Aunjanue Ellis has been added to the star-studded cast of an upcoming musical film adaptation of “The Color Purple.”
The Oscar-nominated actress will star as Mama, who is Celie and Nettie’s mother. The news was first announced by ESSENCE.
Ellis landed her first Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category last month.
“It’s very holistic with him, you know, who he is on camera with Richard Williams and how much he doted on those girls was how he doted on those girls when we weren’t shooting,” she told PEOPLE of what it was like working beside Will Smith. “They fell in love with him, ’cause it’s easy to do. It was great.”
“What surprised me most about him was the first day that I went into rehearsal with him, he had Post-It notes of every scene broken down of the entire movie. … I just thought, ‘He doesn’t have to do that,’ ” adds Ellis of Smith. “It just shows his level of commitment even at this stage of his career. I was so impressed by that.”
In February, it was announced that Fantasia Barrino was in final negotiations to play Celie. Barrino played the role on stage on Broadway in 2007. The singer received critical acclaim for her stage portrayal.
“If you really put yourself in her shoes, that can be very tiring,” Barrino told Playbill.com at the time. “It can take a lot of energy out of you. I know when I get off the stage at night from shows, I’m exhausted. I run to my room, and I fall on the couch, and I have to take at least about ten minutes to wind down and to get my thoughts together and come out of the part of Celie.”
Whoopi Goldberg played the role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 version movie.
“Orange Is The New Black,” star Danielle Brooks also signed onto the project as Sofia. The news was announced during ABC’s “Soul of a Nation,” special, “Screen Queens Rising.”
“I am here representing all things purple to tell you that you are our Sofia,” Oprah Winfrey told Brooks. “I’m so happy to pass whatever baton from 35—almost 40—years ago to you. And I know you’re gonna kill it.”