Fantasia Barrino is a big advocate of therapy, and before being tapped to star in The Color Purple, had been going for years. However, the actress and singer felt that she had to take a break if she was truly going to tap into the pain of the lead character, Celie, who has endured sexual and domestic abuse since childhood.
“[My therapist] kept asking me, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘I’m positive,’” she said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter for its cover story on the film. “I said, ‘I need to go back. I need to go back and I need to go back and step into Celie’s shoes while digging up some of my things, adding it in with Celie’s.'”
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Barrino, who came to fame two decades ago as the winner of American Idol, has talked about the abuse she suffered in her life and admits she once considered taking her own life. She had played the role of Celie in 2007 in the musical version of The Color Purple on Broadway, and the stress of the role made her hesitant to take on the character again for the movie adaptation of the musical.
“I think I’m wiser now and older and in a different place, and I don’t think I gave Celie time when I was younger and played it. I didn’t give her, what I mean by time, is I didn’t give it any thought to dig deeper and figure things out about her,” she said.
While she paused therapy, she made sure she had other support, including her entire family. She also queried family members about the trauma they went through.
“I would ask my mother certain things about her upbringing, my grandmother on my mother’s side and my father’s side because my mother was very close to my father’s mom,” Barrino explained. “And all of those things helped me to embody the older version of Celie.”
After filming was done, she picked back up with her therapist, whom she credits for her healing and being able to forgive her abusers, “for my peace, for my freedom.
“I still do therapy, and I do think that it’s so expensive, but I wish that a lot of our people could have it because of all the traumas and the generational curses and the things that have been carried, that a lot of that is in The Color Purple,” she said.
While playing the role on Broadway drained Barrino, she saw this opportunity to portray Celie once more as a blessing: “But I thank God for Celie because she continued the healing for me.”
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