American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino (After Midnight) has been cast as Celie—the young woman who triumphs over adversity, learning how to love others and, more importantly, herself—in the upcoming feature film adaptation of The Color Purple musical. Tony nominee Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) will take on the role of Sofia. Both actors have previously starred in The Color Purple on Broadway.
Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in Steven Spielberg's 1985 Oscar-nominated film based on the Alice Walker novel, announced the news during the February 3 ABC broadcast of Soul of a Nation Presents: Screen Queens Rising, exploring how Black actresses have, in recent years, begun to ascend to the top echelons of entertainment and American culture.
Winfrey surprised Brooks with a Zoom call to tell her she landed the role, saying, "I am here representing all things purple to tell you that you are our Sophia. I'm so happy to pass whatever baton from 35—almost 40—years ago to you. And I know you're gonna kill it."
"My heart is so full," Brooks said. "I'm going to make you so proud."
"You already have," Winfrey responded. "I wanted to be the one to tell you because you know I have such love for her, this character, everything she represents and everything she brought to my life. And what I'm hoping is that she does the same thing for you."
Fantasia and Brooks will join the previously reported Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Miss Hannigan in NBC's recent Annie Live!) as Shug Avery, Corey Hawkins (In the Heights) as Harpo, Oscar and Grammy winner H.E.R. as Squeak, Halle Bailey as Young Nettie, and stage and screen star Colman Domingo (The Scottsboro Boys, Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) as Mister.
The Warner Bros. film is slated to hit theatres December 20, 2023.
As previously announced, Blitz Bazawule, who co-helmed Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King, will direct, with Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Scott Sanders, and Spielberg as producers. Marcus Gardley has been tapped to pen the screenplay, adapted from Marsha Norman’s book and Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray’s score (as well as, of course, the Walker novel).
Whoopi Goldberg was Oscar-nominated for creating the role of Celie in the The Color Purple film, which featured a screenplay by Menno Meyjes. LaChanze, recently seen in the Main Stem debut of Trouble in Mind, originated the part in the 2005 Broadway premiere of The Color Purple musical, earning a Tony for her work. She was succeeded in the role by Fantasia, who drew raves for her performance.
Felicia P. Fields originated the role of Sofia in the 2005
production, and Brooks in the 2015 revival. Both were
Tony-nominated for their performances. The 2015 Broadway revival also earned a Tony for its star, Cynthia Erivo, who had first played Celie in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory in a staging directed and designed by Tony winner John Doyle, who also helmed the Broadway revival.