'The Color Purple' Choreographer Fatima Robinson Discusses The Film Adaptation's Impact
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Colman Domingo as Mister in Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold new take on a classic, The Color Purple PHOTO BY: SER BAFFO/COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
The Color Purple has lived many lives. Since the release of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name, it became an Oscar-nominated pop culture-shaking film in 1985 and transformed into a Tony Award-winning musical in 2005. This year, The Color Purple takes on yet another stunning iteration.
Choreographer Fatima Robinson. PHOTO BY: STEPHAN SCHACHER
The musical film adaptation (set for a Christmas Day release) carries on the classic themes of sisterhood, resilience and self-discovery. It is directed by Blitz Bazawule. Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones returned to produce this version, along with the stage musical’s producers Scott Sanders and Oprah Winfrey (who starred in the original film as Sofia). The 2023 version stars Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and Fantasia Barrino in her film debut. Barrino and Brooks both reprised their roles from the musical.
Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery PHOTO BY: SER BAFFO
Here, choreographer Fatima Robinson discusses her work on the film.
The Color Purple has been part of American pop culture for decades, from the book to the musical iterations. What do you think it is about the story that continues to be so timeless and inspiring?
I think with each iteration we are able to further explore the emotional integrity of the characters and see new versions of them. I love that Blitz’s version takes you even deeper into the characters’ lives and gives the audience reason to want to love, hate and root for them.
Danielle Brooks as Sophia PHOTO: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
Did you draw inspiration from the musical for the choreography?
Not a bit. I started from scratch.
Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery. PHOTO: BY SER BAFFO/COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
How do you think the music and choreography helped to elevate the film’s storyline?
The music is so different from the musical. It keeps to the period while also having a more modern sound. Blitz and I worked very closely together to make sure the dialogue worked seamlessly into the choreography so that you wouldn’t be taken out of the story or the emotion of the characters. The numbers constantly grow and move with the elevation of the song. Combined with props and beautiful cinematography, we really captured something that feels timeless.
Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as young Celie and Halle Bailey as young Nettie PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
“WHEN FANTASIA SANG ‘I’M HERE,’ I KNEW DEEP IN MY SOUL THIS MOVIE WAS HER MOVIE. HER MAGIC AND TALENT IS UNDENIABLE.” - FATIMA ROBINSON
Can you share any fun or memorable moments when rehearsing the dance moves with the star-studded cast?
The screen test is one of my most memorable moments. When Fantasia sang ‘I’m Here,’ I knew deep in my soul this movie was her movie. Her magic and talent is undeniable.
To me, the biggest theme of The Color Purple is sisterhood. While working on the film, did you witness that?
Sisterhood was everywhere, from Oprah being on set and congratulating people after a good take to the women supporting each other in the rehearsal studio to the song and dance that would break out in between takes. This movie was a dream to be on!