Director Blitz Bazawule's upcoming The Color Purple movie musical has added Broadway vets Aunjanue Ellis (Joe Turner's Come and Gone) and Elizabeth Marvel (King Lear) to its cast, in roles that will expand the screen version of the 2005 Broadway musical.
According to reports in Essence and Variety, King Richard star and Academy Award nominee Ellis will take on the role of Celie and Nettie's mother, not seen in the stage musical or the 1985 Steven Spielberg-directed film version of Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning novel. The role is described as representing the sisters' "Great Ancestor." The Dropout's Marvel will play Miss Millie, the mayor's wife who forces Sophia to become her maid. Though not included in the stage musical, the role was played on screen in the Spielberg film by Broadway favorite Dana Ivey.
They join a previously announced cast that includes Color Purple stage alums Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Danielle Brooks as Sophia, Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, Corey Hawkins as Harpo, H.E.R. as Squeak, Halle Bailey as Young Nettie, Tony nominee Colman Domingo as Mister, 2020 Tony Award winner David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Louis Gossett, Jr. as Ol' Mister, Broadway Lion King alum Phylicia Mpasi as Young Celie, Tamela Mann as First Lady, Deon Cole as Alfonso, and Stephen Hill as Buster.
Bazawule, who co-helmed Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King, will direct, with Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Scott Sanders, and Steven Spielberg as producers. Marcus Gardley has been tapped to pen the screenplay, adapted from Marsha Norman’s stage book and Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray’s score. The stage musical was adapted from Walker's 1982 Pulitzer-winning novel and its 1985 film adaptation.
The Color Purple debuted on Broadway in 2005, winning original Celie LaChanze a Tony Award for her performance. A 2015 revival helmed by John Doyle won its Celie, Cynthia Erivo, a Tony Award before propelling her to Hollywood stardom. Brooks co-starred with Erivo as Sophia, the role she will reprise in the upcoming movie musical.