In a little more than a week, audiences nationwide will be able to see Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, the motion picture adaptation of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, the legendary play by Ntozake Shange.
Some will show up because they want to see how the play, once produced on Broadway and many times since, fares as a movie. Many more will show up to see the film’s strong ensemble cast, which includes a who’s who of African-American leading ladies from Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad to Kerry Washington and Thandie Newton.
In New York to promote the movie, which debuts on November 5, the film’s stars spoke about their experience working on the film.
When asked about their exposure to the play, Tessa Thompson, who plays Nyla – the daughter of Whoopi Goldberg’s character Alice and the younger sister of Thandie Newton’s character Tangie – said, “I read the play as a little girl.” Thompson also says she has revisited the work many times since. Phylicia Rashad who plays the motherly Gilda said, “I saw the original Broadway production.”
Actress Loretta Devine says her participation in this Tyler Perry film completes the fulfillment of a dream.
“I auditioned for one production of it, and I was cast,” she said. But she was forced to make a choice: Perform or finish graduate school. “I was in graduate school and they wouldn’t let me out. So, I had to make a choice, whether I was going to do the play. So, I finished grad school and now everything has come full circle.”
In preparation for the movie, some of the leading ladies said getting into character was a challenge and required some unique methods.
Kimberly Elise said because her character Crystal leads a far more chaotic life that she does, she did away with her routine which includes regular meditation, yoga, and healthy eating in order to feel more like the character she was tasked with portraying.
“I knew that, that would take me off balance and Crystal had to be off balance. So to deny myself those things was a lot and it left me vulnerable, and exposed, and in a place that would allow her to inhabit my body and speak her voice,” Elise said. “I went there to make this movie, with about five gray hairs. I came home and found about 50, and I’m not kidding. And it’s because, and any actor will tell you, your body doesn’t know it’s pretend.”For Janet Jackson who was asked about Oscar buzz surrounding her portrayal of the powerful magazine executive, Jo, she said, “Acting has always been a challenge for me, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much.”
So, as much as the women’s involvement with the film was about the joy of acting the actresses don’t want people to overlook the universality of the message.
“All women in the world are colored girls, because the color that Ntozake Shange is referring to has not to do with the color of one’s skin. It has to do with mood, heart, spirit, experience, emotion, expression, understanding or lack of it thereof,” said Rashad.
While it’s been 35 years since the play was first written, many anticipate the same watershed moment that occurred for so many African-American women will happen for yet another generation because of the deepness of the issues tackled in the film issues such as finding love, having healthy relationships, and being empowered as a woman all while sometimes facing traumatic and tragic circumstances.
“So many people go through these things and they never get the chance to say somebody hurt me, and I didn’t deserve it, whether they are afraid to, or they tend not to, they’ve been scared into silence. It’s important for those words to be heard, and to be heard truthfully, and so that’s what I was trying to do,” said Anika Noni Rose who portrays the character Yasmine.
Those involved also want people to know the film isn’t just seen as a film for women.
“I think very often men and women are spoken about in opposition as this movie, seems to you know, be provoking, and I think the film and the strength of film is partly a testament to the extraordinary collaboration of when a man and a woman can come together, and that was Tyler with all of us,” said Thandie Newton.
Perry agreed saying this film can be as much of an eye opener for men as it will be for a new generation of women being exposed to the work for the first time, “As a man, you know, it’s difficult to understand a lot of this, but hearing these women say it, it really changed it all for me.”