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'The Color Purple' star Taraji P. Henson had to prove she could sing, and the director had to fight to cast her: 'Welcome to Hollywood'

Taraji P. Henson at the Governors Awards in Hollywood, California on January 9, 2024.
Taraji P. Henson at the Governors Awards in Hollywood, California on January 9, 2024.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
  • "The Color Purple" director Blitz Bazawule fought to cast Taraji P. Henson, the actor said.

  • Henson told IndieWire she had to prove she could sing in her audition to play Shug Avery.

  • Henson said this was not the first time "I was the director's choice, but not the studio's choice."

Taraji P. Henson said she had to prove she could sing in her audition for "The Color Purple," and that the movie's director fought to cast her.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, Henson said that director Blitz Bazawule wanted her to play Shug Avery in the musical reimagining of Alice Walker's book, despite objections from the studio behind the film.

"Welcome to Hollywood," Henson said. "That's happened to me several times in my career where I was the director's choice, but not the studio's choice. I'm so used to that."

Henson previously sang in the 2005 movie "Hustle & Flow," performing the hook on the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." She performed the Oscar-winning track at the 2006 Academy Awards.

She also appeared in NBC's 2021 musical special, "Annie Live!"

However, Henson told IndieWire that her previous experience wasn't taken into account.

"That's a hook to a rap song. That's not singing," she said, referring to her performance in "Hustle & Flow."

"Shug sings gospel, jazz, and blues. That's three genres. I had to work really, really hard," Henson added.

Taraji P. Henson's Shug Avery wears a sparkling red dress and headpiece as she's on a boat in a swamp.
Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson) makes a grand entrance in "The Color Purple."Courtesy Warner Bros.

Henson said she asked Bazawule why he wanted her for the role amid the studio's concerns.

"He's like, 'Because you are Shug,'" she said.

Henson said she confidently walked into the audition and bagged the role within 20 minutes.

"If you ever want to piss me off, second-guess me, doubt me. I walked into that audition, I kicked that door down. I was Shug, fully realized," she said. "When I walked out, I was like, I bet y'all don't ever second-guess me again."

According to Henson, Oprah Winfrey, an executive producer on "The Color Purple," called her afterward to say everyone agreed that Henson was the right choice for Shug.

Earlier this month, Henson said on the "Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard" podcast that she was hurt after discovering the studio did not initially consider her for the movie.

"I just broke down because I've been doing this forever, you know?" she said. "And it's like, bitch, I'm still not on the list?"

Read the original article on Business Insider