Oprah Winfrey, far right, producer of an upcoming film remake of “The Color Purple,” is joined onstage by, from left, the film’s director Blitz Bazawule and cast members Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks and Taraji P. Henson during the Warner Bros. Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2023, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Tuesday, April 25, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Nearly forty years after the film “The Color Purple” directed by Steven Spielberg was first released in theaters and became a cultural phenomenon, Ghanaian director Blitz Bazawule has taken the reins and made the musical adaptation his own.

Following the 118-day SAG/AFTRA strike that put a collective halt on the entertainment industry and actors’ ability to promote their work, the new cast of the Warner Bros. Pictures film, “The Color Purple” shared a resounding, “Dear God, Thank You” amidst their jam-packed press tour.

Upon the film’s Christmas day release, “The Color Purple” set a holiday record of $18 million at the box office, the highest-grossing Christmas debut for a movie since 2009. Going into the New Year, the film is continuing to be a multigenerational box office draw having grossed $50 million thus far.

The 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, a teen who was impregnated by her stepfather twice, and then forced into an arranged marriage with the physically and emotionally abusive Mister (actor Danny Glover) and separated from her sister Nettie (actress Akosua Busia). Over the course of a decade with the help of her headstrong daughter-in-law Sofia (played by Oprah Winfrey) as well as sultry jazz singer Shug Avery (actress Margret Avery), Celie finds the strength to leave Mister and she goes on to open a clothing store, leaning on the sewing skills taught to her by her late mother. Celie is also reunited with her long-lost sister and her two children.

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While the latest rendition of the film, which is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, doesn’t stray too far from Alice Walker’s source material, joy is used as an act of resistance. There’s more vibrancy and buoyancy not only in the musical numbers choreographed by Fatima Robinson but also within the script penned by screenwriter Marcus Gardley.

Actress Fantasia Barrino reprises her role from the Broadway production as Celie for the film. During a cast Q&A at the Writers Guild of America, the Grammy Award winner revealed that she initially turned down the part citing the emotional toll playing the role on Broadway had on her. Barrino shared that she had since gone to therapy to heal past traumas and wasn’t sure she wanted to revisit the depths of Celie for these reasons.

When asked about the importance of learning self-accountability through therapy, Barrino told the Sentinel, “It didn’t hit me until I was married that I still have work to do. I was 17 years old when I had [my eldest daughter] Zion and now I’m 39 with a 2-year-old and everything is different. I wanted to continue to break chains and break generational curses and make sure that I’m opening doors for my girls and myself.”

It was after reading Gardley’s script and seeing that Celie was giving an “imagination” that helped the character to remain hopeful and resilient throughout the film, Barrino decided to say “yes” to the role which recently earned her a Golden Globe nomination as well as Oscar buzz.

Ironically, while Barrino had to be convinced to take the role, actress Phylicia Pearl Mpasi was trying to manifest it. The rising star told the Sentinel that she had auditioned for the role of Celie several times including for the Broadway production and the tour to no avail. Mpasi credits her late grandmother for helping her to finally secure the role in the film.

“The day of my grandmother’s funeral was also the day I saw the audition notice. I always wanted to do a movie musical and I think this is a way for me to honor my grandmother and bring so much of my own humanity to this role by piecing together the different moments of my life and my own journey that brought me here,” said Mpasi.

In referencing her journey to finally becoming Celie, Mpasi adds, “Learning to love myself and embrace myself was the thing that I think connected me to the character and what was seen in me when I was selected to be Celie.”

Also reprising her role from the Broadway production is actress Danielle Brooks as Sofia. When asked how her relationship with author Alice Walker deepened going from the play to the film, Brooks shared, “I always go back to her work even when we had a script written by Marcus Gardley who I adore, I would still lean on Walker’s words because as Taraji has said that’s the bible. It’s also the details and the specificity of what other characters say about you that make this thing really pop. So I’m grateful for the book and I keep it with me even now.”

She added, “I’m grateful for this moment and for the next generation to be introduced to ‘The Color Purple.’”  Brooks, who has been lauded as a scene stealer in the film has also earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Sofia.

Rounding out the star-studded cast includes Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, Colman Domingo as Mister Hailey Bailey and Ciara as Nettie, Corey Hawkins as Harpo Johnson and H.E.R. as Squeak.

With a plethora of themes in the film including the significance of sisterhood, the importance of maintaining even mustard seed faith as well as the necessity of breaking generational curses, the Sentinel asked director Blitz Bazawule what he wanted audiences to take away from the film.

Bazawule shared, “Radical forgiveness and accountability. Those are two things I think go together and that’s what Alice Walker’s brilliant text always felt like to me. What does it look like to free yourself and others? I think those are key tenants that I hope people take away when they leave the theater.

“It will be a moment of true transcendence, they will find healing in themselves and others. They’ll learn to forgive themselves and forgive others,” he added. “If the world needs more of anything it’s exactly that.”