The Color Purple has been shaping our minds for generations and will continue to do so for generations to come, thanks to the brilliance of Alice Walker. Many of us are familiar with the book and film but now we get the opportunity to see how when done right a musical can have the same impact.
The Color Purple is a personal story to many, including Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks, so we got to discuss with them the impact of the story worldwide and how it affected their daily lives:
The Color Purple is such an important piece of Black American history, how do you think it translates to different Black cultures around the world?
Danielle: We all know what oppression looks like, whether you come from America or you’re British, you know what oppression looks like. You know what it is to be fighting for your rights and as women we are going to continue to go through the same things whether you're across the pond or not. So to me, it's a human story, it's about humanity. If you have blood pulsing through your body, you have a heartbeat going through your body, it's for you, and I think that's just what it is. Yes, it’s a specific story that we're telling through the lens of Black Americans, but it's not limited to just Black Americans.
Fantasia: Amen. I also think it’s for women and men because when we’re in our screenings and when people go to the theatres it's men and women. I remember my husband talking to her husband and them powwowing about the movie and what they took away from it. It is going to be for both men and women, young, old, Black and white.
Everyone can take something away from this story because it resonates so deeply due to the themes presented. How do you immerse yourself into these characters that are going through so much and not take that home with you? What were you doing to ensure that topics were not constantly playing in your mind?
Fantasia: So when I did it on Broadway in 2007, that was hard for me because my life was dark as hell. I did not know how to disconnect from Ceilie. I took her home, and I woke up with Celie. I would call my mom boo hooing saying “I don't like this feeling” but again, that was because my life was in shambles. Now that I'm older, wiser, healing, and still healing to this day, I see it a little differently. Now, I was able to tap into those dark moments and remember those dark moments. I had moments where I would be like, “You better go ahead girl, you made it through that, you go head, you a bad mama jama”. I still allowed myself to feel but in the end, I was like “Girl you did that” and that is something that I want every young girl to see, I have a daughter who is 22 now and I want her to see that you are going to go through some things that's life, but it's how you make it through that counts. You don't have to forget it, you don't have to cover it up and you don't have to prove nothing to nobody other than yourself that you made it. Then you can tell some other young girl “This is what I've been through, do it like this, do it like that” and we make, we overcome. We have to go through a test for a testimony. I had to go through a test, but it's now our testimony.
Danielle: For me, I did go to Juilliard, and they taught us at Juilliard how to shed the character off after doing an hour or two hours on stage but there are some things Juilliard just can’t teach you. What we were doing to me was like ancestry work, blood work is what I call it, spirit work. Calling on the ancestors for 70-plus days while we shot, was a lot and I felt very depleted after doing this.
A lot of my time, when we would do hard scenes, would be spending time in my trailer and praying it out. Firstly praying it out and thanking the ancestors for giving me what I needed and now I'm going to release it by doing just that. That’s how I kind of came out of it because it was really tough and a lot to take on. The jail scenes, the dinner scenes, the White Mob coming at Sofia. There was a lot. So again, there are some things that you just got to learn on your own, and I learnt how to detox a character.
Fantasia: I think a lot of women relate to Sofia and Celie because they went through a lot, they went through a whole lot. I'll never forget that scene at the dinner after Celie checks Mister and leaves. We both have a moment where we wake the hell up.
Strength in sisterhood, when you see someone you look up to stick up for themselves and become a new person, you then become a stronger person as well.
Fantasia: YES. That was a big moment. I tell him what I want to tell him and Sofia is just sitting there. No one at the table is used to that because we’re used to Sofia saying “Don’t keep me Harpo, don’t keep me waiting” but after she sees her good friend come every day, visit her, feed her, invest in her, she rises up and says “there’s going to be some changes around here, I like this, I’m back”. I think every woman needs to see that sisterhood, that strength and the fact that sometimes you will go through some things but it’s the process and it’s necessary. If you trust the process, then you’ll end up the way we did.
The sisterhood in this film is strong between your characters, but if you had to pick another character in this film to play, what would you pick?
Danielle: I would love to play Shug Avery man.
Fantasia: Yeah because you get to be sassy.
Danielle: No there’s just something there when I read the book I would love to tap into to see where it goes. I’ve seen a lot of renditions of Shug that have been beautiful but there are a few more things that I would like to see if they would work with the character. I think it would be fun because she seems like a really hard character to figure out.
Fantasia: I guess I’m going to ahead and take Sof.
Danielle: haha she be renaming the characters, she means Sofia.
Fantasia: You know that’s what we do in a Black household, we nickname, Sof or Sofia. I’m going to take Sofia because I admired Sofia’s character and she has something that I’ve always wished I had, that I feel I’m coming into now. I’m a cancer and my birthday is June 30th, I would do for anybody before I do for myself and I’m kind of ready to that around and be like “The answer is no…in love, I still love you but hell no”.