Empire’s Taraji P. Henson joins musical film adaption of The Color Purple

Taraji P. Henson

Academy Award nominee, Emmy Award nominee and star of Empire Taraji P. Henson has joined the upcoming film adaption of The Color Purple musical as sexy and sultry jazz singer Shug Avery, reported in Variety today.

Chicago’s Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble Hall of Fame member and Chicago series The Chi writer Marcus Gardley wrote the screenplay for Warner Bros.

This will be the film adaptation of the wildly popular 2005 Tony Award winning Broadway musical from Marsha Norman, Brenda Lee, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, which was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award nominated 1985 film.

Henson is most recognizably known for her performance as matriarch Cookie Lyon in the Chicago set series Empire, which earned her 2 Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She was first acclaimed for her work in the breakout film Hustle & Flow, which earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. She received an Oscar nomination for her role in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Henson most recently portrayed Miss Hannigan in NBC’s Annie Live! Where she showed off her talent for singing and she has also appeared in such television series as Person of Interest and Boston Legal, and in feature films including Hidden Figures, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Top Five, among many others.

The cast also includes Grammy Award and Academy Award winning musician H.E.R. as Squeak and Straight Outta Compton star Corey Hawkins as Harpo. Warner Bros. has yet to announce casting for the lead role of Celie. The story centers on Celie, a Black Southern woman who struggles to find her identity after suffering abuse from her father and others over the course of four decades.

The film is directed by Blitz Bazawule, best known for his work on Black is King, The Burial of Kojo, and Cherish the Day.

Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the 1985 film, will produce through her company Harpo Films alongside Steven Spielberg for Amblin Entertainment and Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones.  Jones and Sanders previously produced the Broadway show. Alice Walker is executive producing alongside Rebecca Walker, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Carla Gardini, Mara Jacobs and Adam Fell

In Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film version, Margaret Avery played  the role of Shug Avery while such incredibly talented performers such as Jennifer Hudson, Michelle Williams, Heather Headley, Elisabeth Withers, Angela Robinson and Nicola Hughes took on the role in productions of the stage musical.

This upcoming project has big shoes to fill. The 1985 film earned a whopping 11 Academy Award nominations, including Margaret Avery for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Shug Avery. The Tony Award winning musical also earned 11 Tony nominations in 2005 with 1 win and an additional 4 Tony nominations in 2006 with 2 wins. 

The film is set for release on December 20, 2023.

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