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Taraji P. Henson Joins ‘The Color Purple’ Musical Cast at Warner Bros.

Henson will play Shug Avery in the film directed by Blitz Bazawule

Taraji P. Henson has joined the cast of the upcoming big screen musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” directed by Blitz Bazawule and set at Warner Bros., an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Henson will portray Shug Avery in the film, and she joins a cast that already includes Corey Hawkins and H.E.R. in what will be the musician’s acting debut.

“The Color Purple” is currently set for release by Warner Bros. on December 20, 2023.

Bazawule is best known as the director of Beyoncé’s “Black Is King,” and he’ll direct from a script by Marcus Gardley (“The Chi”). “The Color Purple” also has a book by Marsha Norman and music by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, and the musical was a hit for its joyous score featuring jazz, ragtime, gospel, blues and African rhythms.

“The Color Purple” originated as Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel from 1982, which was later adapted into Steven Spielberg’s Best Picture-nominated film from 1985 and then again into a musical on Broadway from 2005. Spielberg’s film was nominated for 11 Oscars and was the feature-debut for Whoopi Goldberg and also featured Oprah Winfrey in a breakout role. The musical from 2005 likewise earned 11 Tony nominations and was revived again in 2016, which netted two Tonys and grossed $350 million.

The story centers on a black woman named Celie, who grows up in intense poverty in the American South and endures harsh treatment from her stepfather, husband and others in her life, which tests her faith in God and humankind. 

Henson’s character Shug Avery was portrayed by Margaret Avery in the Spielberg film, and Jennifer Hudson is among several actresses who have portrayed the role in the stage musical.

“The Color Purple” is produced by Spielberg, Winfrey, Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, and it is executive produced by Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Mara Jacobs, Carla Gardini, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Fell.

The “Empire” alum lends her voice to the cast of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” opening this summer. In 2020, Henson opened her own production company TPH Entertainment. She’s also behind the Facebook Watch series “Peace of Mind With Taraji,” which debuted its second season last fall.

Henson is represented by M88, CAA, the Lede Company and attorney Matt Johnson.

Variety first reported the news.

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