Exclusive: Anika Noni Rose On The Anniversary Of 'Dreamgirls': 'It Was A Milestone'

The extended edition of the musical just dropped on Blu-ray.

Eleven years ago, Dreamgirls was about to hit theaters. The musical, which starred Jaime Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and Broadway diva Anika Noni Rose, was a cultural movement. At the time, it was the third biggest box office opening for Christmas weekend and reported, "I’m hearing anecdotes of packed theaters, long lines and standing ovations from cities around the country now." Yep, the country had Dreamgirls fever. 
The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and J-Hud won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Anika Noni Rose played Lorrell Robinson, one third of the girl group that skyrocketed to super stardom. Although Rose was already a Tony winner and Broadway star, Dreamgirls catapulted her to serious success. In celebration of the film's Blu-ray release, which dropped this week, we sat down the Anika to revisit the film and its impact.

Back in 2006, Variety said this about you in Dreamgirls, "Rose, a bewitching stage performer (Caroline, or Change) who shows equal assurance on film and terrific comic instincts." How does that resonate with you 10 years later?
I had never read that review. [Laughs] That's really nice to hear. I loved doing the movie. I miss doing comedic things. I felt like I was living in my wheelhouse with  Lorrell. I was really thankful to have the role and have the opportunity to step on screen so assuredly. So that's a really nice review. I'm really shocked because I had never read it. It's always wonderful when somebody sees you and sees the kernel of who you are, who you want to be and making an effort to be. 

This film had Beyonce, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. Did you feel any pressure because you were with these big stars?
No, because I was doing what I do. I was doing what I did on Broadway with a camera. I wasn't being asked to do anything outside of what my job normally was. So, when I feel pressure, generally, it's me putting pressure on myself to be as good as I can be. 

In 2006, there weren't many films with a predominately African-American cast. We see more of it today, but what was that experience like 11 years ago?
It was a great experience. It was wonderful to be doing something that was seeing us in our beautiful place. Seeing us in a state of glamour, glitz and beauty — that was different for the screen for a Black movie. Also, to tell a story that was a positive life story. Some rough things happened, the music business is a really rough place but ultimately it was a story that was really positive. 

As a film, how do you see the influence of Dreamgirls in some of the movies that are out today?
I've seen it in a lot of different films. It's a wonderful thing that it has become something that was iconic, and I don't know that we thought that is what it was going to be while we were making it. We were just trying to make something that was going to be good. The stage piece was so iconic, we wanted to make something as good for the screen. I think the movie ends up living in its own space. I don't think it took anything away from the stage version because that lives in its own stratosphere of brilliance. I think we probably did something similar in film.

There is an ongoing conversation about white directors telling Black stories. Bill Condon, who was the director of Dreamgirls, was white. What are thoughts on that discussion?
I think that the real problem is Black directors don't get to direct Black stories often enough. There are some white directors who have done beautiful work with Black stories and I think Bill did a great job with Dreamgirls. But I think that the real issue is that we are not given enough chances to tell our stories. What if we were trusted to tell our stories? How would that effect landscape because we understand our culture better than anyone else? What if we were trusted to be adults with our own narrative? How amazing that could turn out to be — and that doesn't mean that there aren't Black directors and filmmakers who aren't particularly great. But we have some that are really great and we have some that we haven't even seen yet because they haven't been given the chance to be great. 

Why do you think it's important that we celebrate Dreamgirls?
I think it's important to celebrate Dreamgirls because it was a milestone. I think in the history of musicals it was a game-changer on Broadway that we essentially to get to pay tribute to. It's a film that has stood the test of time. We should celebrate the things that are joyous and glorious. 
The Dreamgirls Blu-ray Combo Gift Set and Digital HD Release is available now.
For more on another ground breaker, Issa Rae, check out the BET Breaks video above.


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