site:
“To be very honest I had to leave Hollywood because as a young child it didn’t seem to flourish [in] my mind very well. Coming here from the islands, I didn’t even know that I was dark-skinned, there wasn’t a color issue in my head. I always thought I was beautiful. It wasn’t until I got in Hollywood that I started understanding there were dark-skinned blacks and light-skinned blacks and there were roles for this character and roles for that character based on a color. I left Hollywood and in the process of leaving it, it helped develop myself into a woman.”
A successful woman at that. Today, Jackson spends her days as CEO of her own haircare line, BlackSilk Products, born out a desire to style her daughter’s hair without harsh chemicals. She’s also planning to release her first book, The Black Hair Conspiracy: A Guide to Grow and Care for Natural Hair, in February 2016. Hats off to her for kissing colorist Hollywood goodbye.
Before Chi-Raq made its premiere at the Chicago Theatre this past Sunday people already had their minds made up about the Spike Lee film. At the first announcement of the movie, Chicago residents were critical of the project and a 2-and-a-half minute trailer released earlier this month drew more backlash than Spike Lee or Jennifer Hudson, who stars in the upcoming limited release, feel is warranted.
We recently had a chance to chat with Hudson, a Chi-town native whose personally been affected by the gun violence ravaging the city, at a press junket for another one of her projects, The Color Purple on Broadway. When we asked how she thinks audiences will react to Chi-Raq she said she’s very “curious.”
“Apparently it’s such a controversial thing and I really don’t understand why, but when you’re talking about real life and real things people take it personally,” she told us. “I feel like it’s something that’s definitely worth doing. It’s definitely a subject that needs to be talked about and had attention brought to. Using my own reality, feelings, and emotions, it was probably the hardest and heaviest role I have ever played in my life. From the moment I took the role and I stepped on the set I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I was literally holding my breath until it was over. It’s something very close to home for me. It was heavy, but I really feel it’s needed. Chicago needs help.
“We have to do something. In the world period, when violence happens, craziness happens, it’s like, ‘guys, what’s the breaking point? When is it enough? How far are we going to go before we do something?’ We have to start somewhere.”
Hudson is certainly doing her part, all while maintaining an insanely busy schedule. On Dec 10, The Color Purple will have its official Broadway opening and the world will be introduced to Hudson’s version of the iconic Shug Avery — a role the 34-year-old confessed she was “shocked” to land.
“I thought, me? As Shug Avery? Because it was like, ‘So Jennifer, would you like to do Color Purple’ and I was like, ‘Sure, who am I going to play?’ And it was like me? Really? Shug Avery? I definitely never would’ve guessed Shug Avery. It took a minute, but I love it. She’s the most different character I’ve ever played. She’s the most glamorous character I’ve ever played, and light. Everything is always so heavy, but outside of Sofia she’s the comic relief in a way — in a sassy way. I love that.”
Something else the singer and actress loves is coming home to her son, David Jr., and nephew who relocated to New York City with J-Hud while she performs in the Color Purple revival. The singer admitted it’s not always easy balancing motherhood with the stage though.
“I have two kids right now. I have one child, which is little David, but I brought his favorite cousin to go to school with him so I have two kids for the year — just for the year, let me be clear. After being in rehearsal from 10 in the morning to 6 at night, I go home and it’s like ‘Mommy!’ ‘Auntie’ and they want to dance and sing and it’s their time and I want to spend time with them so it never ends. There’s never a break, ever.”
Last Tuesday, Ultra Sheen treated a group of lifestyle and beauty writers to a preview showing of The Color Purple on Broadway. I was excited to see Jennifer Hudson, whose long list of accomplishments precede her, in person as Shug Avery, and being the Orange is the New Black binge watcher that I am I knew I would fan out seeing Danielle Brooks play Sofia. But I had no clue who Celie was. Cynthia Erivo, the actress who plays her in the Broadway production, was an unfamiliar name and a face I hadn’t seen before, but by the end of the night I googled everything there was to know about the 28-year-old London-bred theatre actress born to Nigerian immigrants.
From the moment I heard Erivo sing in the opening number with Angolan beauty Joaquina Kalukango (Nettie) I was hooked. The passion, the tone, the beauty, and even the pain in her voice were captivating as she brought Celie’s story to life right in front of my eyes. To this day I’m not sure how I made it through most of the play without crying, but rest assured once the title song began in the final scene of the production all composure was lost. When I had a chance today to chat with Erivo about what I know will be a life-changing role for her, I asked just how emotionally taxing it is to to be Celie every night. Turns out it’s quite the commitment, both emotionally and physically.
“I woke up this morning and it felt like I had been run over by a bus,” she told me. Everything aches. My body aches because you put everything into it. It doesn’t just come from the mind. It comes right through to your body. It takes me a long time at the end of the evening to steady myself.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Erivo talked about the difficulty of choosing to play Celie, not as someone who feels sorry for herself, but a person who genuinely has no idea that the circumstances in which she lives are completely wrong. Asked where she draws inspiration to take on the character from that perspective, Erivo said “I draw it from real life.”
“There are really people that I know that are going through things that don’t realize there’s anything wrong at all. They just don’t know and you can’t tell them that something’s wrong, they have to realize it for themselves. I think that way you don’t force people to feel sorry for [Celie]. In not feeling sorry for myself, people are urging you to know and start realizing that something’s wrong and I feel like people are behind someone who doesn’t know more because you want them to realize finally. I like the idea that, at some point, the audience just gets frustrated with her, they just kind of go ‘I don’t understand, why can’t you see this?’ So the payoff at the end when she does, when she comes into her own, is far greater than if she already knew something was wrong in the first place.”
Hence the tears I expressed flowing from my eyes around that point in the play.
Though I could watch Erivo play Celie for years to come, the singer-songwriter who actually previously portrayed Celie Johnson in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s recent production of The Color Purple has another part in mind: Serena Williams, be it on screen or on stage. Asked why, she explained:
“I’m a fit fanatic. I don’t know if you can tell, but I feel like she’s such an interesting character in that she’s got such power and prowess on the court and off she’s just this wonderful, sultry, kind, and light and airy being. I love that sort of flip that she has and her story’s brilliant. Her story’s incredible, and it’s a story of real hard work and I think it would be wonderful to see it. I would love to play that role.”
With all of the attention Erivo’s receiving I don’t doubt she’d be at the top of the casting list should the opportunity ever arise. As for how she’s handling this newfound fame across the pond, Erivo is taking it all in stride.
“I’m completely grateful and it feels like a huge life-changing experience and one that I will remember for the rest of my life and I hope that I’m handling it with grace. And I hope that I’m giving some sort of hope to young people that any dream is possible.”
Big things are on the horizon for Danielle Brooks — not that it’s easy to get much bigger than “Orange is the New Black.” But the woman we’ve come to love as Tastyee is taking her talents from Netflix to the big stage to star in the Broadway adaption of “The Color Purple.”
Brooks is slated to play Sofia alongside Jennifer Hudson who’s been cast as Shug Avery and breakout London star, Cynthia Erivo, who will portray Celie. Opening night for the grand production will be Thursday, December 10, with previews beginning November 9. Tickets go on sale July 2. To purchase, click here.
How excited are you for this?
After saying so long to Keke Palmer following her final performance in “Cinderella,” we’re ready to welcome another brown girl to Broadway. According to the Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Hudson has been cast to play Shug Avery in Oprah Winfrey’s Broadway revival of the Alice Walker drama.
This will be Jennifer’s first role in a musical since her memorable role as Effie White in the 2006 remake of Dreamgirls, which earned her an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Earlier today, the 33-year-old Chicago native took to Twitter to share the exciting news with fans.
“So excited to make my Broadway debut this fall as Shug Avery in the revival of #TheColorPurple!” she tweeted.
So far, other casting details have not been disclosed. The production is being directed by John Doyle. He previously debuted “The Color Purple” in 2013 in London. The musical was written by Marsha Norman. Music and lyrics for the production have been arranged by Grammy-winning trio Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.
Considering how well she did in her Dreamgirls role, we’re totally here for this!
Alice Walker, who turns 70 later this month, is thinking about her legacy.
Over the past few years, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author has donated her papers to Emory University, permitted “The Color Purple” to be released as an e-book and reached a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish excerpts from journals she has kept for decades. Walker also participated in the documentary “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth,” scheduled to air Friday night on PBS stations as part of the “American Masters” series.
“I don’t have this feeling that 70 is really old,” says Walker, who notes one ancestor lived to 125. “But I do feel it’s helpful if you’re thinking about the coming generations to leave your work in a form that people can relate to.”
Interviewed recently by telephone, Walker said one reason she agreed to appear in the film is because the director, Pratibha Parmar, is a friend. Parmar, also interviewed recently, said she was inspired to make the documentary a few years ago after viewing DVDs of other “American Masters” projects.
“It seemed crazy not to have a film on Alice, given the impact she’s had with her life and her writing,” said Parmar, who in the 1990s worked with Walker on the film and book “Warrior Marks,” about female genital mutilation in Africa.
As “masters” go, Walker is hardly an austere, Olympian figure. A longtime feminist and political activist, she has been denounced for not allowing “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew (in protest of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians) and accused of demeaning black men in “The Color Purple,” but celebrated for fighting racism and sexism and writing candidly about abortion, incest and domestic violence.
Read more about Alice Walker at BlackVoices.com
Growing up, I spent most of my allowance on candy (don’t worry, this is going somewhere), so I didn’t buy too many many books as a young girl. But with my handy-dandy library card, both for school and the public library, I had the chance to read quite a few classic and lovably rachet books that have had a strong impact on my way of thinking ever since. Whether they were recommended by my classmates, read in class, or picked up after hearing about them in my favorite magazines, I found that I wasn’t the only one who read these novels and memoirs back in the day. Here are a few books every black girl read back in the day…at least once.
Coldest Winter Ever
I can remember toting that thick little book around with its bright colors, trying to find a sophisticated way to explain to my mother that it was about a girl who was the daughter of a drug dealer who is living life a little too fast. Folks end up in jail, disfigured, and in group homes through the rollercoaster ride that is The Coldest Winter Ever. As ratch as it was, Sister Souljah’s first real novel was one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read.
If you adore Alice Walker and her riveting writing then you are in for a treat!
Over the years “The Color Purple” author kept a diary, filling the pages with poems, stories, and essays on everything from the details of childhood poverty to her rise to literary fame. And the Associated Press reports that Walker is gearing up to publish select writings from her journal in 2017, thanks to a deal with Simon & Schuster imprint 37.
The published project will be titled: “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire” and will be edited by Valerie Boyd who also wrote Zora Neale Hurston’s biography. The Huffington Post credits Hurston as one of Walker’s literary idols.
We’re excited to read the wisdom Walker will bless us with from her life’s journey — especially since she’s been writing in her diary for over half a century.
Will you check this book out in 2017?
In an op-ed piece for The Hollywood Reporter, director John Singleton spoke about the problem with black stories in Hollywood being told without the help of black folks behind the scenes, and particularly, black directors being an afterthought. In recent years, white directors have been bringing to life a lot of the big films that have done well at the box office, and while Singleton lauded the movies that got it right (Taylor Hackford directing Ray, Norman Jewison for The Hurricane, and recently, Brian Helgeland’s 42), he shared some inquisitive thoughts about the importance of black folks being the behind the scenes to authentically share the stories of our icons and our people in general. Here are some tidbits from the piece that definitely stood out:
Hollywood’s black film community has always had a one-for-all-and-all-for-one attitude, openly cheering the success of any black-driven movie in the hope its box-office success will translate into more jobs and stories about people of color. But, at the same time, the success of black-themed movies like The Help and this year’s 42 points to a troubling trend: the hiring of white filmmakers to tell black stories with few African-Americans involved in the creative process.
What if the commercial success of “black films” like 42 and The Help, which also had a white director, are now making it harder rather than easier for African-American writers and directors to find work?
That is exactly what people in certain Hollywood circles are debating. When I brought up the issue with a screenwriter friend, he replied, “It’s simple. Hollywood feels like it doesn’t need us anymore to tell African-American stories.” The thinking goes, “We voted for and gave money to Obama, so [we don’t need to] hire any black people.”
…I could go on and on about the white directors who got it right and others who missed the mark. But my larger point is that there was a time, albeit very brief, when heroic black figures were the domain of black directors, and when a black director wasn’t hired, the people behind the film at least brought on a black producer for his or her creative input and perspective. Spielberg did that on The Color Purple(Quincy Jones) and Amistad (Debbie Allen). Tarantino had Reggie Hudlin on Django Unchained.
…But now, that’s changing; several black-themed movies are in development with only white filmmakers attached, including a James Brown biopic. That’s right, the story of “Soul Brother No. 1, Mr. Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” is being penned by two Brits for Tate Taylor, director of The Help…it gives one pause that someone is making a movie about the icon who laid down the foundation of funk, hip-hop and black economic self-reliance with no African-American involvement behind the scenes. One of Brown’s most famous lines was, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door and I’ll get it myself.” How is that possible when the gatekeepers of this business keep the doors mostly locked shut in Hollywood?
What Hollywood execs need to realize is that black-themed stories appeal to the mainstream because they are uniquely American. Our story reminds audiences of struggles and triumphs, dreams and aspirations we all share. And it is only by conveying the particulars of African-American life that our narrative become universal. But making black movies without real participation by black filmmakers is tantamount to cooking a pot of gumbo without the “roux.” And if you don’t know offhand what “roux” is, you shouldn’t be making a black film.
Of course, the usual audience for The Hollywood Reporter (predominately white folks) gave Singleton’s piece the thumbs down, but he makes some very honest points that black folks have been talking about for years. I don’t even have to always have a black director behind a major film (because directing is not for everybody), but the concept of doing a black story with no black people involved definitely sounds preposterous. But what do you think?
Check out his full piece over at THR.