The Reputation and Insight of the Queen Bee
By Laura Major
By Laura Major
More than just a catalyst to ticket sales, the predominant face associated with a film has a lot to do with the direction it will take and how it will be perceived. The same holds true for the making of The Secret Life of Bees, a New York Times bestseller by Sue Monk Kidd. While she never imagined the book would be published much less make it to the big screen, when asked if she had any input in cast selection, Sue Monk Kidd admitted, "Well, they were kind enough to ask my opinion. They asked me way back, years before, they asked me who I would see playing and I said, Queen Latifah, not that [the stage name] queen had anything to do with it. But she came to mind after I saw her in Chicago. I thought she'd be fabulous."
No doubt the multitalented performer has excelled at everything she associates herself with from modeling, rapping, acting, producing, talent management as well as her latest foray into classical music, Queen Latifah as matriarchal figure August Boatwright in The Secret Life of Bees would be a major coup. Even director Gina Prince-Bythewood reflects, "The fact that we got everybody we wanted is a great blessing." More than anything, Queen Latifah was perfect for the role, Bythewood said of the actor, "She exudes warmth and she's larger than life–and that's really what August needed to be."
Beyond what Queen Latifah brought to the film is what she brought to the attitude on the set. When Bythewood explains the difficulty in getting the film off the ground she continues in a voice rich with gratefulness and sincerity, "Latifah is the reason this film got made. Like none of the actors got paid at all for this and Latifah set that tone because she knew that if she didn't take a huge pay cut and was not in the film, it would not have been made. And films like this need to be made, so she really set the tone which allowed me to have this caliber of cast for no money."
Carrying a film that studios are skeptical to make not because of its value but because of its potential for broad market appeal, can be a lot a pressure for one actor to take, adding to that the need to adjust within the movie's budgetary constraints and a less humble or value-based actor would fold under the pressure. However, when asked if she was excited about being the only person envisioned to star in this moving playing one of its only two lead roles, she simply replied, "Yeah."
Though modest, everyone joined in to sing Latifah's praises. Nate Parker of The Debaters didn't miss an opportunity to share what Queen's presence did for the making of the film, he stated, "One of the things I noticed when I was watching you [Queen Latifah] that was obvious was that you really were like glue. I said it earlier you were almost like the honey between all the kids. And the reason and the connection was clear how everyone kind of fed off of your wisdom."
Even as all the accolades buzzed around the room for this shining star, Queen Latifah ensured that the accomplishments of her fellow actors weren't overlooked. She told Ella Curry, Literary Publicist and CEO of EDC Creations and others when asked how she worked so well with the cast and crew, "I think that I can be kind of disarming, because I'm not insecure with myself out of the normal range that other women can be. I'm not walking around on set with a chip on my shoulder and my ego all up like this wouldn't have been made without me. I don't do that...you know it's not one person that makes a movie. Everybody makes a movie. To me the better you keep your spirit the better it is. You'll have to ask the others how they felt working with me but I am a fan of theirs as well."
Obviously her philosophy works because the Oscar winner of Dream Girls, Jennifer Hudson said of the Golden Globe, Grammy and SAG-winning actor, "...Queen has the most beautiful spirit. Like, she comes around you and her joy just spills out and everyone is just smiling and happy and you don't even know why you're smiling."
It is an attitude such as this full of peace, humility, honesty and gratefulness that allows the joy the cast experienced on the set to translate through a movie as powerful as The Secret Life of Bees.
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.