Reflecting on her portrayal of Sofia in the 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Oprah Winfrey emphasized the deep significance of the role, describing it as one of the most meaningful paychecks she has ever received. During an Essence cover story gathering in May, Winfrey, now an executive producer for the upcoming movie musical, engaged in a heartfelt conversation with the film’s new cast members, including Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson and H.E.R. They discussed the challenges and emotional weight of stepping into the roles previously played by the 1985 cast, sharing personal stories of struggle and growth.
In the dialogue, Brooks expressed her gratitude to Winfrey for her support, to which Winfrey reciprocated, highlighting the transformative impact the original film had on her life. Despite the initial offer of $35,000, Winfrey expressed how the experience had been life-changing, imparting profound lessons and a deep sense of spiritual surrender. She shared her joy in witnessing the story return to the screen with such an accomplished and diverse cast.
“I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me — a person who wanted nothing more in my life than to be in The Color Purple. And God taught me to surrender — that was the big lesson for me,” Winfrey said. “They were only offering $35,000 to be in this film, and it is the best $35,000 I ever earned. It changed everything and taught me so much. It is God moving through my life.” Winfrey continued. “To have all of you beautiful Black women bearing witness to the story, as the story moves forward, means so much. I believe that what Fantasia has said is true: Everybody who comes to see our film is going to be touched. They will be moved. And they will be healed.”
Barrino revealed the personal struggles she faced in embracing the role of Celie, considering turning it down initially due to the emotional challenges it brought. “In the beginning, I wasn’t going to take the role — because I knew I was going to have to step into some things that I’d buried,” she said. “But I had an amazing cast to support me.” The support from the ensemble helped her confront and overcome her buried emotions. The other actresses also shared their experiences of dealing with the emotional toll of their roles, emphasizing the transformative power of storytelling and the healing that comes with it. Henson shared, “When you’re doing something so heavy like this, it can be triggering. You have to learn to live in between takes.”
Barrino concluded by expressing her sense of liberation and healing, noting that despite the difficulties, the journey had ultimately been worthwhile.
The Color Purple hits theaters later this year.