The diversity of Black beauty, talent and womanhood was on full display at the “For Colored Girls” press conference held at a Midtown Manhattan hotel less than two weeks before the film’s nationwide opening.
Director and producer Tyler Perry sat surrounded by most of his ensemble cast. Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington and Macy Gray all sat in a room full of reporters answering questions about the project. Ntozake Shange, the author of the catalyst work, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf,” was not in attendance nor was Whoopi Goldberg or the male cast members. But the actresses who were present were more than capable of representing the film. The camaraderie and genuine affection was evident as jokes, smiles and laughter passed easily among the women.
“For Colored Girls’” tells the harrowing tales of nine women (represented by names and colors) whose lives brush up against one another until the end when they all finally become more than passing strangers.
The film has very evocative scenes and performances that required the actresses to access deep, dark parts of humanity. Kimberly Elise, who starred in Perry’s “Diary of A Mad Black Woman,” said that she cut out her normally healthy habits like yoga and meditation so she could dig into the role of Crystal.
“I knew doing that would take me off balance, and Crystal had to be off balance. It left me vulnerable and exposed and let me reach a place where I could let her enter my body and I could speak her voice,” explained Elise, who said Crystal has stayed with her in the form of new gray hairs she has to dye. She did a 21-day detox after the movie to restore her balance.
When a question about Oscar buzz came up concerning Janet Jackson’s performance, in her usual demure and elegant manner, Jackson said that she cannot even think about such things and she would rather focus on the work than the potential accolades and awards.
Perry, who is producing this movie through his own 34th Street Films company, explained his path to this film.
“Madea, ‘Meet the Browns’–all of that, it took all of that for me to be able to do ‘For Colored Girls.’ If none of that had happened, I wouldn’t have had an axe to throw,” said Perry, who wrote an open letter to his fans recently assuring them that he handled Shange’s classic work with care.
Phylicia Rashad–perhaps best known as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” but who is also a Tony Award-winning actress–summed up the importance and meaning of Shange’s work.
“All women in the world are colored girls. The color that Ntozake Shange is referring to has not to do with the color of one’s skin. It has to do with the heart, spirit, expression, understanding or lack there of,” Rashad explained. “When we understand women correctly, society changes. When we as women understand ourselves correctly, we change society.”
“For Colored Girls” opens nationwide on November 5.