Understandably, there are some mixed emotions about this weekend’s remake of Steel Magnolias. If the knockout cast hasn’t helped buoy your feelings, you should also know that two of the producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, are a superstar duo who also worked with Queen Latifah on Chicago and Hairspray. In other words, they know how to redo big stories right.
At a recent press roundtable, Zadan, Meron, and The Queen took some time to answer some questions about this highly-anticipated film, to air on Lifetime on Sunday night.
Q: Can you talk about how this version is going to be different than the original?
Q: OK, great. And will we get to hear any of your music on the soundtrack, Queen Latifah?
Q: Given M’Lynn’s journey throughout the story, how much support did you receive from the other actresses in order to play her effectively?
And so I got a great amount of support. And on the off times, there was great conversation. I mean how can you have “Clair Huxtable” and not pick her brain? This is the world’s mom. I mean she was the Michelle Obama before Michelle Obama. But she’s not Clair Huxtable. She is Phylicia Rashad, and has so many more cool points than Clair ever even had. She’s got all that and then some. And it’s so much more.
And so I mean it was really about us all bonding together to make sure we got the job done. That you could feel an experience that felt as real as it possibly could because this material, you know, is so – it’s great in itself. And so everyone had to kind of show up and do their best job.
Q: We talked a little bit about this incredible cast and I wanted to hear a little bit about the down time that you got to spend with each other. I mean did you all go out to dinner or…?
Our down time sometimes was just a little conversation. And every once in a while we would just give pause because we actually appreciate the fact that we were doing this film, the fact that we were all together – we felt like we had come to a place that was so important.
But then you’ve got to count on Alfre to always be the one that’s going to break up the monotony. I mean this is monotonous conversation, just regular conversations. But Alfre would gather us together and say, this is a serious moment, I need to talk to you. And she’d pull the whole cast, the whole crew and then she’d say, “This is what I want to say. Jelly roll! Jelly roll!” And she’d just break into this dance. And I’m like, you know, this woman is crazy. And then we’d just laugh and go right back into our serious work, you know? So it was kind of like that kind of thing.
Q: The movie is going to be really important for all people that watch it, but especially for the African American audience. I was wondering if you ever experienced any kind of push back from the film? Because when some films are recast with minority actors in traditionally Caucasian roles, there’s sometimes a bit of a thing with some people. So have you had any kind of negative response or is it mostly just positive?
Q: Queen Latifah, what is your personal criteria for choosing which projects to do?
I mean it’s very varied. I definitely service my African American audience but I also want to service other audiences of different cultures. I like to make it diverse because I grew up in New York and New Jersey. And so I’m used to growing up around different cultures.
Q: It sounds like no matter what you’re doing, the three of you, no matter what you’re doing music in some ways seems to inform your process. Would you say that that’s true and in what ways?
I can just play a song, and it’s great or it’s not so great — it feels some sort of way that makes me engage immediately. Maybe it’s the harmony on that song. Maybe it’s the strings or maybe it’s the horn or maybe it’s a jazz song. Maybe it’s a hip hop song. Maybe I’ve got to go hard. You know? Maybe I’ve got to go light and it’s a hip hop song. But either way it can connect you immediately and it makes it feel – it kind of actually shortens the time to get into that emotion, an emotional connection that you need to really portray whatever you need to do.
Q: Have you gotten any feedback from any of the original cast of the first movie? Have you gotten any feedback from Dolly Parton? because I’m a huge Dolly Parton fan.
Q: No, I have not ridden it yet.
Q: Some biscuits and gravy.
I just hope that people tune in and watch it and experience something unique. There is so much to watch out there, but I think this is extremely special. And I think it will be something that will live in people’s hearts for years to come. So I hope everyone tunes in to watch.