Blitz Bazawule’s “The Color Purple” movie musical has found its Celie and Sofia in Fantasia Taylor and Danielle Brooks.
Both actors reprise their respective roles from the stage musical, where Taylor made her Broadway debut as Celie in 2007 following her “American Idol” win, and Brooks earned a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in the 2015 revival.
Taylor and Brooks’ casting was announced on Thursday as part of the ABC News special “Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising.” During the broadcast, “ABC News Live Prime” anchor Linsey Davis interviewed the women about reviving their roles for the film and following the Oscar-nominated big screen performances by Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Brooks relived the emotional moment when Winfrey, who is producing the new movie under her Harpo Films banner, revealed that she was chosen for the role during a Zoom call.
“I am here representing all things purple to tell you that you are our Sofia,” Winfrey said in the recording. “I’m so happy to pass whatever baton from 35 — almost 40 — years ago to you. And I know you’re gonna kill it.”
“My heart is so full,” a teary Brooks replied. “I’m going to make you so proud.”
“You already have,” Winfrey responded. “I wanted to be the one to tell you because you know I have such love for her, this character, everything she represents and everything she brought to my life. And what I’m hoping is that she does the same thing for you.”
JUST IN: @TasiasWord and @thedanieb will join the cast of @WBPictures' #TheColorPurple alongside @tarajiphenson, @HERMusicx, and Corey Hawkins!
Thanks for helping with the reveal on #SoulOfANation @oprah! https://t.co/cmCYuBDn39 pic.twitter.com/HwpR39d5WE
— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 4, 2022
Brooks, who is best known for her work on “Orange is the New Black” and currently stars in “Peacemaker,” also revealed that seeing “The Color Purple” on Broadway as a teenager inspired her to act.
“Seeing all of these beautiful array of different skin tones, and voices, and the story, and I just sat like this and I cried,” she said. “I saw that it was possible, like, I could do this thing that I’ve been doing in my small town of South Carolina. I could do this for a living.”
Likewise, Taylor shared that she connected with Celie’s story as a young girl watching the movie.
“The color of my skin … my lips were always bigger, the biggest thing on my body,” she recalled, explaining how she related to Celie. “I remember being on ‘Idol,’ and we had to come up with this little thing, and I said, ‘My lips are big, but my talent is bigger.’ I had started accepting who I was at that age, but when I was younger, it was things that I dealt with — just feeling beautiful, wanting a certain kind of love, so we relate in a lot of ways.”
Davis also sat down with Goldberg to reflect on the impact of the film, which marked her feature acting debut.
“What did you feel that ‘The Color Purple’ did as far as the strength of Black women on the big screen?” Davis asked.
“It reminds people that we are the backbone of a lot of this country,” Goldberg said.
The upcoming Warner Bros. movie 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.” Marcus Gardley (“The Chi”) wrote the screenplay, based on Walker’s novel, the 1985 film and the stage musical (with a book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and the late Allee Willis).
Alongside Winfrey, Spielberg also returns to produce for his Amblin Entertainment. Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, both of whom produced the Broadway musical, are also producers. Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Mara Jacobs, Carla Gardini, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Fell are executive producers.
Earlier this week, Variety exclusively revealed that Taraji P. Henson had joined the cast as Shug Avery. The new cast members join previously announced stars Corey Hawkins (who will take on the role of Harpo), and Oscar and Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. (who was cast as Squeak).
Following the ABC News special, Vanity Fair announced that Colman Domingo and Halle Bailey would round out the leading ensemble, as Mister and Nettie, respectively.
“The Color Purple” begins production this spring and is slated for release in 2023.