Oprah Winfrey is shutting down any speculation involving an apparent feud with Taraji P. Henson amid revelations that “The Color Purple” cast did not originally have food or trailers provided to them on set during rehearsals. Oprah was a producer on the film after originating the role of Sofia and earning an Oscar nomination for the 1985 film. Henson stars in the new version as Shug Avery and spent a bulk of her press tour talking about how she had to fight to ensure she got paid fairly and that her cast mates had access to simple requests like food, drivers to set and more.
“People are saying that I was not supporting Taraji,” Oprah told Entertainment Tonight. “Taraji will tell you herself that I’ve been the greatest champion of this film. Championing not only the behind the scenes projection but also everything that everybody needed. So whenever I heard that there was something that someone needed…I’m not in charge of the budget because that’s Warner Bros. That’s the way the studio system works.”
“We as producers, everybody gets their salary and everybody is negotiated by your team,” Oprah continued. “And so, whenever I heard there was an issue or there was a problem, there was a problem with a cars or the problem with their food, I would step in and do whatever I could to make it right. And I believe that [Taraji] would even vouch for that and say that is true.”
During a recent interview with The New York Times, Henson said that she and her “Color Purple” co-stars got “a lot of stuff on that set” because she fought for it behind the scenes. One such example was rides to the Atlanta set, as the production allegedly offered the cast rental cars at first and expected the actors to drive themselves to set.
“They gave us rental cars, and I was like, ‘I can’t drive myself to set in Atlanta.’ This is insurance liability, it’s dangerous,” Henson said. “What do I look like, taking myself to work by myself in a rental car? So I was like, ‘Can I get a driver or security to take me?’ I’m not asking for the moon. They’re like, ‘Well, if we do it for you, we got to do it for everybody.’ Well, do it for everybody! It’s stuff like that, stuff I shouldn’t have to fight for.”
During a separate cast interview, Danielle Brooks revealed the actors did not initially get their own dressing rooms when they showed up for rehearsals, nor was food provided to them at that time. Henson spoke with Oprah to correct this.
“I remember when we first came and we’re doing rehearsals, they put us all in the same space,” Brooks said. “We didn’t have our own dressing rooms at the time. We didn’t have our own food…[Oprah] corrected it for us. [Taraji] was our voice. This was my first studio film. Sometimes you do come in saying, ‘Ok, I’ll take whatever they give me. I’m just happy to be here.’ But [Taraji] spoke up for us.”
Henson remembered being on the phone with Oprah once word got out that the cast did not have dressing rooms or food at rehearsals. She told the mega-producer, “We gotta fix this.”
Henson, an Oscar nominee for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” nearly passed on “The Color Purple” due to pay and because she was forced to audition for the role of Shug Avery despite being the director’s top choice. During a viral SiriusXM interview last month, she broke down in tears while discussing the pay disparity issues she still faces in Hollywood despite her success on “Empire” and having an Oscar nomination under her belt.
“The Color Purple” is now playing in theaters nationwide from Warner Bros.