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How Fantasia Barrino’s ‘Color Purple’ role helped her face past trauma

Fantasia Barrino is opening up about how the role of Celie in the upcoming “Color Purple” movie empowered her to face her past experiences with violence and sexual abuse.

In a new interview with Variety published on Tuesday, the “American Idol” alum revealed that it was important for her – and not a stunt double – to film a scene in which Celie’s husband Mister (Colman Domingo) hits her, using the scene as a way to confront her own past traumas.

“I could let go of every man that’s ever put his hands on me,” Barrino said, adding, “I freed myself from that.”

She first starred as Celie – a Black woman in the south who realizes her own self-worth after a life of physical, emotional and sexual abuse – in the original Broadway show in 2007.

At the time of her Broadway portrayal of Celie, Barrino said her own life was “in shambles,” and the experience was so traumatic that after the Tony Award-winning production ended, she swore off ever taking on the role again.

But in 2021, director of the upcoming “Color Purple” movie, Blitz Bazawule, convinced Barrino to be the star of his cinematic adaptation of the musical , because “you get to see how she made it through some of this stuff,” Barrino said.

Ultimately, she said, the experience turned out to be liberating.

“I’m grateful that I did not allow those voices in my head to hold me back from stepping into this woman’s shoes,” Barrino admitted to Variety this week. “It was important that I did.”

Described as a “bold new take on the beloved classic” by Warner Bros., “The Color Purple” reboot follows the lives and struggles of Black women living in the South in the early 1900s.

Co-produced by Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg, the movie is based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker and is an update to the Spielberg-directed classic 1985 film. The new movie also stars Taraji P. Henson, Halle Bailey and Danielle Brooks, alongside Barrino and Domingo. “The Color Purple” stage musical was produced on Broadway in 2005 and later revived in 2015.

“The Color Purple” movie will premiere in theaters on Christmas Day. The film is a production of Warner Bros. Pictures, which, like CNN, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.

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