The upcoming release of “The Color Purple” musical film marks a full circle moment for Oprah Winfrey, who is producing the new adaptation 38 years after playing Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s take on Alice Walker’s seminal novel. Oprah earned an Oscar nomination for supporting actress, and now “The Color Purple” musical could earn her another one as a producer if it lands a best picture nomination. Oprah produced the film along with Spielberg, Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones.
In a new Essence cover story with the musical film’s cast — Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, H.E.R. and Fantasia Barrino — Oprah revealed the salary she earned for her Oscar-nominated role in Spielberg’s “The Color Purple.” It was low, but it was the only shot Oprah had at achieving her life goal of starring in the film.
“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,’” Oprah said. “And God taught me to surrender — that was the big lesson for me. 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.”
Taking over the role of Sofia in the upcoming musical adaptation is Brooks, best known for her supporting role in “Orange Is the New Black.” Brooks already has experience playing Sofia on Broadway, where she earned a Tony Award nomination for featured actress in a musical. The actor thanked Oprah for “leaving space for me [on set] but also being there, to hold my hand and answer that phone call when I needed you.”
“To have all of you beautiful Black women bearing witness to the story, as the story moves forward, means so much,” Oprah later explained. “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.”
“The Color Purple” centers on Celie (Fantasia), a Black Southern woman in the early 20th century who is abused by her father and husband. She finds the strength in her own independence after befriending several women in her community, including the vivacious blues singer Shug Avery (Henson) and the fierce Sofia (Brooks).
Blitz Bazawule (“Black Is King”) directed the new film from a script by Marcus Gardley (“The Chi”). “The Color Purple” opens in theaters Dec. 25 from Warner Bros.