Meet the Stars of "The Color Purple" Movie Musical
Alice Walker's acclaimed novel "The Color Purple" is being adapted once more. Decades after Steven Spielberg's 1985 adaptation received accolades, a film inspired by the similarly lauded stage musical — which originally ran from 2005 to 2008, then again from 2015 to 2017 — is finally hitting theaters this December with an A-list cast for the ages.
On Feb. 3, 2022, during an "ABC News" special, Oprah Winfrey, who starred in Spielberg's film, unveiled the official lineup of lead actors in the forthcoming adaptation: Fantasia Taylor, Halle Bailey, Danielle Brooks, and Colman Domingo. Others who were later announced to join the star-studded cast include H.E.R., Taraji P. Henson, Ciara, Corey Hawkins, David Alan Grier, and newcomer Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, who plays young Celie.
During a May 22 press conference for "The Color Purple" trailer's debut, which POPSUGAR was present for, director Blitz Bazawule — who served as co-director for Beyoncé's "Black Is King" — spoke about the movie's sweeping ensemble cast and his excitement for their performances. "For me, every time I was on set I was, like, the spoiled director. Literally, the amount of talent, ability, and brilliance was through the roof," he shared.
"What we had was, also, kind of a difference of levels of experience," Bazawule added, pointing out seasoned film stars like Henson and Domingo, along with Taylor, Brooks, and Mpasi, who are still fairly new to the movie world. He continued, "What I loved was to see the level of camaraderie and love and helping each other over time, and it started right from when the cast was announced. There were true sisterhoods being formed [and] true brotherhoods."
Winfrey — whose portrayal of Sofia in the Spielberg adaptation earned her an Oscar nomination — is on board "The Color Purple" movie musical as a producer alongside Quincy Jones and Scott Sanders. For Essence's November/December 2023 cover, Winfrey posed alongside cast members Henson, Brooks, Taylor, and H.E.R. In the cover story, the four actors reflected on how they felt when they learned they'd be starring in the forthcoming musical.
Taylor said she "started shouting." "I ran through the house. I had just had my baby and was trying to bounce back. I kept thinking, This is not going to come through," she recalled. "In the beginning, I wasn't going to take the role—because I knew I was going to have to step into some things that I'd buried."
H.E.R., meanwhile, said, "I was so excited," about snagging her first major acting role in a feature film. She added, "I was a little afraid—not afraid, but I was nervous. I was taking on so much. But everything happens for a reason. And I'm so grateful. I learned so much being around you guys. I'm just ready to do more."
Production for "The Color Purple" musical movie kicked off in Atlanta in the spring of 2022, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with the cast sharing behind-the-scenes teasers in the weeks following. On June 30, 2022, Bailey posted a candid gallery of some on-set photos on Instagram — which feature Winfrey, Domingo, and Mpasi — captioned, "and that's a wrap for me on the color purple 🎥💜i'm so very grateful to have had this experience, my second major motion picture complete in the last year and a half😭💕 God is so good 💕 here's a few of my fav moments without showing too much ❤️."
While we wait for the "The Color Purple" musical movie to arrive on Dec. 25, read ahead to learn more about the cast and their roles.
Fantasia Taylor as Celie
The talented singer earned rave reviews for her portrayal of Celie in the hit Broadway musical back in 2007, which also marked her stage debut. Taylor also reprised her role in "The Color Purple"'s national tour. Celie was famously played by Whoopi Goldberg in Spielberg's film adaptation.
Ciara as Nettie
Ciara plays the adult version of Nettie in the upcoming musical film. The iconic singer joined the film's cast after Bailey was announced to play the younger version of her character.
Halle Bailey as Young Nettie
Bailey plays the younger version of Celie's sister, Nettie, who was played by Akosua Busia in the original film. The singer and actor also stars as the lead of the live-action version of "The Little Mermaid," in which she plays Disney Princess Ariel.
Danielle Brooks as Sofia
Brooks is reprising her role as Sofia after playing the character on Broadway from 2015 to 2017. Her portrayal earned her a Tony Award nomination. Sofia was famously played by Winfrey in the original 1985 film. Brooks, who announced in January 2022 that she married husband Dennis Gelin, is best known for starring in "Orange Is the New Black" for six years. "The Color Purple" will mark her first big movie role.
"Sofia has my heart and I am ready to pass the purple baton on to the incredible @daniebb3 who will bring her version to a new generation," wrote Winfrey alongside an emotional Instagram clip in February 2022, where she broke the big casting news to Brooks.
Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery
The seasoned actor is taking on the role of jazz and blues singer Shug Avery, originally played by Margaret Avery in Spielberg's 1985 film and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes in the original play adaptation. Henson's most recent acting roles include Cookie Lyon in Fox's "Empire," Miss Hannigan in "Annie Live!," and a cameo in ABC's "Abbott Elementary."
Colman Domingo as Mister
Domingo, who starred in the first two seasons of HBO's "Euphoria," takes on the role of Mister, originally played by Danny Glover in Spielberg's film. The veteran actor has also appeared in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "Zola," and 2021's "Candyman," in addition to receiving a Tony Award for his portrayal in the Broadway musical "The Scottsboro Boys."
Corey Hawkins as Harpo
Hawkins plays the role of Harpo, who was portrayed by Willard E. Pugh in the 1985 film and Brandon Victor Dixon in the original stage adaptation.
Hawkins is a Juilliard alum who appeared in "BlacKkKlansman," "Straight Outta Compton," and "6 Underground." Most recently, he played Benny in the "In the Heights" film and "The Tragedy of Macbeth" with Denzel Washington. Hawkins's role in the 2017 revival of "Six Degrees of Separation" earned him a Tony Award nomination for best actor in a play.
Louis Gossett Jr. as Ol' Mister
Louis Gossett Jr. plays Ol' Mister in the musical movie, originally portrayed by Adolph Caesar in the 1985 film. The veteran actor has a career that dates back more than 50 years, with roles in films like "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Roots," and the Iron Eagle franchise.
H.E.R. as Squeak
H.E.R. stars as Squeak in the "The Color Purple" movie musical. The character is a juke-joint waitress and singer wrapped up in a romance with her boss, Harpo. Regarding her first role in a major motion picture, H.E.R. told POPSUGAR in January 2022, "I was so nervous about it, I'm not going to lie, because 'The Color Purple' is such a big film, and I really want to show up and do my thing. But I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I think it's going to be fun."
H.E.R. released her debut album, "Back of My Mind," in June 2021. While she has just three notable live-action acting credits — she had a small role in 2009's "School Gyrls," played the title character in the 2017 short film "Erma," and starred as Belle in ABC's "Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration" special — H.E.R. already has an Oscar. "Fight For You," which she wrote for "Judas and the Black Messiah," earned her the 2021 award for best original song.
Deon Cole as Alfonso
The comedian, "Black-ish" and "Grown-ish" actor stars as Alfonso, Celie and Nettie's stepfather. Cole's most recent acting credits include Netflix's "You People" and "The Harder They Fall," along with a guest appearance in "South Side." He also released a Netflix standup special in 2022.
David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery
Grier stars as Reverend Avery, Shug Avery's extremely religious father. Grier has a 40-plus-year acting career, starring in iconic films and TV shows like "In Living Color," "Boomerang," "Jumanji," and "Stuart Little," to name a few. He also starred in the "Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration" special with H.E.R. as Cogsworth the clock.
Tamela Mann as First Lady
Gospel singer and actor Tamela Mann stars as First Lady. Mann is most known for starring in several Tyler Perry productions, as well as for her hit song "Take Me to the King" and Grammy-winning track "God Provides."
Stephen Hill as Buster
Hill, most known for starring in "Magnum P.I.," plays the role of Buster, Sophia's boyfriend after she leaves Harpo. The character was played by James Tillis in Spielberg's film adaptation.
Jon Batiste as Grady
The Grammy winner will make his acting debut in the movie musical, several outlets reported on April 15, 2022. Batiste plays Grady, who's described as "a marijuana-loving womanizer married to jazz and blues singer Shug Avery (Henson)."
Elizabeth Marvel as Miss Millie
Aunjanue Ellis as Mama
The Oscar-nominated "King Richard" actor plays Celie and Nettie's mother in the forthcoming musical film. According to Essence, she'll embody the role of a "Great Ancestor" and be a source for both of her daughters' "strength and perseverance."