Actress Danielle Brooks is setting into some big shoes with her role in the upcoming musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” filling a role played on-screen initially by Oprah Winfrey. During an interview with TheWrap’s editor in chief Sharon Waxman at this year’s Power Women Summit, Brooks discussed having Winfrey guide her through finding the character of Sofia, a role Brooks herself played on Broadway at the age of 25.
“I got to meet her when I did the Broadway show but we didn’t establish much of a relationship because I was terrified,” Brooks said. “I was really shy…[to] even ask her about the character.” It wasn’t until Winfrey called her, via Zoom, to tell her that Brooks had gotten the role in the new film that the pair established a friendship.
Brooks said Winfrey would give her words of encouragement and prayed for her success inhabiting the character on-screen. “I love that she’s leaving me that example because I know there will be a time where I will have to do that same thing for someone else,” she said.
“The Color Purple” has been special project close to Brooks’ heart ever since she won an internship to go to New York City as a young girl. “I took my father [and] we had some downtime,” Brooks said. “He took me to see a Broadway show [and] at the time there were only two shows that had Black people in them and they were ‘The Color Purple’ and ‘The Lion King.’”
The pair settled on “The Color Purple,” where Brooks became “mesmerized.” “I saw an array of skin tones that looked like me. I was mesmerized, just crying, in tears,” she said. “I didn’t come into Hollywood. I didn’t know how to make it, per se, because there weren’t many examples of that. It opened up my world. It opened up the possibility of dreams for myself.”
This new iteration of “The Color Purple,” directed by Blitz Bazawule, is highly unique and Brooks said the entire cast had to trust his vision. “Being that I played Sofia for a year on Broadway…it’s a lot of work. I feel like I knew her inside and out, but it is a reimagination of this story by Blitz Bazaluwe and I know he took his time [in casting],” she said. “We were open to his vision, and I was without a doubt. At the end of the day you can have this vision, but I knew he was going to stay true to what Alice Walker wrote and that’s what excited me.”
That being said, Brooks explained there is still far more work that needs to be done regarding representation in media. “Until we all feel seen enough or heard enough we still have way more work to do,” she said. “And I’m a testament to that. Being able to see over 20+ Black people on a stage and not just one gave me hope that there was a space.”
“The Color Purple” hits theaters on Dec. 25.
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