Aunjanue Ellis joins cast of ‘The Color Purple’

The Oscar-nominated actress will play Mama, mother to Celie and Nettie in the film adaption of the Broadway musical.

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The Color Purple movie musical has landed another all-star to its cast. Warner Bros. Pictures announced Wednesday that Aunjanue Ellis will appear in the film.

Ellis will portray Mama, mother to the film’s protagonist Celie and sister Nettie. Mama appears in the film as an “embodiment of The Great Ancestor and the source of both Celie and Nettie’s awe-inspiring strength,” according to a press release.

Playing the part of Celie and making her feature film debut is Grammy-winning singer Fantasia Barrino. The American Idol winner is reprising the role she played in the Tony award-winning Broadway musical that the film is adapting.

94th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Aunjanue Ellis attends the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images)

Two actresses will be playing Nettie; singer Halle Bailey will play young Nettie, and singer Ciara will play adult Nettie.

Ellis is the latest addition to an already star-studded cast. Along with Ciara and Bailey, the cast includes Taraji P. Henson (Shug Avery), Corey Hawkins (Harpo), H.E.R. (Squeak), David Alan Grier (Reverend Avery), Colman Domingo (Mister) and Louis Gossett Jr. (Ol’ Mister).

Ellis comes to The Color Purple fresh off the back of her first Academy Award nomination. She earned the Best Supporting Actress nod for her performance in 2021’s King Richard. Ellis played Oracene, wife of Richard Williams and mother/co-trainer of their daughters, tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams.

2022 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon - Inside
Honoree Aunjanue Ellis accepts an award from Will Smith onstage during the 2022 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on March 24, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

This will be the latest adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Its first was the 1985 feature film, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

The film garnered 10 Academy Award nominations and was adapted into the hit Broadway musical in 2005. Winfrey and Spielberg will be executive producing the forthcoming movie musical.

Production for The Color Purple began in Atlanta last month. Directing the film is Blitz Bazawule, while Marcus Gardley is writing the screenplay. The film is expected to hit theaters in December 2023.

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