beaches

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*Idina Menzel and Nia Long are set to play lifelong friends whose relationship is tested by heartbreak and tragedy in director Allison Anders remake of the 1988 classic “Beaches.” The original movie starred Bette Milder as CC Bloom and Barbara Hershey as Hilary.

The remake follows the serendipitous meeting of two youngsters on the Venice Boardwalk, who, though worlds apart in lifestyle, embark on unexpected and lifelong friendship. CC (Idina Menzel) is an aspiring singer trying to make it in Los Angeles until she is discovered by a director who gives CC her first big shot. Hillary (Nia Long) is the daughter of a prominent civil rights lawyer who struggles to find her own destiny. Their friendship—even with its ups and downs—sustains them for decades.

Long and Menzel addressed why they decided to tackle this new version during the Lifetime portion of the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 13. EUR/Electronic Urban Report was on hand to ask both actresses about their emotional connection to the original Gary Marshall film, and Nia revealed that her longtime love of the resonating drama is why she didn’t hesitate to sign on.

“I think if you look at any of my earlier interviews, you will see that my top five, “Beaches” was always included,” Nia said at the Television Critics’ Association’s winter press tour. “I just think it’s a film that touches women on such a deep level, touches men on such a deep level. But this is really a film about friendship, and about sisterhood, and about girl power,” she explained. “And growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and then moving to a big city, and living in New York, and living bicoastal, your friendships are the things that keep you grounded. And I think for me, “Beaches” is always a reminder for that.”

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Idina Menzel and Nia Long of the series ‘Beaches’ speak onstage during the Lifetime portion of the 2017 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on January 13, 2017 in Pasadena, Source: Frederick M. Brown / ZIMBIO)

Long noted that the project was “definitely challenging and fun, but there were those scenes where we had to really bond as best friends. It was pretty natural,” she said of working with Menzel.

“I felt like we really have an understanding of life, and we both have our own best friends, and we’re both mothers,” she added. “So a lot of the themes in the film really resonate pretty easily, and it’s just about making the scene your own, and honoring the original film.”

Menzel said she saw the movie back in high school with her two best friends, after which they cried their eyes out. So the project was “quite a nostalgic memory for me,” she said.

“I mean, if I’m being completely honest, I was terrified to do it at first, because I love the movie. I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful movie. And both those women, especially Bette Midler, for me, was an idol, my whole life,” Menzel confessed. “I continue to be inspired by her, so it’s a daunting task. But as a performer, you look at a role, and you see where you can learn and sort of exercise your talents and your craft, and it just — you know, no pun intended, but I felt like I could spread my wings in this role. And so after saying no to myself 12 times, I finally gave into it.”

Nia chimed in with, “And I think when you’re afraid of something, that’s the one thing you should do. If something feels out of your comfort zone, that’s kind of the area that I like to explore.”

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Menzel wants fans of the original film to know that Lifetime’s “Beaches” for this new generation is an homage to the original, and she hopes it will “open a new discussion at this time about where women are, and how we balance and navigate all of these passions we have and ourselves, career and our family, I think it’s similar to back then, but I think things have changed. So it’s just another way to start a conversation.”

Director Allison Anders noted that casting an African-America actress in one of the lead roles simply reflects the world in which we live in now.

“We live in a diverse world, all of us. So I think that that was — you know, for me, that was really exciting, too, to see these two girls’ friendships,” Anders said during TCA. And, also, that Nia is playing the more privileged character than Idina is playing. So that was a cool twist for me.”

“Beaches” premieres on Lifetime Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8/7c. The movie will feature new takes on the classic songs “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “The Glory of Love” and include several other songs recorded specifically for the film.