Taraji P. Henson Calls Filming 'The Color Purple' Movie Musical 'Empowering'

The actress gave audiences at CultureCon New York an inside perspective on what it was like starring in the project, slated for release in 2023

Taraji P Henson
Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty

Taraji P. Henson has loved the experience filming The Color Purple.

At CultureCon New York, the actress told audiences about the experience of starring in the movie musical — which is adapted from the Tony-winning Broadway musical — and the importance of having representation behind the camera to bring the piece to life for the big screen.

"It was empowering," she said. "I think you guys are going to be experiencing The Color Purple for the first time from a Black perspective."

Henson, 52, added that one of the producers for the project, Steven Spielberg, who directed the 1985 film, understood the importance of having a Black person tell the story. "You will see the differences right away," she told the CultureCon attendees. "That's why it's important for all you filmmakers, writers, up-and-coming producers and directors [to] tell our stories."

Blitz Bazawule is directing the project, set to debut in 2023, with Henson portraying the character Shug Avery, which was first played by Margaret Avery in the 1985 installment of The Color Purple. The story documents the experiences that Celie and Nettie Harris, Shug Avery and Miss Millie live as Black women in the South during the 1930s.

When describing the movie musical overall, Henson said that audiences can expect it to be a combination of the 1982 novel, Broadway musical and previous film by Steven Spielberg. "It was a lot of fun," she said. "What I love about it is that, Black people, we know how to find the joy in situations. We can turn our pain into joy, and that's what makes us so incredible."

Henson explained that this The Color Purple project will not harp on trauma. Instead, the actress shared that audiences will be taken inside Celie's imagination, which is where happiness lived. "It's a very joyous film," she said.

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The actress also touched on how she pulls from her own experiences when approaching her starring roles. "I'm a Black woman, you got to be multifaceted to maneuver in this world," she said. "I tap into what I would do in those situations, how I would overcome [them]."

She added, "I came to Hollywood an underdog. I identify with those roles because I'm always rooting for the underdog, so I just tap into my own personal life experiences, and if I can't, I do research. I'll call someone I know went through the same experiences a character I'm portraying might be going through."

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