If there’s one thing Taraji P. Henson is going to do, she’s going to secure an impactful acting role. Variety announced the 51-year-old actress will star as Shug Avery in Blitz Bazawule’s ‘The Color Purple’ under Warner Bros.
The film is an adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical, which is itself an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The production is directed by Bazawule, best known for his work on Beyoncé’s “Black is King,” “The Burial of Kojo” and “Cherish the Day.”
Many remember in the original ‘The Color Purple’ where Margaret Avery played the role, alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, and Laurence Fishbourne back in 1985. The film received many accolades, with Goldberg taking home a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture and two NAACP Image Awards with Goldberg taking home the award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture with the film winning for Outstanding Motion Picture.
Marcus Gardley (“The Chi”) wrote the screenplay, based on Alice Walker’s novel, the 1985 Warner Bros. Pictures film, and the stage musical (with a book by Marsha Norman and Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray’s score).
For new fans who may not have seen the film, the role of Shug Avery is a very special one. The character is the jazz and blues singer introduced as Mister’s long-time mistress before becoming Celie’s confidant. Other actresses have also played the role in the past like Jennifer Hudson, Michelle Williams, Heather Headley, Elisabeth Withers, Angela Robinson, and Nicola Hughes.
The Golden Globe actress will join Corey Hawkins (“In The Heights,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth”) and Oscar- and Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. in the film’s ensemble with Hawkins taking on the role of Harpo, who was played by Willard Pugh in the 1985 adaptation, while H.E.R. was cast as Squeak, originally played by Rae Dawn Chong.
Winfrey will produce the new movie under her Harpo Films banner. Steven Spielberg returns to produce for his Amblin Entertainment with Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, both of whom produced the Broadway musical, are also producers. Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Mara Jacobs, Carla Giardini, Kristie Macosko Krieger, and Adam Fell are executive producers.
The film almost didn’t come to light as Walker didn’t want to make her Pultizer Prize novel a film and didn’t want Spielberg to direct. Reported by the Global Grind, Walker expressed to Quincy Jones that the movie should be directed by someone who had experience with being Black in America, to which even Spielberg agreed. It took for Jones to encourage Spielberg to move forward as the director, telling him “I want you to do it, and besides, did you have to be an alien to direct ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’?”
Another fun fact about the legendary film is Margaret Avery, who delivered a phenomenal performance, was not originally set to be cast as Shug. Apparently, musical icons Chaka Khan and Tina Turner were considered in the early stages. Now wouldn’t that have been something.
Also, with Walker already hesitant with Spielberg directing the film, she was displeased the first go-around when she saw the film. She was not fond of the opening sequence and wasn’t impressed with the final film sequence. After viewing the film once more at the movie’s premiere, she seemed to have changed her mind.
Hmm, I wonder what helped her change her perspective?
Well, Henson is already off to a great start this year. She recently received a nomination for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a television movie, limited series, or dramatic special for her portrayal of Miss. Hannigan in NBC’s Annie Live! If Henson wins this award, she will become a 10x winner of an NAACP award, winning in the past including Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and Entertainer Of The Year (Rightfully so!)
If you’re looking to see this film, it won’t be released any time soon. “The Color Purple” is set to be released on December 20, 2023.
Do you think Henson will deliver an impactful performance like the ladies who portrayed the role in the past? Only time will tell.