*The film “For Colored Girls” is based on Ntozake Shange award winning successful play called “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.”
Although the word suicide has been eliminated from the title, it is a problem that continues to grab headlines. So I asked the cast of suicide to address this dilemma that has affected so many; for what reason they might have considered it.
“There’s a lot, there’s a lot,” director Tyler Perry admits. “There has been a spate of suicides recently,” Anika Noni Rose adds, “and I don’t think we can stick it in a box for colored girls because ultimately if you cut you, cut me we’ll bleed and it’s all going to be red.
“We have lost so many young children in the past three weeks because of stupidity, and hatred and prejudice that the reason when you look at might be silly or stupid or ridiculous but the twentieth time it’s just pain and that’s why people decide I can’t do it any more. It’s unfortunate but I think it’s up to us to see these children or adults who are burning with pain and to give them some sort of balm, whether it’s just I see you. Or to say, you know, ‘This has been my story. You will make it.’ So I don’t think we can make a list of things that are important or that are the top 10 reasons for suicide because my reason maybe that I missed the bus today and that was it. That was too much. Or because somebody looked at me and called me a name that I couldn’t hear one more time.”
An impassioned Rose went on to say, “That so many people go through things and don’t get the chance to say, ‘Somebody hurt me and I didn’t deserve it.’ Either they’re afraid to or they’re told not to. They have been scared into silence. It’s important for those words to be heard and to be heard truthfully and so that’s what I tried to do with my character.” Perry pointed out that he “asked everybody just to bring their truth to their roles. And that’s what these women did; they brought their truth.”
LORETTA, HOW DID THIS ROLE COME TO YOU?
LORETTA DEVINE: I auditioned for one production of it and I was cast. I was in graduate school and at the time and they wouldn’t let me out so I had to make a choice whether I was gonna do the play, or finish grad school. I finished grad school. Now everything has come full circle and I’m glad I did.
AND TYLER, HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED?
TYLER PERRY: It was brought to me four times. After the fifth I said ok God, there’s something here. It’s intimidating work because it means so much to so many But I think the most important part of the entire work is the final words that says, ‘I found God in myself and I love her fiercely’ and I think that it’s all about all of these women who no matter who you are, what race you are, taking a journey walking through your life and finding God for yourself inside yourself and loving yourself. So that’s what it mean for me.
KIMBERLY HOW DID YOUR CHARACTER AFFECT YOU?
KIMBERLY ELISE: I went there to make this movie with about five gray hairs I came home and found about 50. Any actor would tell you your body doesn’t know it’s pretend and it shows up and manifests itself. So when I came home there was Crystal still there and I thought it would go away, thought it would grow back ’cause I’m not doing Crystal any more and they didn’t. So I surrendered to dye to get rid of Crystal. I had to push her out and let Kim come back.
PHYLICIA, HOW DID IT RESONATE WITH YOU?
PHYLICIA RASHAD: I think it’s a rite of passage for all people. That’s what I think. When we understand women correctly, society changes. When women understand ourselves correctly we change society.
PERRY: Will you say that again so I can remember when they ask me that question.[Laughs]
JANET, WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES FOR YOU THIS TIME AROUND?
JANET JACKSON: Acting has always been a challenge for me and that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much. This is a character I’ve never played before and being so shrewd and so bold and she’s got a lot of bitch inside of her. She’s very strong and I was up for the challenge and to know for Tyler to have that faith in me, it really excited me so I was ready to step forward and take the challenge
KE: There was some trepidation and like I said I knew I would have to take myself off center, meaning disconnect with the spirit that I live with everyday because Crystal wasn’t connected and that’s a part of what she says and she discovers I found God in myself. At the end of the day Tyler would always say, ‘come on back up, Kim.’ And it really was like being under water and he would be my light, ‘come on back up (she gasps for a breath), so it was a lot.
SO, TYLER DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING WORKING WITH THESE WOMEN?
I’ve always known about how women bonded-I would see it between my mother and my aunt and my sisters but never been around this many women who bonded this kind of way and I kind of felt like I was in a bit of a web that they were weaving around me and lifting me up. They were pushing me up to make sure I did a good job as well. So they taught me a great deal about not only…a lot of things when reading the poem I would have missed, but I heard Phylicia say something one day and the way she said this specific word I got it. The way she said the specific phrasing of certain things in the poem it really woke me up to what was happening. So they taught me a great deal. They taught me about this bond that women have and it’s unbreakable. It is unbreakable. It’s a sisterhood that men don’t get a chance to see. So it was really great being able to peep into it.
THANDIE NEWTON: I think very often men and women are spoken about in opposition and this movie seems to be provoking it. I think that the film and strength of the film is partly a testament to the extraordinary collaboration of when a man and a woman can come together and that was Tyler with all of us. I mean, to experience the strength that a man can provide that women can’t, the security and also a man to be open and desiring of lessons. I always felt that it was never the words used but Tyler wanted us to teach him something about this experience that he wasn’t going to be able to access on his own. And I think the movie is a testament to this incredible union between man and women, which we mustn’t forget or lose sight of and that’s what I got from it.
KERRY WASHINGTON: I felt very grateful to Tyler because who else could have done it? The empire that he built has allowed him to be the person who could make this project happen. And then thank God that the person who could actually make this project happen also has the emotional intelligence to do it right and to be a collaborator. I never thought, ‘oh God he’s a man he’s not gonna get it because who would come to this material unless they were committed to telling the story about for colored girls? And from beginning to end I just felt so grateful that we could live in a time where we would go and do this production with this man.
TYLER CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE MEN IN THIS STORY?
TP: As far as the men go, I think they were all just as committed. You look at Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy, Khalil Kain, Hill Harper, Richard Lawson, I think they were just as committed to it. They wanted to make sure they were supporting these women and holding them up as well so I was very, very proud of them. I think the biggest add on for me was Hill Harper’s character because I thought it was very important to show a different side of what a Black man is. I just didn’t want there to be just these images of who we are as black men without showing that there are black men that love their wives, take care of them and are faithful and good people. So his character was very important to me but I think that they all held it together.