In Lifetime’s contemporary version of the beloved stage play and 1989 film, Steel Magnolias chronicles the lives and friendship of six women in Louisiana. Supporting each other through their triumphs and tragedies, they congregate at a friend’s beauty shop to ponder the mysteries of life and death, husbands, children – hair and nails – and all the important topics that truly unite and celebrate women.
In the new Steel Magnolias, Queen Latifah stars as M’Lynn, Phylicia Rashad as Clairee, Adepero Oduye as Annelle, Condola Rashad as Shelby, Jill Scott as Truvy, and the great Alfre Woodard as Ouiser.
Given M’Lynn’s journey throughout the story of Steel Magnolias, how much support did Queen Latifah receive from the other actresses in order to effectively play the character?
“Well, first of all,” Queen Latifah told The Deadbolt ahead of the Lifetime premiere on October 7, “you’re working with veteran actors. I received a great amount of support. But I also tried to give a great amount of support because we had a lot of young actors who are extremely talented and who you should watch in the years to come. I think we’ve got a great cast.”
Interestingly, one such young actress in the Lifetime version of Steel Magnolias is 25 year old Condola Rashad, daughter of co-star Phylicia Rashad, who plays Shelby, a character originated by Julia Roberts in the 1989 film. As fans of both the play and film versions of Steel Magnolias know, Shelby is the key emotional linchpin of the story.
In the new Lifetime version, like the original, Shelby has a major life-altering impact on Queen Latifah’s M’Lynn and the other characters in Steel Magnolias. As a result of Shelby’s arc in the story, the other characters in the film – Clairee, Ouiser, and Truvy – support M’Lynn in her time of need.
So, how did that support translate on the set?
“Phylicia [Rashad] and Alfre [Woodard], they’ve always been supportive,” Queen Latifah continued. “But I think we got a lot of inspiration and support from the actors who have come after us. It was almost like a whirlpool of acting talent, love, support, pushing and challenging. It’s not all about just a love fest, it’s about challenging each other and really expecting you to do your job at the end of the day.”
Like the actresses in original film version of Steel Magnolias, it’s impossible not to form some sort of lifelong bond through the emotional underpinnings of the story. After all, a film like Steel Magnolias will forever be a warm and rewarding experience for any actress simply because of what it requires.
For Queen Latifah, acting with former Cosby Show mother Phylicia Rashad was an experience she’ll cherish forever.
“In the off times, there was great conversation,” Latifah admitted to The Deadbolt. “How can you have Clair Huxtable and not pick her brain? She’s super! This is the world’s mom. She was the Michelle Obama before Michelle Obama. But she’s not Clair Huxtable, she is Phylicia Rashad, and she’s a different person. She has so many more cooler points than Clair ever had. She’s got all that and then some.”
Although the story of Steel Magnolias works on so many levels, it showcases the positive aspects of the human spirit. Whether it’s with an all-African American cast or Caucasian like the 1989 film, Steel Magnolias can’t be defined by color. It’s about human beings supporting each another through the good and bad.
What was Steel Magnolias about for Queen Latifah while on the Lifetime set?
“It was really about us all bonding together to make sure we got the job done,” Latifah continued. “To make sure we really delivered for you, the viewer, so that you could feel an experience that felt as real as it possibly could. Because this material is great in itself, everyone had to show up and do their best job and get off of their real life and get into this life. I think it was pretty awesome.”
Steel Magnolias airs Sunday, October 7 at 9/8c on Lifetime.