Fantasia Barrino Will Play Celie in 'The Color Purple' Musical Film, Danielle Brooks Also Cast

Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks' casting in The Color Purple was announced Thursday night on Soul of a Nation

Fantasia. Photo: Paul Morigi/FilmMagic

It's official: Fantasia Barrino will front the cast for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Color Purple.

Barrino, who previously took over as Celie in 2007 during the Broadway run of The Color Purple, will reprise her performance of the leading role, which was played in the 1985 film by Whoopi Goldberg.

Oprah Winfrey — who made her film debut as Sofia in the 1985 Steven Spielberg-directed movie adaptation of Alice Walker's 1982 novel, and will produce the new musical version — was part of the announcement Thursday night on Soul of a Nation.

Barrino, 37, earned rave reviews for her performance, which was her Broadway debut.

"If you really put yourself in her shoes, that can be very tiring," Barrino told about playing Celie. "It can take a lot of energy out of you. I know when I get off the stage at night from shows, I'm exhausted. I run to my room, and I fall on the couch, and I have to take at least about ten minutes to wind down and to get my thoughts together and come out of the part of Celie."

The American Idol season 3 winner said that The Color Purple was the first musical she ever saw. "I had seen the movie, but it's such an inspirational play," she said in 2007. "I was crying. I was saying, 'Oh, Lord, I hope I'm not the only one crying!'"

She opened up to PEOPLE at the time about the wisdom she received from her mentor Winfrey, who also produced Tony Award-winning show.

"Oprah gave me a lot of advice. She sat me down … Just, you know, how a lady should carry herself. How to manage your money. How to not put your trust in everybody. Just watch your back," she said in 2008. "But most of all, you have to watch what you do. You have to carry yourself in such a way. You have to just watch your every move and carry yourself as a lady," Barrino added. "So other young ladies who are watching you will know this is how you do it."

Additionally, Danielle Brooks has been cast as Sofia, the role for which she previously received a Tony Award nomination after starring in the show's 2015 Broadway revival. Brooks, 32, found her breakout onscreen role as Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson in 2013 with Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, and she can currently be seen starring alongside John Cena in HBO Max's Peacemaker.

Brooks recalled the moment she found out about her casting as Sofia. "They were saying, 'Danielle, you have one more meeting with the director Blitz [Bazawule],' and then, all of a sudden, this beautiful Black women in purple comes up on the screen and it's Miss Oprah Winfrey," she recounted.

"I am here, representing all things purple to tell you, you are our Sofia," Winfrey told her in a clip from the call, during which Brooks was overjoyed.

The reveal of Barrino and Brooks' casting comes two days after news broke that Taraji P. Henson would be stepping into the role of Shug Avery, originally played on the big screen by Margaret Avery.

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Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Henson — who will also be joined by Corey Hawkins and H.E.R. in the cast — shared the news of her casting on her social media accounts, retweeting and posting several stories about it.

Marcus Gardley has written the screenplay for the film, specifically adapted from the Tony-winning Broadway musical based on Walker's novel that ran from 2005 to 2008, with a revival that ran from 2015 through early 2017.

Beyoncé's Black Is King co-director, Blitz Bazawule, will be at the helm, according to Deadline. Winfrey, 68, told the outlet in August 2020, "We were all blown away by Blitz's unique vision as a director and look forward to seeing how he brings the next evolution of this beloved story to life."

Winfrey will produce The Color Purple alongside Spielberg, 75. It is slated for a Dec. 20, 2023, release.

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The story of The Color Purple follows the lives of several Black women — namely Celie and Nettie Harris, Shug Avery and Miss Millie — in the American South in the 1930s.

The original Broadway musical of the story debuted in 2005 and earned 11 Tony Award nominations a year later, with actress LaChanze winning a Tony for her role as Celie.

Cynthia Erivo also played the role of Celie in the 2015 revival, for which she won the Tony Award for lead actress in a musical.

Alongside Winfrey, Goldberg, 66, and Avery, 77, Spielberg's film adaptation also starred Danny Glover. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and earned Winfrey a Best Supporting Actress nod.

Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising is airing on ABC.

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