Queen Latifah on How Her New Role in 'The Tiger Rising' Is 'a Homage' to Late Mom Rita

Queen Latifah's new movie, The Tiger Rising, also stars Dennis Quaid and is in select theaters now

Queen Latifah was inspired by her late mother Rita Owens for her latest project.

The actress spoke to People (The TV Show!)'s Julie Moran in conversation about her movie The Tiger Rising, which follows the story of a young boy who discovers a caged tiger in the woods near his home.

Latifah, whose mother died in 2018 at 69, said her performance was a way to honor her mother, a former schoolteacher.

"Everything to me, when it comes to doing these kinds of films, is a homage to my mom," she said. "It's what I know she would like, it's what I know. I know she would want to always encourage children to be the best that they can."

She continued, "I've watched my mom say the right things to students to change their outlook and change their direction, you know? Sometimes it just takes a couple more to give them food for thought and they make the decision and then they make it happen."

The movie also stars Dennis Quaid, Katharine McPhee, Sam Trammell, Christian Convery and Madalen Mills.

Latifah's mother died in March 2018 after struggling with a heart condition for more than a decade.

The actress confirmed her mother's death in a statement to PEOPLE at the time, saying, "It is with a heavy heart that I share the news my mother, Rita Owens passed away today. Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldy but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life."

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"She had struggled with a heart condition for many years and her battle is now over," Latifah shared. "I am heartbroken but know she is at peace. Thank you for your kindness, support and respect for our privacy at this time. Much Love, Dana Owens (aka Queen Latif‎ah), forever Rita Owens' daughter."

The Tiger Rising is in select theaters now.

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