From Broadway to Hollywood, multi-talented thespian Anika Noni Rose is a beautiful brown woman who believes in the value of self-worth. Disney’s first Black princess is currently starring in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls, which opens in theaters this Friday. BET.com sat down with Rose who admits to being a pampered princess, reflects on the raw emotion of her latest film, and giggles at the mere mention of the romantic comedy From Justin to Kelly.
How was the transition from Disney princess to For Colored Girls?
I am a princess every day! [Laughs] That is the truth! I think it is important for us to think of ourselves as worthy, at all times, for good. Why shouldn’t you feel okay with being pampered, with pampering yourself, your mind and your body? I don’t think there is anything wrong with that quite frankly.
What was your first reaction when you heard that Tyler Perry was taking on For Colored Girls?
I was surprised! I wasn’t sure but I hadn’t read a script yet. Then I read the first script. I wasn’t quite feeling the first script! I was like, “Ummm, I don’t know!” And then I read the second script. Marked change between the first and the second scripts that I read. They weren’t his first and second script; they were just the first and second ones that I read. Then the offer came through. I heard Phylicia Rashad and Loretta Devine and all of those things worked together for me for a nice round “Yes!” I thought that what he was trying to do in the script was really admirable. I liked the way he created stories to support us being able to spout poetry. I liked the direction he was going in and how open he was and the desire to bring it up to date because these are things that people are still going through. My concern was how someone was going to make it relevant. So I was really pleased with the work that he had done and I was excited about the women. I was excited about that!
Your character Yasmine suffered some extreme abuse. How did your co-star, Khalil Kain, and Perry prepare you or put you at ease prior to saying, “action”?
I don’t remember us saying much of anything. You know we are all there to do the job, we all know what it’s going to be. What was important was that there was no one in the room that was unnecessary. If you weren’t holding a camera, pitching a light or putting down a prop, you weren’t there. And knowing that everybody is coming from a professional slant makes a huge difference. That was Khalil’s last day on the set and I could see he really didn’t know how to approach me after that. Before he left we had lunch and then he was gone. But at lunch we just hugged each other and looked each other in the face and made sure we were okay with each other. It is important to recognize that that’s not you and to move forward from that ’cause if you don’t you take that stuff home and you will never be right! You’ll never get right if you take home everything that you do when you go to that deep, ugly place. So it’s important to shake it off. Thandie and I went to the spa and got scrubbed! We hit the sauna, scrubbed and washed some of that off. That was great!
What do you think this movie is going to teach the "mainstream" audience about being a Black woman?
I don’t know because I don’t want the mainstream audience to be coming to learn what it is to be a Black woman. These words, these experiences go much further than Black America. I had a woman, a white woman, come up to me and say, “I am from Jersey and when this play came to Broadway I was a teenager. I bought a ticket and I went to New York by myself and saw this play, and it moved me like nothing else I’d ever seen. I felt as if they were talking to me. I am so glad that the movie has come out because now I can take my daughter.” It’s about women and there are things that we go through that are universal. You can make it one woman's story of color, but I don’t think that is what it is.
The term “Colored” has often been thought of with a negative connotation. What do you think of when you hear that word?
The colors that we are talking about are the colors of the emotions, the color of women the world over. You know there have been days when you woke up red with rage or yellow with fear or blue with sadness. I think if the play had been written now that may not have been what [Ntozake Shange] would have called it. When it was written in 1975, the women in the play were women of color and because their stories had not been told, it was poignant in that way.
What is the greatest joy you find in being a beautiful brown colored girl?
There are so many things! I love going to the beach in the tropics and doing whatever I do – surfing, swimming or being – and the glow when I get a tan that deepens. I walk around with red and gold in my skin and feel like the most beautiful thing on the planet! You may not think so, I may look crazy when my hair is wild and it’s been in the water and now it’s big! [Laughs] But I feel like I am glowing because physically I am and somehow spiritually I am and that’s phenomenal. I also think it’s wonderful because there are so many stories we have to tell and so much humor in the things that we do. Humor is a part of survival.
Speaking of humor and going to the beach, when you are at home flipping through channels and From Justin to Kelly comes on, do you watch or change the channel?
I recently watched it with my nephew! He was like, “Aunty, that’s you!” I watch and I have a good time because I feel like what I did was good work. Sometimes you do good work in something that isn’t the best piece of work as a whole, but it doesn’t take away from you. You walk in with your A-game and that’s what you do! Also, my body was so bad-assed, I am telling you I have never been that fine in my life! So sometimes I just look at it and go, “Ummm, look at me!” When they told me I was going to be in a bathing suit and we were going to be on the beach and we only had four weeks of rehearsal, I whipped that girl into shape! I said, “I am not going to be 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide looking crazy with my New York winter body.” You know the New York winter body, that is serious business! That’s meatloaf, potatoes and stuff. It wasn’t so much about being skinny, it was about being tight. I didn’t want anything to jiggle that I didn’t make jiggle! [Laughs] So I am pleased, frankly. I think they should put my face on that body in that bathing suit at all times!
J’Nara Corbin is a New York City-based actress and model. She is starring in the film, Finding Me: Truth, which is in theaters later this year. For more of her work, you can read her commentary on Princess and the Frog and Chris Rock’s Good Hair.