On October 25, director Tyler Perry and the cast of the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls: Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” attended a press conference at the London Hotel in Manhattan, NY. Several cast members of the film described how they prepared for their intense roles.
Kimberly Elise who plays Crystal in the film said, “I live a very peaceful, relaxed, joyous life and practice meditation regularly, yoga, hike and eat very healthy. Part of the things I did for this was to let all of that go. I knew it would take me off balance and Crystal had to be off balance. So to deny myself those things was a lot and it left me vulnerable, exposed and in a place that would allow her to inhabit my body and speak in her voice.”
Anika Noni Rose who plays a dance instructor named Yasmine, commented on the written work and how it inspired her: “My inspiration was the words. This woman has gone through something that is unthinkable and I thought that what Ntozake put down on paper, about the way we trust people with ourselves, with our spirits, with our bodies and with our lives was so clear to me. I just tried to allow it to live, as truthfully and as clear as I could.”
Tyler Perry talks about the process of transforming this theatre piece into a feature film and the struggles that he had with himself during the process. “It was intimidating work because it’s so important, it means so much to so many people, especially women, not only women of color but women in general. I think the most important part of the entire work is the final words that are said.”
Phylicia Rashad, who plays Gilda, a nosey but yet insightful next-door neighbor, talks about the bond and discussions the cast shared while filming that lead to an ultimate understanding of Ntozake’s work. “Early on, in our process of filming we would sit in the makeup trailer and we would talk about this piece… It came to us all one day, collectively in an instance that all women in the world are colored girls. The color that Ntozake Shange is referring too has not to do with the color of ones skin, it has to do with mood, heart, spirit, experience, emotion, expression, understanding or lack of it thereof…We understand this piece as an outgrowth of her studies, in literature and women studies.”
Tessa Thompson who plays a young girl named Nyla, has to deal with a pretty popular teen issue. She talks about how she looked to an unfamiliar source to handle a tough scene with Macy Gray. “The scene that Macy and I shot was about a experience that is extremely frightening. So in that particular instance I did for that day watch some porn. Actually, I don’t watch porn and the porn that I watched was frightening. I did it just to understand what it would be like to experience something that has to do with your body and also to understand what it would be like to experience that pain and that has to do with correcting an event that was pleasurable and what that means to a young woman.”
Tyler Perry also describes how he prevented the intense emotions of the characters from having a negative affect on the actresses. “Watching them go so deep, I know how dramatic it can be to go that deep. To go that deep inside of yourself, to get that range of emotion and to give that kind of performance, after its over its come up, it’s you’re ok, come up, come up. As we seen in the past, there are people who have gone to these deep places in film and have not been able to come out; there have been actors who have not been able to come out… It was very important to me that they all knew that they were safe. After it was done, then I would do what I can to pull them back up out of it.
Being that this film is an extension of Ntozake Shange who is female, the cast discusses how it felt to have it interpreted by a male director and how Tyler Perry was a perfect choice for the film because of his approach to the project.
Thandie Newton said, “Very often men and women are spoken about in opposition, as this movie seems to be provoking. I think that the film and the strength of the film is partly a testament too the extraordinary collaboration that is when a man and woman come together and that was Tyler with all of us…Also, a man to be open and desiring of lessons… I always felt that it was never words used but that Tyler wanted us to teach him something about this experience that he wasn’t going to be able to access on his own. I think the movie is a testament to this incredible union between men and women which we mustn’t forget of lose site of.”