In a Q and A with Parade magazine that also features director Lee Daniels and actor Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey reveals her thoughts on the n-word and racism and discusses her role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which will be in theaters Aug. 16.
The film, which raises questions about race in America, stars Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, whose role is loosely based on Eugene Allen, a White House butler who attended presidents from Eisenhower through Reagan. Winfrey, in her first role since Beloved, plays Gaines’ wife, Gloria.
On why this film brought Oprah back to acting:
Oprah Winfrey: Lee [Daniels] was relentless. I remember being on my mountain in Maui, where I go to try to restore myself. And he called saying, “You need to get ready, because you are Gloria.” So I did it to have the opportunity to work with Lee. I also did it because Gloria represented to me every woman of that era who sacrificed herself … never bringing her own dreams to fruition because family took precedence over everything. It’s a story many have not seen with black people in these roles, because usually we’re one extreme or another. But to see that we are people who love our children, who have the same aspirations as everybody else — I just love that.
On using the N-word:
Lee Daniels: It’s a word I used quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power.
Winfrey: You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree.
Forest Whitaker: I don’t use the word. Never did.
Read more at Parade.