Alicia Keys' B-side in the Secret Life of Bees

Alicia Keys' B-side in the Secret Life of Bees
By Laura Major


Books and their parts are often used as metaphors for life. For example, "never judge a book by its cover" or "judge a man not by the color of his skin by but the content of his character", but Grammy-winning, multi-platinum recording artist, Alicia Keys, as she often does in her music, reveals a new perspective in judging a great novel or judging a person. While sitting within the stop and go environment of the movie set for The Secret Life of Bees with book in hand, Keys ponders, "You can tell a good book by the first line, because really a person will show you who they are the first time you meet them."



Indeed, Alicia Keys showed everyone who she was with debut album "Songs in A Minor" and her subsequent critically acclaimed album release "The Diary of Alicia Keys". With such movies as Smokin Aces and The Nanny Diaries in her repertoire, the singer, songwriter and musician, has successfully added actor to her resume as well. Knowing what makes a great product, Keys voiced her interest in participating in the film years earlier during its first trip through film development which later lost steam. When the movie landed unwavering support from Fox Search Light Studios, something that hadn't existed earlier when it made the rounds at other studios, director Gina Prince-Bythewood was uncertain about casting Keys as it would be only Keys' third dramatic effort. Additionally, the role of June Boatwright had to be rewritten much younger than the book's character to correspond with Keys' age. The singer/songwriter definitely did her part by learning to play the cello. Keys said of the experience, "It was actually really exciting for me to learn a brand new instrument...it was definitely a lot of work learning the finer details."



Apparently, Keys is no stranger to the details as all seeds of doubt have been replaced with adoration. Bythewood said of her performance, "Her work ethic is unbelievable and Alicia gives an incredible performance." That work ethic was also evident as Keys honored her other commitments without affecting the shooting of the movie. During the Super Bowl the crew and cast members witnessed Keys shed her afro wig and prim clothing to emerge as a sexy songbird ready to dazzle a screaming adrenalin-pumped crowd only to show up later right on schedule as her character June Boatwright. She explained, "I felt uncomfortable when I had to leave everybody, because we had created an environment that really made us sisters and family."
Nate Parker of The Great Debaters said of getting to know his character's love interest before the shoot, "...she's a fantastic person. She's an activist, she's a real activist make no mistake. So we had so much in common so take that and apply it to the script, it was...I don't want to say 'easy' but it was effortless...After that I no longer saw her as the singer that other people see."


Certainly, Keys talent didn't miss anyone's radar on the set. When the book's author, Sue Monk Kidd visited the set during filming, she recounts on her website, "It's clear that Alicia has completely owned the character of June.'Everyone thinks of her as a singer,' one of the crew whispers to me, 'but just wait.'"

Luckily, we won't have to wait long to see Alisha Keys embrace the character of intelligent and strong-willed June Boatwright in The Secret Life of Bees, opening October 17th.


About Laura Major:
Laura Major is a multicultural fiction author and freelance writer residing in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona. Her first novel, Mismatched was published by Amira Press in February of 2008. Laura also manages a multicultural website, Sable Lit Reviews.com, one of the few of its kind providing commentary on the multicultural impact of current events as well as multicultural book reviews.

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